Kate Manne on 12 Rules for Life

by Harry on May 24, 2018

If you were considering reading Jordan Peterson’s new book, and no doubt many of you were, here is Kate Manne’s review in the TLS (I think it is free). It is a brilliant piece of writing (Kate’s, not, I assume, Mr. Peterson’s): never uncharitable or ad hominem, starting out light and funny, but then gently drawing us into the darkness at the heart of Mr Peterson’s popularity. I’m not going to give you an excerpt because I want you to read it all (it’ll take 5-10 minutes—less time than a tea break in a test match) and I couldn’t figure out an excerpt that wouldn’t spoil the experience. It probably will make you reconsider your impulse to read the book, but that is probably, as I gather Mr. Peterson might say, not not good. Comment away though.

{ 156 comments }

1

Heshel 05.24.18 at 3:45 pm

Tea finished! Here’s a favorite:

‘…[I]t is striking how many of the discussions reduce to advice about how to win at something, anything, nothing in particular: and how not to be a “loser”, in relation to others whose similarity to oneself is secured by the time-honoured narrative device of anthropomorphization, under a more or less thin veneer of scientism.’

2

John Quiggin 05.24.18 at 4:37 pm

I’m still struggling to find anything remotely new in this or in the whole IDW thing. Christina Hoff Sommers, for example, has made a lifetime career out of being heckled on university campuses. Here’s a piece from 2002 that’s indistinguishable from the NY Times puff piece the other day
https://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0506/p11s02-coop.html
Peterson just seems to be recapitulating Camille Paglia from 1990 (repeated more and more boringly after that). And so on.

3

Edqardicus 05.24.18 at 4:45 pm

“Critiquing these hierarchical structures and finding, when possible, a way to live outside of them in more co-operative ways are obvious alternatives for human beings about which Peterson says little.”

So she wants to both be outside the group and influential on the group (a necessary ingredient to co-operation)….Well, let’s all get her a red carpet.

4

Ray Vinmad 05.24.18 at 6:01 pm

I must second what John Quiggin said. It is recapitulation of the same culture wars, and Paglia’s arguments in particular. Many books and articles on the phenomenon are virtually indistinguishable from ones written at that time, right down to the fretting about the inevitable backlash to identity politics on the part of some leftist men.

It is weird how similar it is–did everyone forget? But the person who likely remembers them is Jordan Peterson, and his audience are people who were babies or yet-to-be conceived at the time.

However, I don’t remember this level of semi-organized violence in response. That part is new, isn’t it? I can only remember the one attack on feminists in Canada. The narrative in the first version of these culture wars was also about the need to pay attention due to the threat of white male anger. Now we have a rash of mass-murder so our attention is assured.

Manne says maybe Peterson could have talked them down instead–but of course she sees that’s not going to fly. If your problem is that you are not special in the sense of being better than others, talking you down requires explaining why you should not expect to be special in that way. Who wants to hear that? What disgruntled person is going to pay to hear that their rage is not justified? A newish aspect of Peterson’s version is that he relies so much on the concepts and techniques of psychotherapy–including those that promote transference. Egalitarian ideals seem like the terrible parents in his particular version. They get the blame, anyway.

5

Emma 05.24.18 at 6:11 pm

It occurs to me that when I argue with political opponents on social media, & I call them “losers” and “morons” and I sneer at their emojis and punctuation mishaps (or unworldly lack of reading experience), I’m reinforcing the categories I profess to oppose. Something to work on.

The lobsterfights thing sounds a little like “learned helplessness,” only goofy. I don’t have the science to judge learned helplessness’s validity as a concept. Neither does Jordan Peterson, it looks like.

I think Peterson is valuable to the movement because he’s a certified real-world academic, & his approval tempers the intellectual inferiority-complex native to overwrought young white men who think they ought to be proper oppressors but can’t afford college.

Really can’t stand the guy.

6

Dr. Hilarius 05.24.18 at 6:48 pm

Peterson reads almost as self satire; a well crafted send up of motivational speakers and the more pernicious schools of self improvement (est, Scientology). Descriptions of his home, filled with Soviet-era propaganda art as constant reminders of the link between politics and atrocities, suggest that Peterson is earnest about what he preaches rather just hustling the rubes. But so what? It’s still gibberish. But his performances are selling out with a lively market in scalped tickets so I guess he’s winning!

7

Gabriel 05.24.18 at 6:53 pm

It’s well-written, but I do wonder at Manne constantly including ‘cis’ in her analysis. It’s a fair point that most mass shooters, for instance, are white, given their percentage of the population. But when the percentage of gender dysphorics is somewhere south of 1 out of every 10,000 people, including ‘cis’ in her analysis seems to water down the rest of her argument.

8

Chip Daniels 05.24.18 at 8:02 pm

Even from a layperson’s perspective, the logic of social Darwinism seems wildly incoherent.
When I win, it is evidence of my natural and inevitable superiority.
When I lose, it is evidence of society’s failure to recognize my natural and inevitable superiority.

I wouldn’t think that natural and inevitable superiority would be so hard to spot.

9

casmilus 05.24.18 at 8:38 pm

How his Peterson’s work weathered the “reproducibility crisis” we were hearing about in psychology a while ago?

10

casmilus 05.24.18 at 8:42 pm

@2

The issue here is that once you get to a certain age, you realise that the latest Intellectual Furore is just a reheat of one that was going on when you were at college. Just like the latest, hottest indie bands are just recycling moves that were vaguely original in about 1991 but not any later. And you’re noticing the same haircuts as well.

We’re just old. Let’s try to be graceful about it.

11

Plucky Underdog 05.24.18 at 8:53 pm

The title alone is a small gem

12

John Quiggin 05.24.18 at 9:03 pm

@10 You’re right. I was just thinking about writing some more stuff on various issues, and decided it would be simpler to post links to what I said five or ten years ago.

13

anonymousse 05.24.18 at 9:19 pm

“I wouldn’t think that natural and inevitable superiority would be so hard to spot.”

Its not. That’s what IQ tests do.

14

Eric 05.24.18 at 9:24 pm

@7

Kate Manne writes ‘cis’ twice.

Not ‘constantly including ‘cis’ in her analysis’ exactly.

15

William 05.24.18 at 9:46 pm

One might find Jordan Peterson objectionable or at least superficial and still find Kate Manne’s review lacking.

1. Her negative review is premised on Peterson having a “very particular audience:” “those predominantly white, straight, cis, and otherwise privileged men.” This may be true, but she presents no evidence for it. Recently, FWIW, Wesley Yang has written

“It is often alleged that Peterson’s audience is almost entirely made up of angry young white men. But the one I saw at the Toronto Public Library twelve days before the talk in San Francisco was mixed in age and sex and no less racially diverse than Toronto itself, which is among the most diverse cities in the world. I spoke with Hispanic and Indian and Asian and black men and women at each of the various events I attended, as well as one transgender man.”

Furthermore, her review acknowledges that Peterson uses, as examples, among others, an “Indigenous Canadian man, a woman, Gandhi,” without giving him any credit for that.

2. Manne contrasts Peterson’s language of “winners” and “losers” with “more co-operative ways” of living. It is not clear why the two are necessarily opposed–Manne will even herself use the language of “losing,” albeit “losing gracefully.” Many forms of competition, primarily sports, involve strenuous conflict that nevertheless presuppose an overarching framework of cooperation–a form of sportsmanship that involves respect for tradition and rules. Furthermore, Peterson seems to self-consciously be writing for “losers,” thus his appropriation of the voice of an “internal critic,” so being a “loser,” while certainly undesirable, need be neither contemptible nor a permanent condition of exclusion.

3. Peterson apparently recognizes that one of the Columbine shooters found “Being itself as inequitable” and suggests that those like Dylan Harris see themselves as “supreme adjudicators.” However, Manne still argues that Peterson wrongly sees chaos in the “fabric of some grand, impersonal metaphysical reality” not in a “dominant social position.” But, even if Peterson should have spent more time discussing sexism, etc., it is not clear to me why belief in a “dominant social position” cannot derive from first seeing “Being itself as inequitable,” with defined positions of dominance and submission, and then projecting oneself, however self-defeatingly, as a “supreme adjudicator” over that reality. Manne, of course, can argue that the metaphysics follows from the misogyny, rather than vice versa, but she presents no argument for this.

Please note–I’m not arguing for Peterson at all; I just find the review lacking.

16

novakant 05.24.18 at 10:17 pm

I liked Manne’s review, but this one might be more to the point – funnier anyway.

“a Messiah gum surrogate dad for gormless dimwits”

https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/a-messiah-cum-surrogate-dad-for-gormless-dimwits-on-jordan-b-petersons-12-rules-for-life/

17

Michael 05.24.18 at 10:36 pm

It seems to me a slightly colourless review, but there is still a picture of Peterson that comes over. He seems a latter-day Ayn Rand in lobster’s clothing. And he seems peculiarly ignorant of the social sciences, at least as the reviewer presents him. The combination is unappetising, but I can see why he might magnetise some, just as some of my friends were momentarily magnetised by Ayn Rand oh so long ago.

18

Ebenezer Scrooge 05.24.18 at 11:56 pm

I’ve got to agree with William @ 15: Manne’s review is lacking in content, if not brio. My main problem with it is her harping on the privilege of the losers she so deftly profiles. No, they are not privileged. They are losers. They may be white cis straight men, but they are losers: socially awkward and generally not too bright. They may believe that their white male cis straightness should give them privilege, but it does not, and they know it. Hence their rage.
Not all conservatives have something to conserve. Some of them just think that they should be entitled to something they don’t have.

19

Peter T 05.25.18 at 12:40 am

People (and societies) rarely take loss of position gracefully, and violence is all too frequent a response. In their different ways, the Amritsar Massacre, the US Civil War, the German ferments over the rise of socialism and Russian power that led to the World Wars and the current US hate on Iran all reflect this – along with the Peterson followers, of course. It’s odd that Peterson does not explore the other way to deal with this – find or make some other area where one can shine (and for those outside – validate and praise this choice). Or maybe he does hint at this – I have no intention of reading him.

20

john burke 05.25.18 at 12:57 am

@Emma: I share your misgivings about being openly contemptuous of the creeps on the Peterson/Paglia side of the culture wars. I don’t think being kinder or more respectful or polite would change their response, though–they hate us and want us dead, and not because they find us unmannerly. The only question seems to me to be whether restraining our contempt might be good for us, and as to that, I don’t know.

21

Jake Gibson 05.25.18 at 2:14 am

All I can do is paraphrase LBJ.
“Convince the biggest loser of a man that he is better than the most accomplished woman, and he will cheerfully empty his pockets for you.” Hopefully before he shoots up a sorority house.

22

Lee A. Arnold 05.25.18 at 2:34 am

Manne makes the profound point that Peterson’s acceptance of the psychology of hierarchy leads him to characterize, or mischaracterize, the mass killer’s status-aggrieved, narcissistic homicidal megalomania as something else, an existential crisis that sends the killer into an apocalyptic lustration. He offers no effective antidote to toxic masculinity and status grievance, other than to suck it up, clean your house and read the Bible. As I wrote at length under Henry’s post “Witches” http://crookedtimber.org/2018/05/18/witches/#comment-732973, I think the propaedeutics of archetype & hierarchy, the odd diagnoses and weak prescriptions are indicators of Peterson’s own parcellated and incomplete reinvention of the perennial mystical path. This is not uncommon among psychologists who branch out; there is a pop reading list that goes back decades — although why they keep stumbling into it piecemeal and unaware is perhaps the more interesting question. Anyway if you are going to try to solve these problems without starting another pernicious school of self-improvement (quoting Dr. Hilarius #6 above), you really ought to study the greats, then get serious and go the whole lobster yourself.

23

Ray Vinmad 05.25.18 at 4:50 am

“I wouldn’t think that natural and inevitable superiority would be so hard to spot.”

Dayum, Chip. This is absolutely the best comment on the overall phenomenon (which goes beyond Peterson) I’ve read thus far.

The claim is about proper & legitimate rules v. improper & illegitimate rules. But the lobsters just *know*–they aren’t following any rules. As far as I can tell, yours is a nuclear observation.

24

bad Jim 05.25.18 at 5:00 am

Tis the voice of the Lobster: I heard him declare
“You have baked me too brown, I must sugar my hair.”
As a duck with its eyelids, so he with his nose
Trims his belt and his buttons, and turns out his toes.

25

bad Jim 05.25.18 at 5:20 am

The worst review I’ve read of Peterson’s work merely quoted long, long paragraphs of his pretentious self-indulgent prose. Sure, we learned folk, children of the enlightenment, might turn up our noses at the notion of yin and yang, chaos and order, as the archetypes underpinning the world, but we’re often inclined to make allowances for poetic approximations. That’s not what’s on offer. He’s serious about his nonsense.

26

Sebastian H 05.25.18 at 7:24 am

‘Privilege’ is a relative concept that is highly contextual. Much of what is coded as ‘white privilege’ is really more middle class and higher white privilege. Poor white people get beaten by the cops, have their kids taken away for bullshit reasons, and have trouble making ends meet. The Wachowskis in their everyday life are privileged in any realistic comparison to a poor cis white male, despite being trans.

One thing that struck me in the last discussion here on ‘incels’ is that we are really letting the tiniest minority of people with a problem really radicalize the whole issue in ways that trigger our tribalism. This lets/makes us want to trivialize real problems just because the self appointed spokesmen are so unappealing/violent. We need to be able to separate, at least in our minds, this self appointed vanguard from the people who they pretend to represent. If we trivialize the people they claim to represent, we are pushing rather into the arms of the radicals who triggered our tribalism in the first place.

