Metaphor as Action: Determining Public Policy

Assignment 1

In Metaphors We Live By, Lakoff and Johnson describe Jimmy Carter's application of "war" as metaphor for the energy crisis. They argue that this metaphor determined ways of acting in relation to gas shortages. After reading through Nell Bernstein's articles, how might applying the war metaphor to drug problems make dealing with those problems less effective? -- Keep in mind here that we put criminals, including war criminals, in prisons, but not sick people; we put them in hospitals!


Assignment 2

Joe Klein argues that we need to use another metaphor besides "war" in order to discuss and understand global interactions such as terrorism. What metaphor does Klein substitute for war? What does Klein's metaphor highlight or hide about war? What does the terrorism=war metaphor highlight or hide about terrorism? Or, given Philip Agre's argument about the newly undefined boundaries of war, do you think that "war" should be redefined so that its literal definition includes terrorism? That is, do you think that terrorism=war is not a metaphor at all, but just a description of terrorist activities? If so, how has war changed in form since, for instance, the American War of Independence? Rabbi Moshe Waldoks's statement, issued right after 9/11, uses the word "bomb" metaphorically -- that is, he doesn't use it to mean explosive devices that kill people with flying shrapnel. Does his creative use of this metaphor reveal anything to you about what the terrorism=war metaphor highlights or hides? Does it suggest possibilities for what might constitute a vaccine against the rise of the very hatred of the U.S. that fuels terrorism?


Assignment 3

Collect from any source (conversation, print, television) uses of technological metaphors for human beings or human interactions. How might these metaphors affect the way we think and feel? How might they affect public policy? Jot down the metaphors you encounter and any thoughts you have about their effects. Bring your notes to class.


Assignment 4

Michael T. Kaufman talks in his essay about winning a war but losing a war of ideas. He is transfering a metaphor from a name for relations between groups (French and the Algerians; the U.S. and the Iraquis) into the realm of ideas or ideology. The Pentagon clearly thinks that it is more important to think about waging war in the realm of ideas than physically. Do you agree? How might U.S. policy change if we were to think about waging a war of ideas in Iraq?