While reading Lakoff it occurred to me that Karen Stenner's book "The Authoritarian Dynamic" might really have more to say about these differences (see my several earlier posts on Stenner's book beginning with this) than Lakoff. Lakoff simply posits that different people have different conceptions of the family while not going deeper to ask why. Stenner argued that there are perhaps 30% of people who are born with a biological disposition to be authoritarian. I wrote:
In an excellent book, The Authoritarian Dynamic, political scientist Karen Stenner gave a brief description of the predisposition to be authoritarian; she wrote (p. 16) that the stances taken by the authoritarian “have the effect of glorifying, encouraging, and rewarding uniformity and of disparaging, suppressing, and punishing difference.” Ad hominem attacks are attempts to glorify uniformity and suppress difference. On the other end of the continuum from authoritarianism is libertarianism.I frankly think it is at least plausible that approximately 30% of humans are born with a biological predisposition to be authoritarian and that this means they feel compelled to glorify, encourage, and reward uniformity and disparage, suppress and punish difference. It is these people who would naturally be drawn to Lakoff's "stern father" model of the family.
The fact that authoritarians glorify uniformity and punish difference gives them a fundamental political advantage: their stress on uniformity and rejection of difference allows them to share a reasonably common set of beliefs that give them solidarity. Liberals, on the other hand, stand for a diversity of beliefs and the right to disagree and be different. This puts them at a fundamental disadvantage to authoritarians! Look at Hitler's emphasis upon the necessity that members of the Nazi Party declare absolute allegiance to his 25 points (see Richard Evans, "The Coming of the Third Reich", pp. 179-180). As Evans points out these 25 points were "soon declared 'unalterable', so as to prevent it from becoming a focus for internal dissension." Although I haven't got a ready citation for this think of Lenin's emphasis upon the need for "democratic centralism" in the Bolshevik Party so that once a position or strategy had been agreed to all discussion and criticism must stop. Totalitarianism has this fundamental advantage over liberals and progressives because the latter prize diversity and believe that free discussion will eventually bring one to the truth.
In fact it seems to me that a very basic belief of liberalism is that humans are not in possession of the truth and thus using tools like free public discussion, or the scientific method, or continued search for innovation in technology and industry are at the very heart of liberalism. On the other hand, the authoritarian believes we know the truth (the Bible is the unerrant word of God, America is always right and thus you must love it or leave it, questioning the government in wartime is tantamount to treason, etc.) and thus diversity and differences are simply annoying discomforts that should be punished and suppressed. The uniformity, discipline and subordination to a leader (father) gives authoritarians a very strong advantage over liberals and this is at least worth being aware of.