27

engels 05.25.18 at 10:10 am

On any reasonable metric someone like Manne (and many of the women and men she appeals to) is far more ‘privileged’ than many of Peterson’s fans. And from a broader perspective they’re both part of an oppressive if increasingly fractious elite whose escalating physical and emotional lashings out are a hopeful sign of its impending downfall. That doesn’t make Peterson’s politics any less horrible but does make this whole debate inane.

28

engels 05.25.18 at 10:19 am

On any reasonable metric Manne, and many of the women and men she appeals to, is far more ‘privileged’ than many of Peterson’s fans. And from a broader perspective they’re both part of an oppressive, if fractious, elite whose escalating physical and verbal lashings out are a hopeful sign of its impending downfall. That doesn’t make his politics any less horrible but it does make this whole debate inane.

29

bianca steele 05.25.18 at 12:01 pm

I agree, Manne’s privilege is immense compared to most people’s. So is Sullivan’s, and Peterson’s. Peterson swans around the country making YouTube videos and getting fan kudos for attacking people on Twitter. His fans get some enjoyment from identification with him, presumably. But if they start wondering why they don’t get the same reaction, he conveniently has the parts of the system he doesn’t seem to benefit from, for them to blame.

Part of what I don’t like about the “losing status” trope is that this isn’t really what we’re talking about, with a 20 year old. It isn’t that he had status and is losing it, it’s that he’s finally meeting people who aren’t his mom and aren’t as impressed with him as he is with himself. There’s an inadequate focus on the process of growing up as opposed to a process of struggle between groups of highly privileged people for relative power,

30

Peter T 05.25.18 at 1:18 pm

re Sebastian H and engels

The grief, anger and violence is not about absolute position/privilege. It’s about perceived challenge to what privilege one has (however little), from below, and about fear of the loss of position. The neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky observes that testosterone is not about aggression or violence, it’s about response to challenge (and interestingly noted observing three instances of baboon “rape” – all done by males who had just suffered severe loss of status).

The US social codification of race sets up strong markers of status – setting whites on an eroding pedestal. Hence Obama derangement. Couple this with misogyny and it’s a powerful trigger. Peterson’s blather offers no escape: only some social re-arrangement that set up other distinctions could do that.

31

Bruce Baugh 05.25.18 at 1:43 pm

Gabriel: More like 1 in 250 people is trans, according to some meta work done last year – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5227946/

Lynn Conway has a good roundup of research and analysis that picks apart the flaws in evidence and/or interpretation that lead to under-counting, and points at some should-have-been-obvious-all-along considerations like the number of people having gender affirmation surgery as a floor on the number of trans people – http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/TSprevalence.html

32

mrmr 05.25.18 at 1:45 pm

I think Sebastian @26 (and Gabriel @7) are correct on an important point. Mass shootings are an objectively very, very low frequency event, and that should matter for any reasonable analysis of what they mean.

Quick googling indicates Peterson has maybe a million odd fans committed enough to buy his book. The US has had around 150 mass shootings (4 or more people) in the last 50 years. Even if you assume ~every one~ was from a Peterson-type (very dubious) that still leaves an individual Peterson fan with a .0015% lifetime chance of committing a mass shooting. For reference, the maternal death rate in the USA is .0185%, or roughly an order of magnitude higher. If you looked at a randomly selected pregnant woman and said “she’s going to die giving birth,” you’d be right more than ten times more often than when you took a random Peterson fan and said “he’s going to shoot up a mall,”–even under the most generous assumptions about how high that latter number was.

To the extent that Manne (or Harry’s) explanation of mass shootings is that “socially widespread ideologies of racist, toxic masculinity and status loss anxiety lead otherwise coherent and rational people to murder”–those explanations are going to struggle with the fact that they posit that the ideologies are supposed to be widespread, at least as widespread as Peterson’s-fan-types and probably wider, and yet almost no one is going out and doing the things that the ideologies are supposed to cause. They are at best a weak, situational, or very partial cause. For another comparison, “eating red meat,” which is a real but partial risk factor for bowel cancer, is the likely cause of 1/6th of such cancers. Given that around 4-5% of people will experience those cancers in the US, that leads to an absolute risk level of around .6%–two orders of magnitude higher than the generous assessment of the likelihood of a Peterson-fan going on a mass shooting. The causal power of red meat with respect to bowel cancer is mostly such that no one cares about it, and, pace caveats about rigor of establishing actual causal relations, it looks unlikely that the causal power of Peterson’s ideology wrt mass shootings could be anywhere near as high as that. Alternately, I guess: have a talk with your friends who eat red meat!

But none of that’s really the point, is what I suspect. Peterson wants to exaggerate the causal power of the ideology of mass shooters because he wants to suggest an existential crisis only he can solve; Manne wants to exaggerate it because she wants to suggest that Peterson himself is a crisis that only her brand of feminist social progress can solve. I am personally much more sympathetic to Manne’s brand of feminist social progress than I am to Peterson’s Neanderthal “winning” mentality, but with respect to claiming mass shooters for ideological points both strike me as hewing closer to slanted opportunism than straightforward assessment.

33

John R Garrett 05.25.18 at 1:45 pm

Peterson would be just another privileged loudmouth except for his audience, a surprising number of whiny white nerds who can’t get laid. See http://slatestarcodex.com/ for their flourishing. Peterson is only interesting to the sense that he justifies and enables shallow self-involved people to do really bad things.

34

Faustusnotes 05.25.18 at 2:55 pm

Mrmr have you heard of the reverend Thomas Bayes? I think he wants to have a word with you about your flawed logic.

As for your last paragraph: Manne shows by quoting mass shooters that Peterson’s explanation for mass shootings is bullshit. That’s kind of a problem, don’t you think? Feel free to address it.

35

Tom Hurka 05.25.18 at 5:19 pm

Harry: Had you read Peterson’s book when you said Manne’s review isn’t uncharitable? I think one would have to have to be able to say that with any confidence.

36

Harry 05.25.18 at 6:54 pm

I re-read the piece because I was perplexed by the comments that she offers an alternative explanation for mass shootings, because I didn’t see that when I read her piece. She really doesn’t do that. She is quite careful in her language use, and most of the (very short — she had a word limit, and its unreasonable to ask her to make a detailed argument within that limit, especially when writing for a TLS audience) piece exposes an entirely different interpretation of Eric Harris’s writings to the one Peterson offers, and, unless she is massively misrepresenting Peterson’s book (more on that in response to Tom), what she quotes should be pretty embarrassing to Peterson.

Tom. No, you’re right, I should have read it to say that with confidence (but… unless someone I trust, eg you, can make a very strong case, I would rather withdraw the claim than read the book!) My contrast is with other things I have read about the book, and especially with a couple of interviews I have seen with him (not about the book), in which interviewers have quoted things he says at him and then said “You say X” where “X” is clearly neither identical to nor implied by what they have quoted (and in response to which he sounds reasonable; whereas the couple of times I’ve seen him interviewed by people who treat him fairly he sounds evasive, pompous, and surprisingly rambly) . When she quotes Peterson she never goes on to interpret the quote as something it doesn’t either mean or imply. I am taking her at her word that he doesn’t explore the racism she quotes from Harris’s testament fundamentally because I trust her (but also because she participates in a community in which that sort of misrepresentation would be a matter of professional shame).

37

Faustusnotes 05.26.18 at 12:25 am

Harry is there a “not” missing in your first paragraph because otherwise it seems to contradict itself. Peterson says the mass shootings arise from some kind of existential angst that can be solved by adherence to heirarchical thought; Manne quotes Harris extensively to show the shooting arose from a heirarchical worldview. I don’t think the two are agreeing at all about the causes of mass shootings.

And I think Tom might be trying to tell you that manne’s review might be charitable because the book is so genuinely awful; and if you don’t read the book you don’t know how kind Manne is being …

38

engels 05.26.18 at 12:27 am

Haven’t been following this closely but wasn’t one recent shooter a trans woman? How does that fit into the ‘entitled people throwing their toys out of the pram when they can’t have everything on a plate’ analysis?

(Iirc Mark Ames’ ‘Going Postal’ had a lot of testimony that didn’t fit that narrative…)

39

Marc 05.26.18 at 5:25 am

I find this piece fascinating, but not for the reason that it’s a deadly critique of Peterson. He seems to me to simply be working the “Iron John” style of restating traditional virtues (e.g. hard work, responsibility, and so forth), which is not so much offensive as it is banal. The piece seems very agreeable within the bubble, and yet it will persuade absolutely no one who doesn’t agree with the author before reading. It’s filled with an undertone of deep hostility – not to Peterson but to his readers.

The key tell occurs early – when we see the claim that his audience is, of course, “Privileged white men”. This is similar to labeling fans of Bernie Sanders as BernieBros, erasing his female supporters, and is given without proof, like all good religious pieties. For the class who reads this, this language marks these people as bad, of course – privilege is something they didn’t deserve, you see. The key claim immediately follows:

“Peterson’s advice is primarily directed towards, and has resonated with, a very particular audience: those predominantly white, straight, cis, and otherwise privileged men who fear being surpassed by their historical subordinates – people of colour and white women, among others – and losing their loyal service.”

Yup, in the context of intense consolidation of wealth, decade of stagnant median wages, large regions of the country and sectors of the economy withering – the only possible explanation why people could be unhappy is that they are upset that they’re losing their servants. Or because of their toxic masculinity.

This is a mean-spirited piece if you’re on the receiving end of it. And the contempt is directed at people who are struggling and looking for direction, not at the author.

40

bad Jim 05.26.18 at 6:50 am

This is poignant and devastating. The author helped him get his job, hosted his family, but doesn’t seem to care for him any more:

I was Jordan Peterson’s strongest supporter. Now I think he’s dangerous

41

Thomas Beale 05.26.18 at 12:35 pm

I find the level of angst at Peterson surprising here, and some readings of him / his book less than sincere. Is he really that important, or detrimental? For one thing, commentators here and elsewhere are mixing up the published output by the author with his ‘YT following’ and ‘fan-base’. Everyone knows you can’t control anything on YT or other social media; YT is famously full of idiots swearing at each other, even under the most benign of videos.

A primary claim is that Peterson’s output is aimed at misogynistic, privileged white males, but the content of his book and at least the videos I have seen don’t support this. One (young, quite feministic female) friend I have went to see him in London recently, and found him ‘pretty good’, a ‘bit weak on women’s empowerment’, and the audience ‘very mixed’. It may be true that a certain number of aimless young white males have found his messages attractive, but that’s not a bad thing.

His substantive messages probably don’t constitute a coherent theory as such, so criticisms to that effect are likely to be on the mark, but on the other hand, the main gist of his message as I see it is not bad, and might certainly help some young people, viz:

* take responsibility for your own life, don’t expect the world to give you anything on a plate
* accept that everyone’s starting point in life is different and unfair, get over it, and do your best from where you start
* accept that a major unfairness in life is the existence of hierarchies, and that you need to know how to operate in them
* etc.

If one were to attempt to describe his material in theoretical terms, I’d call it a mashup of elements of the following:

* stoic philosophy
* the power and origins of myth a la Joseph Campbell
* bits of Christian theology
* bits of Jungian / archetype psychology, and literary archetypes (e.g. Crime and Punishment etc)

but couched in personal terms, rather than abstract theoretical terms. It’s a common enough approach; Luc Ferry wrote ‘Apprendre à vivre’ in the same style for the same reason and it’s quite a good attempt to make philosophy palatable and comprehensible to the young.

There seems to be quite a serious misunderstanding re: the role of hierarchies, and having to fight for your place. Critics seem to think he is saying that this is how life should be, and life is all about status. But he’s pretty obviously saying: it’s just like that, get used to it and learn how to operate in hierarchies, unjust as they may be.

The TLS reveiw is wanting both in terms of a sincere reading of the book, and its proffered better understandings of the phenomena Peterson discusses. The review text re: school shootings is quite poor. Peterson hardly says anything specific about such people, only that they are essentially nihilistic in their outlook, which is uncontroversial.

My current impression is that those who are maddest at Peterson are those whose personal ideologies are most offended by his understanding of the world and outlook on how to live. Attempts so far to substantively debunk him have been quite poor. CT needs to up its game: proper critique can only rely on primary material, not the noise and froth of the commentariat.

42

Faustusnotes 05.26.18 at 12:40 pm

Marc, have you heard of bruce Springsteen? This notion that “large sections of the economy withering” is unique tot he current era is kind of silly. It’s been a constant of American politics and cultural debate for 40 years. But the inception uprising is a phenomenon of the last five.

43

Harry 05.26.18 at 12:44 pm

There’s no “not” missing. I took him to be offering an explanation, and her to be showing its a bad one; not offering an alternative (just making clear that an alternative is needed).

“Peterson’s advice is primarily directed towards, and has resonated with, a very particular audience: those predominantly white, straight, cis, and otherwise privileged men who fear being surpassed by their historical subordinates – people of colour and white women, among others – and losing their loyal service.”

There’s no denial here that he has other audiences. She is saying that it resonates with a particular audience to whom it is directed, not that it doesn’t reach or resonate with others. Similarly the BernieBros. Didn’t you know any of them? They were, of course, a tiny fraction of Bernie’s supporters, but were notable nevertheless (I did know some). I don’t believe for a second Bernie was targeting them, which make him different from JP.

