Jordan Peterson is Not a Covert Marxist (response to Milo)

Vox Day put up a 2-hour audio sample of his book Jordanetics. Milo, who wrote the forward, claims that Dr. Peterson is a covert Marxist (starts at around 9:30).

Because Dr. Peterson rejects the oppressor-oppressed narrative (his talks stress the importance and inevitably of what he calls ‘hierarchies of competence’), which is one of the cornerstones of Marxism, it’s factually wrong call him Marxist; maybe he is something else (such as a secular conservative in the spirit of Ayn Rand, or a classical liberal), but he is not a Marxist. It’s no less specious to claim he is a covert Marxist than he is a covert Christian. Being a ‘fake’ Christian does not imply one is a covert Marxist; the logic does not follow. Milo claims Dr. Peterson rejects objective reality, yet if that were true, that would be the antithesis of Marxism, which rejects idealism:

Dialectical materialism. Dialectical materialism, a philosophical approach to reality derived from the teachings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. For Marx and Engels, materialism meant that the material world, perceptible to the senses, has objective reality independent of mind or spirit.

Source: Dialectical materialism

Concerning the question of matter and thought, Marx says: “It is impossible to separate thought from matter that thinks. Matter is the subject of all changes.” … – “Matter is that which, acting upon our sense-organs, produces sensation; matter is the objective reality given to us in sensation….

Source: Dialectical and Historical Materialism

Marx rejected religion, calling it the opium of the masses, because it prevented workers from realizing they were being exploited and hence revolt. The opium Milo talks about is what Marx was rejecting, yet Peterson condones it, so how can he be a Marxist if he supports the very thing Marx opposes?

Peterson’s own views on suffering are not totally incompatible with Christianity. Søren Kierkegaard believed that to be Christian is bring suffering upon yourself. The Bible is replete with examples of suffering, such as the Book of Job. God allowed Job to suffer in order to test his faith in him. Suffering in the context of Marxism is to be a victim, but Jordan Peterson believes that suffering is a part of life in the journey to one’s full actualization, and that people should not be victims and instead take responsibility instead of waiting/hoping for revolution, wallowing in pity, or envying, resenting, and coveting the wealth of the successful. One of the 10 Commandments is “thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house” which is further evidence that Dr. Peterson is not anti-Christian.

The key distinction is, for Dr. Peterson, personal responsibility and the individual, whether it’s self-improvement (to clean one’s room) or IQ (a biological trait intrinsic to every individual) is central; for Marxists, society and the wealthy, not the individual, are to blame, and liberation and release from suffering is by changing society, not by changing one’s self. This is discussed in detail in Reconciling Free Will with Biological Determinism.

The “release from suffering by earthy means” does not imply Marxism or the disavowal of religion, but can be as banal and non controversial as watching a sports game. Milo’s whole argument is a non sequitur. Or put another way, if two people, one of them a Marxist, both believe the same thing (such as denying the literal existence of God), that does not imply the other person is also Marxist.

Given that actual Marxists and leftists strongly disagree with Dr. Peterson or outright hate him, if he is trying to signal approval of Marxism, he’s not doing a very good job at it.

This is also similar to the mischaracterization of Neocons as closeted Trotskyites. Either you’re a communist or not. Attending a communist meeting in the 60’s as a college student and then later realizing the errors of your ways, does not make you a closeted communist because you support immigration and Israel. Maybe something else, but not a communist. Communism is something specific: revolution and the oppressed-oppressor narrative.

If we want to debate Dr. Peterson’s views, fine, but let’s not do so based on a misconstruction of them. Admittedly, it’s hard to attach labels to someone like Dr. Peterson, but we can do better than this.