Monday, March 20, 2006

The Value of Values

by The Rockridge Institute (Also see George Lakoff)

This is a passage from the first phase of the Rockridge Manual for Progressives, which will be available this summer. Using the tools of cognitive science and linguistics, The Rockridge Institute seeks to articulate and promote the values behind traditional American democracy. The Rockridge Manual provides a map of the overall framework of values and ideas for progressive thought, and offers practical material on how these concepts can be applied to communicate our positions honestly and persuasively.

Values come up again and again in political discussion. Candidates are pressed to identify and talk about their values, and are flayed in debate for not voicing them with clarity and conviction.

Values are guiding principles of behavior that have to do with comport (integrity, discipline), communication (honesty, truthfulness), and our basic beliefs about people (freedom, equality, worth) and how they should be treated (justice, equity). One of the most salient differences between the conservative and progressive interpretation of values is that conservatives typically understand values with respect to the individual, while progressives see them as fundamentally social, guiding relations among people.

This crucial insight explains why certain values are more central to one side of the political spectrum than the other. Core conservative values (such as self-discipline, tradition, independence) are guiding principles for individual actions, while central progressive values (like empathy, progress, diversity) are especially relevant as we structure our relationships with others and our communities.

We often take the meaning of specific values for granted and assume that our interpretation is consistent with the views of others. In fact, many values are highly contested, resulting in a wide variance in what they signify and how they are understood.

Read the rest of this article on our website: The Rockridge Institute


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