44

SusanC 05.26.18 at 1:16 pm

@40. The article in The Star on Petersen is somewhat concerning. Especially the bit about him objecting to ethics committee review of experiments.

(now, ok, there’s an argument to be had if your request for IRB approval gets turned down not on the grounds that the experiment is dangerous, but because the hypothesis it seeks to test is uninteresting)

45

Faustusnotes 05.26.18 at 2:33 pm

Yes the objection to ethical review is very surprising. The article also has a link to this article that makes it very clear that Peterson lied about his membership of an indigenous tribes. That’s pretty dirty stuff and shows how little he cares to practice the things he preaches. Of course he’s happy to play the identity politics card when it helps him. A typical lying hypocritical conservative.

And a misogynist too. He talks about how chaos is feminine and his book is subtitled “an antidote to chaos.” What a pig.

46

Lee A. Arnold 05.26.18 at 2:56 pm

Thomas Beale #41: “* accept that everyone’s starting point in life is different and unfair, get over it, and do your best from where you start
* accept that a major unfairness in life is the existence of hierarchies, and that you need to know how to operate in them”

The substantive debunking of these: 1. These excuses were used historically as oppressive tactics against others, and this still happens. 2. Much of current social hierarchy is phony; it depends upon economic material scarcity for its existence, yet material scarcity is ending due to technological innovation. Some of the scarcities in the present market economy are fictional, imposed by the fictional scarcity of money. The fictional scarcity of money in turn is tied to property scarcity especially intellectual property (which keeps being extended in tenure) and real estate. Currently some of this property is fair and some of it is unfair. But given the fact that artificial intelligence will be able to epitomize any kind of rational game-playing including technological innovation in goods and services as well as pure science research, it isn’t clear whether intellectual property should be protected by long tenures in the future. So hierarchy is nonsense, or it is turning into nonsense, and shouldn’t be preached as if it were eternal reality. Yet Peterson keeps returning to a blanket condemnation of “equality of outcomes” even though the modern advanced economy around him already assures it by socializing certain goods and services (e.g. healthcare except in the US) and there is an increasing number of other market goods and services which are no longer truly scarce — they could be produced to satiety yet are kept fictionally scarce. A substantive debunking of Peterson could start from the fact that he doesn’t understand economics.

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engels 05.26.18 at 3:09 pm

accept that everyone’s starting point in life is different and unfair, get over it

As against this triteness it perhaps needs pointing out that while everyone’s starting point (and end point for that matter) is unfair, some are victims of unfairness whereas others are its beneficiaries (and both of the authors under discussion and perhaps most of their adherents belong in the latter category afaict).

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bianca steele 05.26.18 at 5:37 pm

“accept that a major unfairness in life is the existence of hierarchies, and that you need to know how to operate in them”

My experience with people (mostly but not all men) who believe something like this is that they end up either perceiving hierarchy as benefiting themselves or become consumed with resentment that they have to participate in a hierarchy headed by people they don’t feel they have to respect. These aren’t “bros,” they’re educated, married of divorced parents who apparently struggled with social settings that didn’t seem right to them, and settled on trying to impose rules something like what Peterson preaches.

In the first case, they are always on top, relative to people they don’t believe they have to respect. If they aren’t in a higher position themselves, they always know more about how to operate in the relevant hierarchy. They are always in a position, as far as they are concerned, to wield power without respect to the hierarchy, because they believe they understand the hierarchy and they equate a difference of opinion with themselves with rebellion against the hierarchy itself.

In the second case, a hierarchy headed by a woman or a nonwhite person or a non-Christian or a foreigner just doesn’t count as a hierarchy. They still figure they have to learn how to “operate within them,” but they feel no moral compunction about cheating in those cases.

And even if they end up in a lower position in a hierarchy, Peterson tells them that culture should exist only for the purpose of telling them men’s lives are a heroic struggle against the female.

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engels 05.26.18 at 6:47 pm

In the second case, a hierarchy headed by a woman or a nonwhite person or a non-Christian or a foreigner just doesn’t count as a hierarchy. They still figure they have to learn how to “operate within them,” but they feel no moral compunction about cheating in those cases.

That fits with my experience of authoritarian types.

50

Thomas Beale 05.26.18 at 7:08 pm

Lee A. Arnold @ 46
The substantive debunking of these: 1. These excuses were used historically as oppressive tactics against others, and this still happens. 2. Much of current social hierarchy is phony; it depends upon economic material scarcity for its existence, yet material scarcity is ending

spoken like a true eco-warrior! Ok, your website has some interesting things on it, but your comment is forward-theoretical, not current reality. If you stick to the practical view of everyday life for most normal people, it is pretty much hierarchies everywhere. Nearly all of the working world works on that principle, and that’s the one thing that affects anyone who has to actually work for a living. Socially? Well, it’s more of a debate, but I think Peterson’s idea is that society seems like a status hierarchy, particularly to the young and inexperienced. For many people this is the experience.

Peterson’s condemnation of equality of outcomes is clearly an argument against trying to control the output variables; e.g. as affirmative action programmes try to do. He clearly doesn’t know much about the subject, because if he did he’d mention Sowell or someone similar in his arguments. And in socialised healthcare, the argument is not solid. But he’s not completely wrong either – affirmative action is a terrible idea in 99% of cases – it ruins normal human systems, including universities and political parties.

Bianca Steel @ 48
My experience with people (mostly but not all men) who believe something like this is that they end up either perceiving hierarchy as benefiting themselves or become consumed with resentment that they have to participate in a hierarchy headed by people they don’t feel they have to respect.

I don’t think this is a general description of reality. I think most people simply experience the world of work as hierarchical management structures (that’s what it is in corporations and the public sector) in which the Peter principle operates constantly, with the general feeling is often somewhere between the Dilbert zone and Kafka’s The Castle. It’s probably true that men are on average more interested in status, but I’d say most people experience the full spectrum of wisdom to idiocy fairly evenly distributed over the sexes. Hierarchy isn’t innately evil either; you can’t run a large organisation without it.

And even if they end up in a lower position in a hierarchy, Peterson tells them that culture should exist only for the purpose of telling them men’s lives are a heroic struggle against the female.

Well, see, I don’t want to defend Peterson, but he’s clearly not saying that.

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Harry 05.26.18 at 7:52 pm

“But he’s not completely wrong either – affirmative action is a terrible idea in 99% of cases – it ruins normal human systems, including universities and political parties”

Most organisations actually seem to adapt well to affirmative action as actually practiced in liberal democracies and many (the military in the US for example) seem to believe they are strengthened. This is a great example of JP seeming to be completely out of touch, or just uninterested in, reality.

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novakant 05.26.18 at 7:56 pm

I repeat myself, but why are we even talking about this lazy charlatan:

https://www.viewpointmag.com/2018/01/23/postmodernism-not-take-place-jordan-petersons-12-rules-life/

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Sebastian H 05.26.18 at 8:15 pm

One of the great things about being gay is learning early that the grind you up hierarchy system won’t work for you and you have to do something else. It’s a lesson that’s true for a lot of straight people, but sometimes they don’t notice it u til they are much older.

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bianca steele 05.26.18 at 8:44 pm

engels @ 49

And of course, they’ll call the woman or non-Christian who dares to say her place in the hierarchy gives her the right to make decisions, an “authoritarian.” They, of course, aren’t authoritarian when they tell people their “place in the hierarchy” requires them to do what the white man says. They’re just following the natural course of the universe.

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Lee A. Arnold 05.26.18 at 9:29 pm

Thomas Beale #50: “the practical view of everyday life…is…pretty much hierarchies… Peterson’s idea is that society seems like…”

“Substantive” means having a firm basis in reality, a separate or independent existence. In the videos I have watched Peterson is not arguing from either everyday practical concerns or seeming appearances. He argues repeatedly that hierarchy is biologically programmed and it is a necessary economic condition, giving us produced wonders such as, [here, he sometimes points to the built auditorium he is speaking in], or other economic benefits.

Substantively (which is what you asked for in your #41) this is false and detrimental. Material economic hierarchy has not a necessary existence, it is an historically contingent condition that is now outliving its usefulness. Telling young people that they should accept hierarchy and unfairness is not only wrong on theoretical grounds, it is causing more social detriment worldwide.

Yes you should grow up and learn how the world works in order to get by without hurting others and to make it better. But telling people “it’s just like that, get used to it” (#41) is bad.

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Collin Street 05.26.18 at 9:55 pm

One of the great things about being gay is learning early that the grind you up hierarchy system won’t work for you and you have to do something else. It’s a lesson that’s true for a lot of straight people, but sometimes they don’t notice it u til they are much older.

Sure, but think more systemically: it’s not only true for gay people, it’s true of any [sociocultural-sense] minority. Net result, straight white middle-class and above men systemically don’t understand, and don’t need to understand, the nature of their society.

Which is to say, “privilege”.

@Faustusnotes: “Yes the objection to ethical review is very surprising.”

It’s not surprising at all, though. It’s tediously predicted by my “they all have theory-of-mind impairment”: external review isn’t necessary because there’s nothing important other people know or care about that I don’t, and the subjects aren’t me so they aren’t real people anyway. Put yourself in the mindset of a profound narcissist and it becomes inevitable, not even a choice.

[again: “All As are B” is not “All Bs are A”]

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Mario 05.26.18 at 10:56 pm

Peterson’s condemnation of equality of outcomes is clearly an argument against trying to control the output variables; e.g. as affirmative action programmes try to do.

As far as I can tell, that is a misrepresentation of his point on equality of outcomes. I don’t remember a single instance of him criticizing affirmative action programs, it is always about equality of outcomes with respect to gender. And, as far as I can tell, that does not mean that he does not think it important to look at outcomes: people should be happy and fulfilled (an outcome), but that just happens to mean different things to different people, and forcing a group that doesn’t naturally like a certain activity to engage in it whatever it takes leads to outcomes that create needless suffering.

I’ve watched and read a fair ammount of Peterson’s materials, and I find the extent to which his positions are misrepresented is in this thread, and in many of the materials linked, amazing. I see a conspicuous absence of original materials of him, so here are two links that I find interesting:

Peterson on people with low IQ, the job market, and how this turns out in practice.

Peterson on women in the western world. Don’t miss the “marriage is now restricted to the rich” part.

Frankly, I think it’s quite amazing that Peterson is considered right wing. He seems to me to be more seriously interested in actual outcomes for everyone than many of my leftist friends, whose politics seem to be mostly about indulging in some form of lalaland daydreaming, and which actually seem to detest most of the working class population. It’s a strange world we’re living in.

P.S: I find the lobster thing quite meh. The animal kingdom if full of behavior that is ancient, but pretty disgusting, too. C.f. The March of the Mallards, which kind of nails the point thermonuclearly.

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faustusnotes 05.27.18 at 2:01 am

Thomas Beale fundamentally misunderstands Peterson. Peterson isn’t arguing that heirarchies are an unfortunate reality and offering tips to survive them, as Beale suggests. If this were true Peterson would be harmless blather. Instead, Peterson is arguing that heirarchies are good and necessary to keep chaos at bay, and that the reason his followers feel they are failing in life is that attempts to subvert this good and necessary natural order through affirmative action have pushed them out of their place in the heirarchy and denied them their natural due. This is pretty obvious in his writings, it’s not even subtext.

It’s also worth noting the bright line through all Peterson’s rhetoric that connects these good and necessary heirarchies to the exclusion of women from them. He defines the feminine as chaos and the masculine as order. He tells his followers that heirarchies exist to protect them against chaos; he presents his rules as an antidote to chaos. It’s a pretty obvious subtext, isn’t it? Except that in his most recent interview he appears to have dropped the subtext and straight-up argued that men should be assigned women. That should keep the chaos harpies in line!

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Faustusnotes 05.27.18 at 3:01 am

Mario I can’t follow the link you put there because it’s broken but “marriage is restricted to the rich” simply isn’t true and it is an example of a kind of specifically sexist hyperbole that Peterson likes. In the NYT interview he says himself that half of all men fail to procreate. This is a straight up lie. There’s nothing else to say about Peterson except that he lies: he lied about his indigenous tribal membership and he is lying about how hard it is for men in the developed world. He does this because he is pandering to an audience who need to feel aggrieved. This idea that men can’t get laid or get married is tied directly to the weird logic of “hypergamy” rife in the once culture and also underlies his suggestion in the NYT interview that women should be forced to fuck ugly men. Contrary to your assertion, this is Peterson in his own words. The linked review also cites Peterson.

I’m sorry but you have to do better than this.

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J-D 05.27.18 at 5:32 am

Mario

Your second link seems to be broken.

I watched the clip at the first link. In it he talks about suffering caused by unemployment. I can agree with him about that being a terrible problem without agreeing with his underlying analysis, but what are his suggested remedies (whether they come from that analysis or not)? In the clip he explains why he thinks it’s a terrible problem and why he thinks it’s going to get worse, but if he has any suggestions about remedies they aren’t in that clip. Even if it’s true (which it may not be), ‘It’s very bad and it’s going to get much worse’ is not a constructive comment.

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Marc 05.27.18 at 6:37 am

On the subject of affirmative action, the elite consensus (reflected here) is opposed by a substantial majority of the US population:

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/07/08/poll-finds-public-opposition-considering-race-and-ethnicity-college-admissions

Interestingly, this includes majorities of women and african-americans.

The real division (surprise, surprise) is economic class; AA is strongly supported by those with postgraduate education, who skew wealthy.

And it’s also the case that affirmative action, which by its nature favors some groups over others, leads to a widespread belief that whites are discriminated against:

https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2017/10/30/survey-draws-attention-white-perceptions-affirmative-action

Note also the polls on AA in the second link, which appear to disagree with the CHE results. But there is a straightforward explanation: AA is supported when not defined, but strongly opposed when defined as it’s actually used in college admissions, namely to admit people on the basis of their ethnicity or gender who would not otherwise have been admitted.

This is a substantive driver of our current political dynamic: making an issue out of bounds for discussion because it disagrees with elite consensus, even when it is opposed by a majority of the people.

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Peter Dorman 05.27.18 at 7:10 am

I can’t stand Jordan Peterson or the cultural forces he’s exploiting for his personal vainglory, but Manne’s piece is dreadful in its own way. Other commenters have pointed out her smugness and apparent lack of concern for the unformed souls at risk of being drawn into the Peterson orbit but who could be reached in other ways. What bothers me most, however, is her pernicious and, I have come to think, dishonest use of the word “privilege” to frame her critique.

This is a highly unequal world, and we should try to do something about it. The starting point is distinguishing between two types of inequalities, those that can be rectified (more or less) by extending to everyone the benefits that only a few currently have, and those that can’t be addressed without taking those benefits away. A fairly pure example of the first is the right to not be arbitrarily brutalized by the police. This right is unequally distributed according to race and class. To equalize it, we don’t need more brutality visited on anyone, just less for those now at greater risk. This is a positive-sum move.

An example of the second is class exploitation as understood in Marxism. (This is not about whether we agree with the analysis, just its logic.) The wealth of capitalists is viewed as derived from the surplus value extracted from workers; you can’t end the exploitation of the latter without dispossessing the former. At least in this sense (admittedly static), capitalist exploitation is zero-sum.

This distinction is the starting point for political strategy. We can overcome the first type of inequality by moral appeals or a little bit of horse-trading (we’ll give you more esteem about this in order to compensate you for your loss of esteem about that) because, in principle, no one needs to be diminished in order for the inequality to be rectified. The second has an intrinsic antagonism built into it; there will be unavoidable aspects of confrontation and power struggles. Of course, many inequalities have aspects of both, and strategy needs to be nuanced about how it juggles these two options.

Happily, the English language (I don’t know about other languages but would be interested to find out) gives us a word that has historically applied specifically to the zero-sum inequality: privilege. The slogans about rights versus privileges appealed to this: rights were things everyone could have and were good, privileges existed only because of inequality and were bad. The civil rights movement, for instance, could truly preach a form of universal love, since it was about rights that should be for all of us. The battle against male privilege in housework and child care, on the other hand, while it appealed to elements of solidarity, understood from the beginning that men would have to yield their advantages for women to have more opportunities in life. That frames the politics.

The abuse of the word privilege to refer to all forms of inequality, whether positive or zero sum, is poisonous. It is used as a justification for disdain and silencing, even though, if inequalities are not zero sum, the diminution of those with more may not do much to improve the lives of those with less. This is true, for instance, about inequality of respect: less respect for whites, men etc. does not in itself generate more respect for people of color, women etc.

I never thought much about this issue until I saw first hand how much damage a blanket use of the “privilege” frame could cause at my own place of work. Now I can’t read diatribes like Manne’s without getting upset. Hence this rant.

ps: Jordan Peterson has figured out how to wrap social darwinism in Jungian archetypes. Big deal.

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J-D 05.27.18 at 7:11 am

Sebastian H

One of the great things about being gay is learning early that the grind you up hierarchy system won’t work for you and you have to do something else. It’s a lesson that’s true for a lot of straight people, but sometimes they don’t notice it u til they are much older.

Last night I saw the French film Aurore, in which there’s a scene where the central character works briefly as a hospital cleaner alongside a woman of colour (she’s played by somebody who is, I think, Moroccan, but the character’s background wasn’t specified, or at least not in the English-language subtitles). Aurore has left her job in a restaurant and couldn’t get another one; the Moroccan (or whatever) woman says that she used to be a civil engineer but has to take the work she can get. She makes a remark about how white people don’t ‘get’ discrimination until they get older (Aurore is fifty). Then she starts to explain intersectionality to Aurore.

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Thomas Beale 05.27.18 at 9:17 am

The comments are getting better…

Lee A Arnold, Faustusnotes and others…

Thomas Beale fundamentally misunderstands Peterson. Peterson isn’t arguing that heirarchies are an unfortunate reality and offering tips to survive them

It seems to me that significant occurrence of hierarchy is likely to be in the natural order, and it seems pretty likely that it is heavily biologically determined (after all, avoiding hierarchies and still creating a functioning, sophisticated society is going to require some serious mental work), but in any case, this is at least the kind of substantive argument that detractors need to put forward, with evidence, to be successful. You have not done it yet, because you’d need to disprove any biological link, but at least we are now talking about one of the salient points.

BTW Peterson’s use of the schema men=order / women=chaos is from mythological archetypes, and in the book it is not clear why he even brings it up other than that it chimes with the book title. I didn’t see where he talks as if that is how he sees modern society. If he really was thinking that, it would obviously be problematic for his stance.

Re: engineering equality of outcomes: I’m personally very much against affirmative action, for the very basic reason what trying to control output variables means you break the system they belong to, and this is indeed what usually happens. But a proper debate on that topic would be interesting as well.

Re Mario @ 57, it’s clear that Peterson considers actual outcomes important, it’s just that to achieve them you have to work with input variables, not the outcomes themselves. This is very obvious indeed, and I see no easy argument against Peterson’s exhortations against engineering equal outcomes. Example: if you want more women in politics, you could fix selection lists in some seats to be women-only (the UK Labour Party, uniquely in the UK, does this), but this then creates the obvious problems of a) blocking men who happen to be the better candidate in those seats, b) putting at least some women into parliament who don’t have the competencies, c) creating resentment more generally and d) running into the trans debate i.e. ‘who is a woman anyway?’.

And it fails to answer the fundamental question of why there should be more women in politics. Maybe the natural ratio in politics isn’t 50/50; maybe it’s 30/70, or 80/20? Maybe it’s variable over time, depending on what the current issues are? Who really knows? Peterson’s claim with respect to this is that men and women self-sort unevenly in various sectors in the most free societies, so it’s probably natural. And that is the evidence. Primary school teachers are 90% women across the EU; in secondary school, it’s 65%; and some sub-domains of medicine and law have many more women. Are these ratios all wrong too? This is the kind of question people have to look at if they want to make assumptions about how everything should be 50/50.

Then there is the related question of the ‘gender pay gap’, which is mostly objected to by people without the faintest grasp of statistics (= most journalists). There is indeed a difference between the average pay of women versus men in some sectors, but this doesn’t prove anything with respect to the ‘equal work equal pay’ principle. In business for example, there are more men, better paid, near the top. Most people complaining about that endlessly repeat phrases like ‘most women are blocked from the top’, the ‘glass ceiling’ etc, without thinking that, in reality, most men are blocked from the top, as well. It’s pretty clear that those running corporations are more aggressive, more focussed, more ruthless. Sure, they may benefit from historic networks of power, and may be outright sexist, but those are far from the only reasons for getting to the top. The people who get there know how to work the hierarchy – that’s a given in the business world, and my academic and public sector friends tell me the same.

My sense is that Peterson’s ideas are far less controversial than his detractors would like to think, and probably far less coherent than he himself would like to think. Nevertheless, critics need to work a lot harder on points like hierarchy if they want to knock him down on principle.

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engels 05.27.18 at 9:20 am

Afaics the main purpose of ‘privilege’ in American politics is to enable liberal professionals to believe that right-wing working-class people are better off than they are. Iirc its originator, Peggy Macintyre, a Ivy-League and privately educated teacher at Brearley never thought class was worth mentioning:

Whiteness is just one of the many variables that one can look at, starting with, for example, one’s place in the birth order, or your body type, or your athletic abilities, or your relationship to written and spoken words, or your parents’ places of origin, or your parents’ relationship to education, to money, or to English, or what is projected onto your religious or ethnic background.

https://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2014/05/the-woman-who-coined-the-term-white-privilege.html

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Faustusnotes 05.27.18 at 9:22 am

I had a conversation with a friend today, a native American man who grew up on a reservation. He one day discovered that his rich white college friend used to go into supermarkets in his rich white area and eat the produce as he was shopping – grab some grapes and eat them, or open the biscuits and eat one before he paid. My friend was flabbergasted, because where he grew up that would get the police called on you. Noone would be so stupid! His rich white college friend couldn’t understand his disbelief. That right there is privilege. It’s not about zero sum or not zero sum, it’s about how some people live in such a protected bubble that they can’t even conceive that the oppression happening around them is real; or they get to live in the world in a cluelessly easy way because the world gives them what they want without even asking. See also: free to those who can afford it, very expensive to those who can’t. It’s not just about rights denied, but about the way people who have never had to think about the threat to their rights belittle, ignore or fail to understand which rights are denied, where, how or why.

(I also have problems with the blanket use of the term to describe other things, and with the miniscule policing of it in some American discourse. But misusing a term or overusing a concept doesn’t make it wrong)

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Faustusnotes 05.27.18 at 9:29 am

Thomas Beale, my partner tried to negotiate her salary and was turned down on the basis that the company couldn’t afford it; only to discover a year later that a less qualified man was offered the maximum possible salary without negotiation. The gender pay gap is not a statistical artifact and only idiots think it is.

Regarding what “it seems to you” is the true nature of heirarchical, it’s irrelevant. What’s relevant is what Peterson was saying, and what he says is that heirarchies are good and heirarchies that exclude women are better. It’s you who is failing to engage with what he writes and what he says.

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Peter Dorman 05.27.18 at 11:50 am

Faustusnotes, your story is a great example of how to use the term privilege correctly. A world in which everyone just took stuff and didn’t pay for it would be impossible. Long before total breakdown the police would start nabbing people. But a few folks with status or connections can break these rules; it’s exactly because they are relatively few that they can get away with it.

Yes, it’s absolutely a privilege. There’s no way to do away with this inequality (some rip off with impunity, others have to follow the rules) except by taking away some of the “freedom” of the folks in the bubble.

OTOH, should I, a white middle class male, consider myself privileged because I can go shopping without the feeling that security personnel are monitoring my every movement? It’s outrageous that millions of people have to put up with this scrutiny every day, but the solution doesn’t involve my having to give up anything.

Why invoke zero-sum antagonism when you don’t have to? What motivates writers like Manne to bring down their wrath on people simply because they have rights that others haven’t yet been allowed to share?

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Collin Street 05.27.18 at 11:51 am

It’s you who is failing to engage with what he writes and what he says.

To be fair, there is utility in engaging with what a person is saying, stripping out the Fucking Stupid bits, and making something interesting with what’s left. But the bulk of the credit for the product of that has to go to you, not to the person whose ideas you are treating as feedstock.

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Thomas Beale 05.27.18 at 12:20 pm

Faustusnotes @ 67
You are making the ‘statistics idiot’ mistake yourself in that line of argumentation (and with an N=1 example!), and you are clearly far too intelligent to be doing so. Again: the ‘gender pay gap’ as characterised in the media is about the difference in average pay v gender (you could make up an ‘ethnic pay gap’, or a ‘gender-preference pay gap’ in the same way, as I’m sure Identity politicians are going to do at some point). But that difference doesn’t tell you anything about e.g. your example of ?sexism, or whether equal work is systematically unequally paid.

In medicine, it turns out that there is strong evidence for equal work being paid equally w.r.t. sex. And yet the gross average pay in e.g. the US or UK is skewed toward men. Why? It’s because they occupy higher-paying executive and managerial positions, e.g. HOD positions in hospitals and HMOs. Why? Maybe there are more career- and wealth-driven men than women (for which there are some obvious reasons)? Maybe upper managerial / exec pay is (far) too high? These are the kinds of real underlying reasons that would have to be investigated to put any meaning into the term ‘gender pay gap’. You are now gunning for profit and capitalism as organising principles – which would be a much more interesting thing to do.

Peterson asked the question in the Cathy Newman epic fail interview: why just look at pay v sex? Why not other variables, such as education, birthplace etc? Perfectly good question. In the UK accent has a pretty good correlation with pay / access to jobs in many professions.

On hierarchy, I may have misread Peterson, and I’d have to go take another look to see if he really is claiming that hierarchies are (?always) innately good, and that women should be excluded from them, because I certainly don’t remember that. Those are strong claims about him, so you’d need to be able to quote from primary material to support them. (I did just read the latest NYT article – ‘enforced monogamy’? How amusing – well at least that clarifies that he’s some sort of patrician traditionalist, so maybe that comes close on the hierarchies-are-good point).

In any case, to prove that a) hierarchy in human societies is somehow just an accidental state of affairs with no relation to biology, when so much evidence points the other way, and b) that it is innately bad in all / most cases, your work is truly cut out for you. Anyone who has suffered through the consequences of the 80s/90s pseudo-scientific alternative non-hierarchical management theories will know that proving hierarchy inherent wrong is really much harder than it looks. Maybe hierarchy is like democracy – the worst possible system, except for all the others that have been tried…

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Lee A. Arnold 05.27.18 at 1:31 pm

Thomas Beale #64: “significant occurrence of hierarchy is likely to be in the natural order… avoiding hierarchies and still creating a functioning, sophisticated society is going to require some serious mental work… you’d need to disprove any biological link”

Evidence of history shows that there is no clear biological link that necessarily precipitates control hierarchy into social structure. Development has gone in sequence from hunter-gatherer bands –> tribal kinship lineages –> chiefdoms –> empires –> nation states –> global financial plutocracy. Essentially this is a sequence of social control that has shaded from familial basis to geographic basis to monetary basis. Sometimes the prior sorts of control were transcended, sometimes they were partly incorporated.

This does not mean however that “significant occurrence of hierarchy is likely to be in the natural order” as you write. Obviously it could also mean that we are in the long process of transcending hierarchies, and that the Enlightenment project of universalism is a big breakpoint that has put us closer to the goal.

There are hierarchies of competence (in learning, in talent) that will be promoted until medical science makes everyone into Einstein & Mozart. But economic reward for more mundane innovation and production is already becoming overpriced as productive & innovative competence is overtaken by machines so the only real advantage to any individual human is luck to be in place at top of ladder. This isn’t “forward-theoretical” any more.

There is no doubt that in thinking about how things connect, we form stepwise hierarchies in the descriptions. This happens in science in general and happened in religion too. Gregory Bateson’s 6th criterion of mind is, “The description and classification of these processes of transformation discloses a hierarchy of logical types immanent in the phenomena.” (Mind and Nature p.114)

There are at least two different kinds of hierarchies identified by Stanley N. Salthe at Binghampton. Roughly speaking they are:

1. Spatial hierarchies, e.g.:

population – organism – organ system – organ – tissue – cell – biomolecule

drama – act – scene – beat – line

2. Specification hierarchies, e.g.:

material world – biological world – social world

shape – polygon – rectangle – square

Anyway the fact that we can identify this mental process does not mean that we cannot stand outside certain sequences of it, and change it, in particular with regard to social organization and control since we can exercise individual choice and preference including the agreement to come together.

When you start to think about the causes of and cures for the world’s greatest dangers — climate, war, species extinction, inequality — you find that biggest single problem is hierarchy, not natural at all but perpetuated into its various forms by the psychological disease of the need for power and for the most property. Any preacher who doesn’t preach love first thing out of his mouth (not self-love) should be avoided.

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bianca steele 05.27.18 at 1:44 pm

Sebastian, Collin

The right to have a job at the bottom or middle of a “grind you up” hierarchy is privilege, and the ability to make an upper middle class living without having to deal with that BS is the opposite? Odd. (I guess Engels said this already.)

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Faustusnotes 05.27.18 at 2:30 pm

Wrong Thomas, after controlling for confounders women earn 5% less than men in medicine in the UK. Why should I even bother arguing with someone who misrepresents basic facts? This information is trivially easy to get.

Also having accused people here of not reading primary sources – and again sneering at how the comments “keep getting better” – you contemptuously shrug off Peterson’s own words recommending forced monogamy. This shows pretty clearly that you don’t want Peterson to be assessed on the basis of his own words and when he says something repulsive you just laugh it away (I guess it’s just silly games when it’s women’s lives at stake right?)

I think you’re doing here what another conservative commented did on a previous thread, denying the IDW believe something they clearly and openly lay aim to. You simply don’t want your heroes to be assessed on the things they say, at the same time as you want us all to listen to what they say. Typical conservative hypocrisy.

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novakant 05.27.18 at 2:52 pm

It seems to me that significant occurrence of hierarchy is likely to be in the natural order, and it seems pretty likely that it is heavily biologically determined

And it fails to answer the fundamental question of why there should be more women in politics. Maybe the natural ratio in politics isn’t 50/50; maybe it’s 30/70, or 80/20?

You keep bringing up the “natural order” of things, seemingly unaware of how ridiculous such essentialist arguments are: there is no “natural order” – and if you don’t want open yourself to accusations of racism, sexism, classism then I would suggest dropping this line of thought.

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Ray Vinmad 05.27.18 at 2:57 pm

“One thing that struck me in the last discussion here on ‘incels’ is that we are really letting the tiniest minority of people with a problem really radicalize the whole issue in ways that trigger our tribalism. This lets/makes us want to trivialize real problems just because the self appointed spokesmen are so unappealing/violent. We need to be able to separate, at least in our minds, this self appointed vanguard from the people who they pretend to represent. If we trivialize the people they claim to represent, we are pushing rather into the arms of the radicals who triggered our tribalism in the first place.”

Who is being represented here? What are the real problems?

Engels seems to be saying this is a class issue. The incel issue is not a class issue. Many come from very wealthy families, and some are in good colleges. Misogyny knows no class. I don’t get how classism comes into the positive and negative response to Peterson. His audience is primarily middle to upper-middle class. Those who find him annoying are the same class.

We have some people (primarily college educated young white males) who are very unhappy, and very angry at people in various other groups, whom they blame for their unhappiness.

It is a social problem because some of the angry people are behaving in anti-social ways, and the rest proclaim hostile and violent attitudes. Is the cause of their anti-social behavior or attitudes an injustice of any kind? If it is not, that doesn’t exhaust the concerns we could have over the things that are being framed as ‘a problem.’ Someone could diagnose this as an economic issue–maybe declining opportunity for those who would be upper-middle-class– but that hasn’t been done here.

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kinnikinick 05.27.18 at 5:02 pm

With all this talk of hierarchy, I’m surprised that the distinction between the “prestige” and “dominance” varieties hasn’t come up yet – to me, this is crucial.
I am willing to give respect and deference to someone who has a high level of skill or expertise in a given domain that is meaningful to me; this has an aspirational aspect, as I can hope to learn from them. I can accept lower prestige in this context, and I don’t see a person with higher prestige as globally “superior” to me. For this form of hierarchy to work, a mutual understanding is necessary.
In a dominance hierarchy, there is really only power. Those who are superior are just superior; the external referents are only window-dressing and theatrics. Here, a marker of power is the ability to conscript the unwilling into it – no lobster left behind.
I believe that prestige hierarchy is often useful and perhaps inevitable (Matthew Crawford’s The World Beyond Your Head has some very interesting thinking along these lines), but I have no interest in defending human dominance hierarchy anywhere.

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anon/portly 05.27.18 at 5:46 pm

66, Collin Street:

Net result, straight white middle-class and above men systemically don’t understand, and don’t need to understand, the nature of their society.

Which is to say, “privilege”.

Hmmm, my guess is 95% of CT comments are from “straight white middle-class and above men,” so if this true, how can any of these comments be insightful?

Not to mention the posts….

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anon/portly 05.27.18 at 6:17 pm

I had a conversation with a friend today, a native American man who grew up on a reservation. He one day discovered that his rich white college friend used to go into supermarkets in his rich white area and eat the produce as he was shopping – grab some grapes and eat them, or open the biscuits and eat one before he paid. My friend was flabbergasted, because where he grew up that would get the police called on you. Noone would be so stupid! His rich white college friend couldn’t understand his disbelief. That right there is privilege. It’s not about zero sum or not zero sum, it’s about how some people live in such a protected bubble that they can’t even conceive that the oppression happening around them is real; or they get to live in the world in a cluelessly easy way because the world gives them what they want without even asking.

Er, the point of the story is really that if a supermarket in a poor area was tolerant of grazing (or shoplifting), they might as well just close. While a supermarket in a rich area can tolerate the occasional douchebag. If there were lots of grazers, the store would probably crack down. Is free riding on the good behavior of others really the same thing as “privilege?” I guess, but isn’t it an ersatz form of it?

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Sebastian H 05.27.18 at 6:29 pm

Bianca, I think I was unclear. I didn’t mean jobs. I meant grind you up hierarchies like the bad side of masculinity, or the married/single hierarchy as you get older.

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Mario 05.27.18 at 7:33 pm

For completeness, here is the video I wanted to link to above.

The statement “marriage is restricted to the rich” is not absolutely correct but not far from the truth, as we can see here (search for “marriage rates”): link. The rich clearly marry much more often than the poor do.

Faustusnotes:

He does this because he is pandering to an audience who need to feel aggrieved.

This is a really strange statement. You can’t possibly have read or heard much of his material. I suspect you suspect him of doing that because that is the way you look at the world.

I would venture the hypothesis that his audience rather is people who do not want to be aggrieved, preferring to have a nice life instead, and soon, if possible. If you need to be aggrieved, having someone telling you to sort yourself out instead is probably rather annoying.

This idea that men can’t get laid or get married is tied directly to the weird logic of “hypergamy” rife in the once culture and also underlies his suggestion in the NYT interview that women should be forced to fuck ugly men. Contrary to your assertion, this is Peterson in his own words.

Really? Do you have a link or can you point to the passage? In the NYT article I can’t find those very own words of him.

my partner tried to negotiate her salary and was turned down on the basis that the company couldn’t afford it; only to discover a year later that a less qualified man was offered the maximum possible salary without negotiation.

But you are aware that there are a lot of other possible reasons for this, no?

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Thomas Beale 05.27.18 at 7:34 pm

Faustusnotes @ 73

Wrong Thomas, after controlling for confounders women earn 5% less than men in medicine in the UK. Why should I even bother arguing with someone who misrepresents basic facts? This information is trivially easy to get.

Well ok, I would say 5% is pretty good, given some other industries; of course it should be 0% – it’s going that way. Here are some primary references. Note: you really have to control carefully for confounding factors, as noted below (my bolding). I take a number like 5% and reducing as ‘good enough’ all things considered in today’s world.

Guys and St Thomas – Gender Pay gap report.

Conclusion The Trust welcomes the opportunity to publish its gender pay gap information. While there is a gender pay gap within the Trust, with mean and median women’s pay 16.50% and10.74% lower than men’s pay respectively, we are confident that we have identified two key drivers of our pay gap: the uneven distribution of men in our overall workforce, and the higher number of male consultants than female consultants in the upper quartile of our pay distribution.

The Pay Gap for Women in Medicine and Academic Medicine An analysis of the WAM* database

Based on average salaries there is a raw pay gap of £15,245 – that is in general,women doctors earn 18% less than male doctors….. Factors that influence and may explain the pay gap include grade, hours worked, experience, administrative roles and specialty. In order to determine which factors may generate the pay gap and how much is unexplained due to differences in treatment, a regression analysis was utilised. … our estimates that control for confounding factors so that one doctor is compared with another of similar background, suggest a true gender pay gap amongst consultants of 5.6%

This shows pretty clearly that you don’t want Peterson to be assessed on the basis of his own words and when he says something repulsive you just laugh it away

Er .. no. I specifically suggested on this thread it would be much better if Peterson were assessed on his own published output, and he should. Whether his comments in interviews are serious exposition or jocular throwaways is my doubt in the question of ‘enforced monogamy’, since it’s hard to take seriously.

(I guess it’s just silly games when it’s women’s lives at stake right?)

Not to me. Be careful with unfounded personal accusations.

I think you’re doing here what another conservative commented did on a previous thread, denying the IDW believe something they clearly and openly lay aim to. You simply don’t want your heroes to be assessed on the things they say, at the same time as you want us all to listen to what they say. Typical conservative hypocrisy.

You are way off the mark. I don’t care about people like Peterson, what I do care about is the quality of public discourse, and what is interesting is the immune reaction from the Left against people like him; the TLS review for example demonstrates far more about the reviewer than her subject and she’s not alone. For the record, I have never voted conservative in my life.

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Thomas Beale 05.27.18 at 7:40 pm

Novakant @ 74
You keep bringing up the “natural order” of things, seemingly unaware of how ridiculous such essentialist arguments are: there is no “natural order” – and if you don’t want open yourself to accusations of racism, sexism, classism then I would suggest dropping this line of thought.

‘Natural order’ means emergent order in a complex system. It’s all around us.

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Peter T 05.28.18 at 12:11 am

Thomas Beale

To take just one of your examples, when I was at primary school, almost all the teachers were male (teaching then was both relatively more highly paid an prestigious). Now primary teaching is much more female, less prestigious and less well-paid. I guess this change just emerged as the natural order of a complex system, no?

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Faustusnotes 05.28.18 at 12:20 am

The two people who have responded to my friends anecdote have completely missed the point, assuming the privileged white guy was stealing even though I made very clear he wasn’t. Is that because you wanted to assume the native American dude was stealing? Hmmm…

Thomas Beale please don’t waste everyone’s time with the “I’m not conservative” shtick. You are still laughing off something Peterson said, because you can’t take it seriously. If you laugh off all the things he says that are actually offensive and dangerous and then insists we only fouxa on the bland bits, you are the one not engaging with what he is writing. And dismissing things said in interviews is stupid. That’s the kind of attitude (“it was just a tweet! We don’t have to take such a ridiculous view seriously!”) that got Williamson hired and then fired at the Atlantic.

This is a consistent theme amongst conservatism’s faux-centrist defenders in the us. Dismiss all their dangerous and vindictive stuff as simply provocative nonsense; ignore their lies and hypocrisy; and then get offended when their critics use what they actually said and wrote to criticize them. Then accuse their left wing critics of misrepresentation. It’s the tactic of people who agree with what these people say – or think it’s good when applied to everyone else – but don’t want to be accused of supporting it. Show some spine and admit to what you believe.

85

J-D 05.28.18 at 12:31 am

kinnikinick

The senior physicist at the Institute was named Mitis. She was not at present directing the physics curriculum, as all administrative jobs rotated annually among the twenty permanent postings, but she had been at the place thirty years, and had the best mind among them. There was always a kind of psychological clear space around Mitis, like the lack of crowds around the peak of a mountain. The absence of all enhancements and enforcements of authority left the real thing plain. There are people of inherent authority; some emperors actually have new clothes.

The Dispossessed, by Ursula K Le Guin

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Peter T 05.28.18 at 3:03 am

Thomas

More kindly, you are confusing the general “hierarchies are how we organise things” (more or less natural, taking the term elastically) with the particular forms of hierarchy around us. That we have a hierarchy to manage a factory or a football game says nothing about the place of women, the Irish or black people in those hierarchies.

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faustusnotes 05.28.18 at 5:27 am

This natural order thing is hilarious. Lobsters have had the same unchanging heirarchies for millions of years, as far as we know, and heirarchies in all animals we know well (e.g. wolves) have been unchanging for as long as humans have recorded their stories, but in just 500 years human society has gone from feudalism through slave-holding to dictatorships and then democracies and sometimes back again. Germany went through a what 10 year period when whole racial groups had no rights and were at the bottom of a heirarchy that previously treated them as equal. Yet we’re supposed to believe this is all just a natural heirarchy emergent from a complex system? I guess all those black people ending up on slave plantations in the south of America was just an emergent property of some complex system, not a social order set up and established by people who very much valued specific heirarchies. What an incredible coincidence that no white people ended up in those farms! A stunning result in the mathematics of self-organizing complex systems, amirite? But definitely not a choice about the social order made by the people at the top, and definitely something that someone should have written a self-help book about that could be best summarized as “heirarchies are inevitable so here are some tips on how to handle them.”

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b9n10nt 05.28.18 at 7:21 am

Thank you JD
Thankyou arctostaphylos

We are wired for the game
Some teachers teach us to win the game*
Others teach us to see through the game.**
Rare are those who can win anddeconstruct.***

Knowing which is your teacher
Is all.

*Petersen
**Love
***Ursula Le Guin’s Physicist, for example

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TM 05.28.18 at 9:50 am

I want to second Ray Vinmad 75. engels (and some others) frequently insinuates that racism and misogyny are somehow the domain of the lower classes and antiracism and feminism (etc.) upper class preoccupations. What an incredibly arrogant and offensive (*) claim, and what a reactionary world view.

(*) – and, need I say it, obviously false. It occurs to me that people who believe this “racism is lower class” mantra also, by the same “logic”, deny the obvious upper class privilege of prominent racists and women-haters like Trump himself. That btw seems to be behind the absurdity that turns Trump the billionaire with the gilded toilet into an “anti-elite/anti-establishment” figure because his vulgar sexism supposedly makes him a “populist”.

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Thomas Beale 05.28.18 at 10:02 am

Peter T @ 83
Well, the Eurostat statistics for teachers are 85% women in primary, 65% women in secondary, across the EU with remarkably low spread across the countries. But teaching is not paid equally across the EU, and the spread is huge (Business Insider UK). And teaching was not once well-paid and prestigious in all those countries; it was in some and still is, and yet in all, the mix is nearly the same.

Even if you take just the best paid primary teachers in the EU (second link above), they still sort heavily toward women. There’s no coercion, and for those countries there are surely a wide enough variety of other interesting jobs, and yet it still happens. Not only that, but the percentage has risen over the last 40 years in nearly all countries. There are all kinds of theories about the state of affairs in teaching, and I’m sure some of differences of prestige, salary, comparative salaries and so on have some weight. Some people want to paint everything as wall-to-wall sexism or whatever. But the EU statistics don’t support that.

You can make an equivalent study of sub-domains in medicine; women occupy vastly more positions in nursing, obs/gyn, immunology, and a number of other areas. The imbalances are not all sexism, or lack of choice.

Are you advocating ‘the perfect world’, with equal pay for equal work everywhere, equalised prestige (how do you achieve that?), and equalised everything else? The only way to get a gender split of 50/50 across all professions is by social engineering. The same analysis can be applied to other demographic splits, e.g. gender preference. Should the proportions of straight, gay, etc people in teaching be the same as those measured in society as a whole? How about LGBTIQ proportions across engineering or black/white/Asian/etc in market gardeners? It gets ridiculous fast. Making pieces of society (organisations, professions etc) constantly mirror the (currently known) demographics of a whole society isn’t even vaguely workable, and certainly not desirable.

Faustusnotes @ 84
You seem very keen to paint people you don’t know into enemy categories because they say things you don’t like. I simply made some mildly devil’s advocate challenges to various people’s easy and in some cases ideological attacks on some of Peterson’s points, nothing more.

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soru 05.28.18 at 10:16 am

> The incel issue is not a class issue. Many come from very wealthy families, and some are in good colleges. Misogyny knows no class.

This seems pretty obviously wrong, unless you have a completely impoverished notion of class that boils down to ‘income decile’. It’s the nature and source of the income, not its size, that matters.

There was obviously a structural change in the class structure of anglo countries, and its intersection with sex and gender, starting back in the 60s and not perfectly complete yet (i.e the remaining single-digit gender income gap). The cultural ramifications of that are far from being fully worked through, leaving a chunk of people working to outdated cultural scripts or wrong expectations.

Meanwhile, due to the recency of the change, there are presumably institutions and practices that would be clearly positive-sum, but have not yet been founded.

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Hidari 05.28.18 at 10:18 am

Following on from Novakant’s point (@52) I hope that in the future CT will be having a symposium on the historiographical thinking of Erich von Däniken?

Like Peterson, he says the unsayable and writes the unreadable.

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TM 05.28.18 at 10:19 am

I want to second Ray Vinmad 75. engels (and some others) frequently insinuates that racism and misogyny are somehow the domain of the lower class and antiracism and feminism (etc.) upper class preoccupations (if not devices of outright class warfare). What an incredibly arrogant and offensive (*) claim, and what a reactionary world view.

(*) – and, need I say it, obviously false. It occurs to me that people who believe this “racism is lower class” mantra also, by the same “logic”, deny the obvious upper class privilege of prominent racists and women-haters like Trump himself. That btw seems to be behind the absurdity that turns Trump the billionaire with the gilded toilet into an “anti-elite/anti-establishment” figure because his vulgar sexism supposedly makes him a “populist”.

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Faustusnotes 05.28.18 at 11:03 am

Thomas Beale, that’s not what you’re doing. You’re offering apologia for Peterson’s lies and sexism, refusing to read what he wrote or listen to what he says while accusing others of the same, and it is you who repeatedly stakes a claim to an ideological position (“not conservative”) to cover up your apologia. I’m simply pointing out the flaw in your arguments and the real purpose of them.

The same thing could be said probably of your divergence on equal pay. The issue isn’t whether more women are clustered in lower paid jobs – though that’s also an issue – but that women don’t get equal pay for equal work. You know this – you even dug up the stats I already knew and cited them, showing you know this – but you simply refuse to accept it. It’s right there in text you bolded but you deny it. You then use this to launch a completely weird and spurious straw man against Peter t, asking if he wants enforced equal representation of every group in society in every job. What kind of argument even is that? It’s the kind conservative liars use to cloud the water and ensure the issues can’t be clearly debated.

Mods FYI the reason you’re suddenly seeing so many double posts is that ct interface no longer shows a comment has been put into moderation after we post it, so people think their comment has been eaten. I guess this is a change to the hosting website due to that dumb EU rule. I guess you mods can’t see this effect, since you don’t use the site as guests, so here’s a heads up.

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Thomas Beale 05.28.18 at 11:29 am

On the general point of hierarchies being part of the natural order… that this is the case is easily observable, and in all 8 levels of Miller’s Living Systems (or the levels of any other analytical framework of nature). Hierarchy emerges in most if not all complex systems, because it enables efficiency of function and throughput. This doesn’t imply any particular moral characteristics of human social hierarchies – in other words, what kind of people are located on what rung so to speak may be arbitrary. It is clear, in some cases, that he who obtains the positions of greater influence and power is who understands and knows how to exploit the hierarchy (Soviet and Chinese Communist Parties, National Socialists, etc). In other cases (badly run corporations, huge government departments), the Peter Principle and Kafka are better descriptions of what’s going on. Sometimes they are quite obviously positive: Linus Torvalds runs the Linux kernel development effort on a well-documented hierarchical basis, not unlike a general and an army. Why? Mainly because to do otherwise creates chaos.

Human social hierarchies are not going to disappear; what one hopes is possible is that better ways of running them will emerge that will at least ameliorate more cynical and self-centred behaviours. So if Peterson is saying: hierarchies (of whatever kind) are there, try to understand them, and you’ll do better, it’s almost a truism. But if he is saying that only certain kinds of hierarchies (patriarchal?) are the right ones, and people should work to construct those kinds of hierarchies, then that is an altogether different question and deserves a different response.

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Collin Street 05.28.18 at 11:56 am

‘Natural order’ means emergent order in a complex system. It’s all around us.

But there’s nothing unnatural about my anti-misogynist beliefs or actions, Thomas. They also arise out of the emergent order of the complex system the same as anything else does: why do you object to my acting upon them?

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J-D 05.28.18 at 12:05 pm

Thomas Beale

I don’t care about people like Peterson, what I do care about is the quality of public discourse, and what is interesting is the immune reaction from the Left against people like him;

What would you suggest is the appropriate reaction to the discover that somebody is a pontificating mountebank?

the TLS review for example demonstrates far more about the reviewer than her subject and she’s not alone.

What would you say that it demonstrates about me if I describe Jordan Peterson as a pontificating mountebank?

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Lee A. Arnold 05.28.18 at 12:10 pm

Thomas Beale #82: “‘Natural order’ means emergent order in a complex system.”

I think this is one of Hayek’s ideas but it must be discarded. There are two problems with it: 1. Almost everything that exists in society was at one time a new emergent, and 2. such an emergence wasn’t “natural”: somebody made a new rule on a date certain. It may have been two million years ago, so we don’t know who did it. We have followed the rule since then, or else we discarded it, but all social emergents were formulated by somebody somewhere. They weren’t “natural”.

Now of course a new rule may become incorporated into other rules, or else other circumstances adapt to, or adopt the rule, or other new circumstances are formulated on account of the rule — and so the whole thing becomes part of a complex or layered social system.

But all of this just means that ideas of “social justice warriors” or “equality of outcomes” may be instances of NEW emergence that are arising spontaneously because the system is having bad outcomes and needs a new rule. Why not?

After all, rules emerged many times before, into a whole system that presumably already had “natural order”. Yet the systems stability that had emerged from complexity needed a fix.

Some species evolved themselves into stagnant culs de sac and were eradicated.

Thus there’s just no way to lay down an abstract “general systems law” about whether stabilities and emergences, whether micro or macro, are good or bad.

It’s important to understand that “emergence”, “stability”, “order”, “change” (and similar words) describe parts of our descriptions. In systems thinking they are NOT states of systems, they are more like the syntactic grammar we use to describe systems.

It’s better to get into the details of the real debate without trying to predetermine whether something is “natural” or not.

99

engels 05.28.18 at 1:16 pm

Mr Angry writes:

engels (and some others) frequently insinuates that racism and misogyny are somehow the domain of the lower class and antiracism and feminism (etc.) upper class preoccupations (if not devices of outright class warfare). What an incredibly arrogant and offensive (*) claim, and what a reactionary world view. (*) – and, need I say it, obviously false.

Far from frequently insinuating that, I’m confident I’ve never insinuated it once (not least because I don’t believe it; it is on the face of it a very rather strange view for any avowed Marxist to hold).

100

bianca steele 05.28.18 at 3:22 pm

Adding to TM, there’s sometimes an insinuation that the upper and lower classes are different cultures, and it would be unfair to ask the lower classes to give up ethnonationalism. The only other option seems to be that the lower classes will all move up as they get acculturated to the new times, and be replaced by lower class immigrants who will move up in turn, until everyone’s upper class and the hard work is done by robots.

The alternatives are all glib and assume everything is the same everywhere and everyone who has a problem has the same problem. They don’t understand hierarchy and therefore can’t work in a modern organization where they can’t wing it 24/7, or they don’t understand hierarchy and don’t understand why an imperfectly masculine person like themselves should ever be listened to. They don’t understand other minds and therefore can’t comprehend the true Christian way of life, or they don’t understand other minds and therefore freak out when they have to talk civilly with a lesbian. They had a bad education and therefore don’t understand science, or they had a bad education and therefore don’t understand literary culture. Their job is unsatisfying because they thought liberals and freaks could have a place in the corporate wold, or their job is unsatisfying because it brings them into contact with liberals and LGBT people and they never learned to cope. Their workplace would be better if everyone listened to the gunts who know what they’re talking about but can be brusque, or their workplace would be better if everyone listened to the charismatic VP who didn’t finish college and can’t work with anyone as a peer. JBP looks like he’s raising questions but in fact he’s closing off possible answers, and that’s why he’s, as Manne, put it, irresponsible.

101

Chip Daniels 05.28.18 at 4:06 pm

The argument of nature is always one of convenience though.
Because in nature, there are no moral norms, no “shoulds”.

If for example, several bands of marginalized groups like trans activists, feminists, and social justice types band together and overturn the established order, this itself is the emergent Darwinian order.

Peterson should be grateful to them for demonstrating to him the proper hierarchy of the universe, and who runs it.

But of course in this case the argument is inconvenient so he switches to the argument of morality, in this case freedom of speech, which occurs nowhere in nature.
The fact that the argument of nature and argument of morality directly contradict each other doesn’t seem to occur to these folk.

102

bob mcmanus 05.28.18 at 4:13 pm

What an incredibly arrogant and offensive (*) claim

Engels is the nice guy.

I’ll say it. Sure there are sincere and altruistic exponents, but for instance the feminism and anti-racism of Obama, Clintons, Coates and much of the Democratic Party leadership is entirely weaponized and instrumentalized in service of personal wealth and power. This does not mean that the poor and oppressed might not get some trickle down benefits and psychological comfort from charismatic opportunism but this is very far from leadership’s purpose, and the first thought when designing the ACA for instance was how they use this to make themselves and their friends more money. They are pretty smart about it.

As far as the next or several levels down, like us, I presume some are seeking tips from the grifters in the very complicated forms of clientalism that are suffusing current society. Or just tribal pleasures.

But the poor and abject are still suffering, the rich keep getting richer, and the wars go on forever while engels is castigated for not caring enough about Trump’s gold toilets. I expect no real social change until species extinction.

103

bianca steele 05.28.18 at 5:52 pm

Sebastian, thanks for clarifying. I know your background is a lot different from mine and don’t know what would seem normal/surprising to you. The idea that being gay would prevent a man from getting a corporate job seems surprising to me, but I suppose there are people who still believe jobs only go to perfect conformists or whatever, just as there are people who believe only perfect conformists get to have hetero weddings.

104

anon/portly 05.28.18 at 6:08 pm

The two people who have responded to my friends anecdote have completely missed the point, assuming the privileged white guy was stealing even though I made very clear he wasn’t.

You only thought you made this clear. When you wrote that the guy “eat the produce as he was shopping – grab some grapes and eat them,” that’s going to sound like stealing to anyone who’s familiar with American supermarkets, since generally speaking “produce” and “grapes” are items which you can’t pay for once you’ve eaten them, since you have to weigh them. Of course sometimes you can buy a pre-weighed bag or package of fruit also, usually a large amount.

The other part, where the guy would “open the biscuits and eat one before he paid,” would depend on context – if he was standing in line at the check-out, fine, if he was anywhere else in the store, then again it sounds like stealing. (And as the Tracey Thorns character in Death Proof would say, biscuits my ass, those are [bleeping] cookies).

I was actually trying to take your story – which sounded kind of dubious – at face value, so I assumed the guy was getting a real privilege, they were turning a blind eye to a little grazing. Now that’s it’s not a privilege, it’s just the “privilege” of getting to eat some of your food a few moments before you pay for it, having carefully established that you are going to be paying for it – you’re in line, the employees can see you’re in line, you’re not eating any weighed items, you don’t suddenly walk away – I think my original point still holds up pretty well. If a store is particularly intolerant of this, quick to call the cops, then I’d guess they have a high number of relatively impoverished customers – supermarkets near reservations or colleges come to mind as possible examples. And again, if this behavior were common – if everyone was tucking in before paying – stores in wealthier areas would probably crack down on the practice also, if for no other reason than cleanliness. Again, this is better seen as an example of free-riding, not privilege.

By the way when it comes to better-off Americans vs. worse-off Americans, there’s the real, not ersatz, privilege of being able to shop in better stores, often with better prices.

Is that because you wanted to assume the native American dude was stealing? Hmmm…

You’re too generous to people who take exception to things you write, Faustusnotes, too generous by far! Toughen up! Show some spine! Let the bastards have it! Don’t be such a wimp.

105

anon/portly 05.28.18 at 7:01 pm

Er, Tracey Thorn is the singer [writer, mum], Tracie Thoms is the actress. Sorry, that was unforgivable.

106

Thomas Beale 05.28.18 at 7:27 pm

J-D @ 97
What would you suggest is the appropriate reaction to the discover that somebody is a pontificating mountebank?….. What would you say that it demonstrates about me if I describe Jordan Peterson as a pontificating mountebank?

By all means call him that if you want. If you have good reasons maybe there’s no problem. But you need better reasons (mostly) than the TLS reviewer. I’m not saying there aren’t any, indeed the link supplied @40 implies there almost certainly are; that analysis is far closer (I suspect) to the truth.

Regardless, there is an interesting phenomenon going on here. Here is a Psych professor out there ‘pontificating’ and certainly saying some things that can’t be taken seriously (even if he takes them seriously) who is getting a lot of traction. Sure, real charlatans succeed at that as well. But not everything this one says is nonsense – he’s clearly hit a nerve, and it’s not just or even mainly to do with some asserted following of rich white ‘incels’ – an easy but wrong excuse for total dismissal. Some of the things he objects to – identity politics, moral relativism, excesses of PC, snowflake-ism (no-platforming, safe spaces etc etc) – should be objected to, and he’s far from the only one to do so. (His reasons may of course be wrong, but that’s a separate question). Maybe he’s a sexist and bigot too – if it’s the case, criticise away.

It’s convenient to dismiss 100% of what someone says/publishes because 50% of what they say is incoherent or rubbish, to avoid the tricky 50%. Another example of someone dismissed by those too lazy to read and understand was James Lovelock. He suffered somewhat because lazy reviewers took the hippy / earth mother / crystal power following that coalesced around him for a while as indicating what his Gaia books were about. But they were about formally described and modelled cybernetic control systems, something they couldn’t be bothered to engage with.

107

Thomas Beale 05.28.18 at 7:38 pm

Collin Street @ 96
But there’s nothing unnatural about my anti-misogynist beliefs or actions, Thomas. They also arise out of the emergent order of the complex system the same as anything else does: why do you object to my acting upon them?

I don’t in the least. They are I’m sure as natural as my own beliefs of the same sort. The presence of individuals who think like this doesn’t automatically erase hierarchies, although it might well reduce the need for some aspects. But even if the workforce of a corporation consists of exceptionally decent, aware and caring people, it will still need organisational hierarchy to function. There will still be pay bands, competition for certain jobs, and some prestige (however lightly worn) attached to certain positions. It will be a better place to work than some others. But there will still be ambition. And nothing is forever.

108

bianca steele 05.28.18 at 7:43 pm

I guess Beale’s “emergent properties” isn’t what someone who knows the meaning of “emergent” would think it means. He means that if you let nature take its course, the superiority of some people will “emerge” or become visible. Hierarchy doesn’t mean creating social systems by means of human will, it means obeying natural qualities of superiority. How do you know you’ve let nature take its course? When you get the results “science” predicts you ought to get.

“Science”, you’ll have guessed, doesn’t mean for them what someone who knows what science is would think it means, either. It just means identifying powerful people and agreeing with them.

Adding to what fn said, I am having to retype my name and email every time I post, as well.

109

TM 05.28.18 at 7:47 pm

mcmanus (102) rarely disappoints: Thanks for never hesitating to show your true colors.

110

Thomas Beale 05.28.18 at 7:56 pm

Faustusnotes @ 94

You then use this to launch a completely weird and spurious straw man against Peter t, asking if he wants enforced equal representation of every group in society in every job. What kind of argument even is that?

It’s simple enough: Peter T’s response suggests that no such thing (more women teachers) can be ‘natural’, since I previously pointed out that gender imbalances occur naturally, and that average pay in a profession may well be higher for one sex or the other even when there is (very nearly) equal pay for equal work, for reasons clearly provided (read the bold parts a few more times, it’ll become clearer).

There is a standard line of argument that every profession, government etc must be 50/50 gender distribution. I was simply showing how a) that’s not the real world and b) that as an ideological approach it doesn’t even work when extrapolated to the other usual identity categories. It’s another version of the moronic argument that xyz movie wasn’t ‘black enough’, as if every artistic work has the responsibility to reflect the demographics of its society. Not complicated.

It’s the kind conservative liars use to cloud the water and ensure the issues can’t be clearly debated.

Well, we know one thing, you really hate conservatives ;)

111

Lee A. Arnold 05.28.18 at 8:40 pm

Thomas Beale #28: “hierarchies being part of the natural order… that this is the case is easily observable… Human social hierarchies are not going to disappear… So if Peterson is saying… try to understand them, and you’ll do better, it’s almost a truism.”

The fact that hierarchy is observed does not mean that it will continue to be necessary in social or economic structure. It won’t support your assertion that “human social hierarchies are not going to disappear”. In fact a number of social scientists have argued that social stratification has reduced since ancient times. Efficiency of function and throughput are ensured by specialization and trade, which is differentiation not hierarchy. Specialization and trade could be performed in a single level and not need hierarchy. Of course there are local hierarchies of process and control in manufactures but since these can be performed by machines they need not continue to have importance to social structure. So I tend to think that social hierarchies are going to continue to flatten and disappear, despite the recent blip-up in inequality in the advanced economies especially the United States. This is all too mistaken to be at best a “truism”. Peterson would do better to talk about aspiration toward virtue and striving toward goals, instead of elaborating an extraneous fallacy that we need hierarchy and inequality or else we can’t have values.

112

Lee A. Arnold 05.28.18 at 8:43 pm

Sorry that was in response to #95.

113

novakant 05.28.18 at 9:22 pm

Even if it were provable that “nature favoured” one thing over another – which I strongly doubt because of its complexity and diversity – it wouldn’t mean mean anything at all when it comes to ethics etc. cf:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalistic_fallacy
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Is%E2%80%93ought_problem

So Thomas Beale, if you’re really concerned about the “quality of public discourse”, you might want to pick up a book or two on on the history of philosophy before you go around pontificating like we need to be enlightened by your incredibly original ideas.

114

Mario 05.28.18 at 9:38 pm

Faustusnotes:

sorry for the misformatting. But I’d really like to know your source for your claim that J. Peterson says that “women should be forced to fuck ugly men” (you even claim that these are his words). That’s a pretty grave accusation, and I think it best to have it substantiated or retracted.

115

Faustusnotes 05.28.18 at 10:27 pm

Let’s not be too harshly on Bob McManus. I for one am eager to learn how Obama got rich from the Medicaid expansion! Explain this brilliant move McManus!

Anon/portly, you’ve moved from misunderstanding my story to doubting it and also to saying any difference in reaction in the supermarket must have been because lots of native Americans are thieves. Well done! Another entertaining part of my conversation with my friend was that every time he introduced us to a native American word (eg beefalo) we all googled it to see if it was a really thing – because we jsut couldn’t believe this guy! He laughed at this and said white guys always do this. And here you are – shock!- doubting the story at all. Your response is a textbook case. It didn’t really happen! It’s because all Indians steal! I’m sure the shopkeeper had a reason! Etc. Well done!

Thomas Beale we’re 100 comments in and you still refuse to take the things Peterson says seriously if those things are bad, dangerous or nasty, and insist we only pay attention to his bland truths. This is as clear a case of obfuscation as one can hope to find. You simply don’t want Peterson to be criticized. I guess you’re like the shopkeeper in the upmarket supermarket who simply can’t accept that the nice white guy would ever do anything wrong…

116

J-D 05.28.18 at 10:53 pm

Mario

I watched that video, and in it he says, in exactly these words, ‘There’s no answer to that. It’s a really difficult problem.’

Even if his analysis completely correct (which it may not be), what does he have to offer? ‘Things are tough all over.’ Well, thanks so much for that, is that what you call helpful?

And then, at the end of the clip, after giving a description of how awful it is working on oil-rigs in northern Alberta, he starts talking about how people attribute the problems he’s talking about to social structures and don’t consider the role of nature. He affirms that the problems are not the product of social structures, or only to a minor extent.

Oil-rigs

in northern Alberta

are a product of nature

and not (or hardly at all) of social structures

Really??

117

Thomas Beale 05.28.18 at 11:20 pm

Bianca Steele @ 108
‘Emergent properties’ are properties that become visible at a level of observation (and a level of hierarchical organisation) due to processes at lower levels, but which are not properties at lower levels. Examples: hive-level behaviours of bees; the TSH / T4 hormone control loop between the pituitary and thyroid; buying patterns in social economies. It’s a systems theory concept.

Lee A Arnold @ 111
I agree that some of the things you say in your second para might be possible, although I think that in the balance, weaknesses of human character are more likely to confound these somewhat Utopian predictions. But I’d be very happy to be proved wrong.

novakant @ 113
Apparently you missed the bit above where I said that structures in the natural world don’t have any particular moral character; they don’t care. You have entirely misunderstood my statements, they’re nothing to do with is/ought, or Moore, nor are they original. Systems in the real world have their natural structures and operating points.

118

Matt 05.28.18 at 11:54 pm

Not that it’s very important, Faustusnotes , but I’m curious about the “beefalo” bit. Do you mean the word for a cross between a buffalo and a cow? In the US that’s not a very uncommon word, and not, I’m pretty sure, a “native American” one – it was introduced by people who intentionally crossed them in the 19th century. Since neither “cow” nor “buffalo” are of native American origin, that would be an especially odd word to be a native American word. But maybe you meant something different? Again, not that important, but curious to me.

119

Mario 05.28.18 at 11:57 pm

J-D,

I watched that video, and in it he says, in exactly these words, ‘There’s no answer to that. It’s a really difficult problem.’

Sorry, this is his answer to what?

Even if his analysis completely correct (which it may not be), what does he have to offer? ‘Things are tough all over.’ Well, thanks so much for that, is that what you call helpful?

Well, you could, like, use his framing of the problems (and his popularity among conservatives) to advocate for a stronger welfare state. But yeah, let’s instead call him a Nazi.

120

Eli Rabett 05.29.18 at 12:46 am

Peterson is following a well worn path from the academy to the motivational speaking circuit. It’s a living, usually a better one and Eli knows some others who have taken it usually when they got bored with what they were doing.

121

William Berry 05.29.18 at 12:52 am

mcmanus, Beale, Mario: Jeez, what a bunch of cranky bull-shit in this thread.

E.g., Beale spews a bunch of pseudo-scientific crap from “chaos theory” about “emergent order” (I’ll bet there’s an “implicate order” under there somewhere) while his understanding of the workings of the world doesn’t even rise to the level of Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, which he would do well to read. [Hint: You can’t draw moral inferences or normative values from the mixed phenomena of the natural world (or, as folks used to say, “you can’t derive the ‘ought’ from the ‘is'”.)]

CT would be a lot better (again) if the good folks here would stop inter-acting with these, er, “disruptors”, or whatever.

DNFTTs.

122

faustusnotes 05.29.18 at 12:54 am

Mario, Peterson says (in the NYT interview):

“He was angry at God because women were rejecting him,”

(about the Toronto killer) and then

“The cure for that is enforced monogamy. That’s actually why monogamy emerges.”

So here we have a direct statement that all men need to get laid, and that women should be forced to have sex with them to ease their anger.

Now, if you think what I have accused him of saying is so terrible that a retraction and apology are needed, what does it mean about Peterson, now that I have shown he said it?

J-D it’s pretty clear from the work of all these kinds of dudes that they consider any conservative social order to have arisen from spontaneous nature, and only progressive social orders are due to human intervention. Oil rigs are a natural product of social structures, but women being able to choose who they marry is social engineering.

123

faustusnotes 05.29.18 at 3:05 am

Matt, this conversation was happening in Japan with people from four countries (one of whom was American), and two of us (one American) googled it because we couldn’t believe it was a word. It was followed by another word for some kind of deer meat jerky, pemmican, which also got googled and is apparently a native American word (this is the point where our friend pointed out this habit that white Americans have of not believing the words he uses are real). I used the beefalo word as the example here because I couldn’t remember the other one, which I just had to google.

(This topic arose as a consequence of a second conversation about IQ tests that are culturally biased. The whole thing took place in a 10 minute break of a role playing game).

I am liking how now Thomas Beale is comparing the work environment on oil rigs with the way heirarchies emerge from the behavior of bees. Totes natural!

124

William Berry 05.29.18 at 3:09 am

Well, I see that Beale has cut me off at the pass by saying he ISN’T deriving the “ought” from the “is”. But he is, and consistently has done. His argumentative technique consists in denying that he has said everything that he has said.

Anyway, I like to read, not engage in disputations. May the good folks here (fn, J-D, LA, Matt, novakant, TM, bianca, et al, you know who you are) keep up the good work of holding back the darkness.

Oh, and mustn’t forget the FPers. Keep up the good work all.

125

engels 05.29.18 at 3:46 am

The charitable interpretation of ‘enforced monogamy’ is traditional marriage norms: ie. sex is only permitted within marriage and marriage is only permittted within two partners. I’m not in favour of that but calling it ‘forcing women to have sex with ugly men seems a little over-heated.

126

floopmeister 05.29.18 at 5:02 am

Arnold @98:
But all of this just means that ideas of “social justice warriors” or “equality of outcomes” may be instances of NEW emergence that are arising spontaneously because the system is having bad outcomes and needs a new rule. Why not?

After all, rules emerged many times before, into a whole system that presumably already had “natural order”. Yet the systems stability that had emerged from complexity needed a fix.

A thousand times, YES.

As someone said on an earlier thread – Peterson’s work displays a clear reification of traditional social strictures or hierarchies… and that is why he is so damn popular.

No surprise there – if you are invested in particular social hierarchies or structures that appear to be under threat, you will really like a writer who provides a defence of the ‘natural’ or ‘scientific’ nature of those threatened structures.

All very clear, and not surprising. We all do this.

But this marshalling of ’emergence’ as a concept to support specific social hierarchies is arrant nonsense. You can argue that life itself is emergent – and thus a cosmic joke, because it could so easily have not emerged. That’s the point of emergence – it the process by which particular system states emerge unpredictably from earlier states.

If a patriarchal social system is truly emergent, then it will keep changing. Emergence is not a process that magically stops the minute the system reaches some situation that you are comfortable with.

New system states will keep emerging – the marshalling of ’emergence’ to defend a socially conservative position is beyond contradictory….

127

J-D 05.29.18 at 5:14 am

Mario

Sorry, this is his answer to what?

Since, in the clip you linked to, and in the other clip you linked to previously, he doesn’t offer any remedies to any of the problems (or alleged/purported problems) that he discusses, I’m not sure it matters which particular one he was talking about when he explicitly confesses to having no remedies to offer; but since you ask, he was referring to the problem, or alleged/purported problem, of women being unable to combine family and career.

Well, you could, like, use his framing of the problems (and his popularity among conservatives) to advocate for a stronger welfare state.

In a discussion of Jordan Peterson, it’s important to know what solutions (if any) he advocates to the problems he has identified, or thinks he has identified. If he is against the welfare state, then it’s unlikely that his followers will be receptive to somebody else telling them that the solution to the problems he identifies is the welfare state, when he himself denies this.

But yeah, let’s instead call him a Nazi.

Should I express my gratitude to you for granting me permission to call him a Nazi? I mean, even though I’m not going to take advantage of that permission by calling him a Nazi, because he’s not a Nazi. If you want him to be called a Nazi, you’re going to have to find somebody else to undertake the job, or do it yourself, because it’s not something I’m doing.

128

Marc 05.29.18 at 6:44 am

When Harry posted this, what really struck me was that Manne’s argument would convince absolutely no one who didn’t already agree with her. It was also thick with assumptions and jargon, which is a major reason why it was so unconvincing to those outside of the charmed circle.

What we’re seeing in the discussion here really just reinforces this. The definition of a losing political issue is one that unites your enemies and divides your allies. People from a working class background resent the devil out of wealthy people lecturing them about their “privilege” (from their skin color). This need not have anything to do with racism (although the latter certainly exists, and motivates some people.) Of course, actual racism and sexism exist. People still deeply resent being called sexists or racists casually, which is a routine tactic in identity politics: for example, common claims such as that everyone who voted for a candidate that I oppose is a racist. Marxists (actual ones, not Peterson’s confused ideas) or leftists who prioritize class issues get upset when they’re called bigots, especially in defense of the status quo; e.g. if you object to Hillary Clinton getting massive payments for speeches to bankers, the only thing that could be motivating you is misogyny.

At the root, I fear that we’ve lost the ability to even understand what motivates those who disagree with us – and the ability to recognize friend from foe, or persuadable from not. Digging out of the current political disaster is going to require changing minds, and changing tactics. What’s the alternative?

129

Thomas Beale 05.29.18 at 7:39 am

floopmeister @ 126
But this marshalling of ’emergence’ as a concept to support specific social hierarchies is arrant nonsense.

Indeed it would be. I didn’t see anyone saying that though.

You can argue that life itself is emergent – and thus a cosmic joke, because it could so easily have not emerged. That’s the point of emergence – it the process by which particular system states emerge unpredictably from earlier states.

Indeed. Exactly what I have said above. I did say also that hierarchy as a structural form is very likely to arise, as it nearly always does in natural and social systems (and Lee A Arnold made various points about how this might change in the future), but that the specific construction of social hierarchies will be quite arbitrary and variable.

130

Matt 05.29.18 at 9:01 am

Thanks for the clarification, Faustnotes. As it turns out, if you grew up in Idaho, as I did, you’d very likely know what pemmican is, as it’s discussed heavily in grade school when people learn about Lewis and Clark “exploring” larger parts of the N. American continent, as they were provided it by the American Indians they came into contact with. (It’s also discussed in a lot of other discussions of Indians.) It’s a mix of animal fat (maybe from deer, but not necessarily), nuts, berries, and the like, kept in leather pouches. I’m told it’s not so tasty, but have never tried it. It does have the advantage of not needing a lot of work to keep for a long time and being very high in calories for the weight. But, I can totally believe people from the East and South not knowing the word.

131

casmilus 05.29.18 at 9:05 am

@121

“Emergent properties” is not a cranky idea. Call them “structural” and most of CT would have no problem with them.

The crankiness comes when you think that they can include categorical imperatives. Thomas may be pick’n’mixing a bit here.

132

Lee A. Arnold 05.29.18 at 11:46 am

Thomas Beale #117: “weaknesses of human character are more likely to confound these somewhat Utopian predictions”

Let’s talk dystopia. Do you think that the economic distresses of the last few decades and especially the crash are a result of human weakness? It appears to me that the overwhelming number of people get an education and play by the rules, to try to fit into the system. Yet still they got hurt, some of them badly. What are the “weaknesses of human character” that led to the crash, and that have continued to increase inequality even since then?

133

bianca steele 05.29.18 at 11:56 am

That “angry at God because women were rejecting him” quote is all kinds of wrong. It’s quite original to use “angry at God” in that way, I’ll give him that. I’m sure I’ve never heard it blamed on anyone except the putatively angry person before.

It’s an instructive contrast to compare this frouhaha with GamerGate. Then the gurus like JB were all about the men-only groups as the only way for them to mature. Now suddenly it seems they can’t find a way to meet women except at bars and frat parties! (Also then it seemed to be the case that anyone complaining about a Twitter pile-on was a whiner snowflake!)

William, thanks for the kind words.

134

Thomas Beale 05.29.18 at 1:27 pm

casmilus @ 130
at least now we are off Moore and onto Kant, so that’s a good thing …

Lee @ 131
well I am thinking more of negative aspects. For example, at its best reading, one might blame hubris for the disaster that is modern capitalism (on the part of the masters of the universe who designed and control the machine), coupled with acquiescence on the part of consumers. A more cynical reading says that most of what is happening is due to Enron-like thinking – commerce as mining the economy + escape to gated communities, islands, and eventually Elysium, and damn the masses.

Good/thoughtful/visionary people get thrown by the wayside and their calls for sanity ignored by those with more power and baser motives. I have no answer to that, perhaps just a tiny hope that consumption fatigue might spread sufficiently that the younger generation invert the usual priorities and act accordingly.

135

TM 05.29.18 at 1:53 pm

engels 125: The ‘enforced’ in ‘enforced monogamy’ is a bit of a give-away. In traditional patriarchal monogamy, the wife has a duty to serve the husband sexually. Not long ago, rape of the wife was not considered a crime. What do you think Peterson is alluding to when he chooses to use the word ‘enforced’ (a synonym of ‘coercive’) in the context of discussing sex?

Peterson’s suggestion that this repressive social arrangement leads to better life satisfaction (at least for men) and a lower level of violence is of course ludicrous. It shows to what extent he is either totally ignorant of actual social science, or simply doesn’t care.

136

Cian 05.29.18 at 2:02 pm

Thomas Beale: I did say also that hierarchy as a structural form is very likely to arise, as it nearly always does in natural and social systems (and Lee A Arnold made various points about how this might change in the future), but that the specific construction of social hierarchies will be quite arbitrary and variable.

This isn’t true. Hierarchy is one structural form of many. In certain situations it’s stable, in other situations it’s very unstable. It doesn’t seem to have been a factor in human societies until farming took hold.

Also if you want people to take you seriously – stop using the word ‘natural’. Your use of it is confused and fails even the most elementary of philosophical critiques.

137

Cian 05.29.18 at 2:11 pm

Faustusnotes: Let’s not be too harshly on Bob McManus. I for one am eager to learn how Obama got rich from the Medicaid expansion! Explain this brilliant move McManus!

It’s ironic that on a thread where you:
1) Complain that certain people are not reading Jordan Peterson correctly.
2) complain that people misunderstood your story

You then go out of your way to egregiously misread Bob McManus. You can agree, or disagree with the point he was making – but he didn’t make the argument you’re sneering at.

138

Lee A. Arnold 05.29.18 at 6:00 pm

Casmilus #130: “‘Emergent properties’…Call them ‘structural'”

I can think of two different concepts referred to by emergence. The early systems theorists identified “emergent properties” in the physical sciences; e.g. “water” is the stable, emergent property of two hydrogens & one oxygen. This is “structural”, i.e. a valid form of weak holism, a kind of irreducibility. But it’s less clear when applied to the evolutionary and social sciences. As soon as we’re off into fields of evolution, learning, innovation, creativity, and society, it’s hard to characterise a system’s apparent coherence as some sort of long-term state like “water”. For society, the best it gets is “invisible hand” or “spontaneous order” but the “invisible hand” is just Smith’s metaphor for specialization and trade compelled under circumstances of scarcity, while “spontaneous order” evaporates for lack of real general referents — except to say that we try to make things work together and there is a LOT of this to be found, like traffic circles together with allnight greasy spoons. Moreover the living system may not have a stable state: it got to where it is now, by changing from something before; and maybe later it will change into something else — or else, meet a dead end. And as we know he not busy being born is a-busy dyin’. So we need a word for specific new developments coming after a complex system has already formed, developments within the system in response to it, or in response to changes in its outer environment, — and somewhere along the way in the 1960’s or ’70’s this was called “new emergence” or “novel emergence” — phrases which never caught on. I vaguely remember a systems theorist who distinguished synchronic emergence (i.e. a structural holistic property) from diachronic emergence (i.e an evolutionary change) but maybe that is uselessly alembicated.

139

bob mcmanus 05.29.18 at 6:09 pm

136:Centrists Are the Most Hostile to Democracy NYT, May 23

The Centrist Authoritarian Lindgren paper, 2007

Corey Robin (and Altemeyer) is so very very wrong. The banality of evil requires, obviously, a broad consensus, an anodyne cliched consensus mainstream moderate source of authority and state violence. We are all so equal works.

140

TM 05.29.18 at 6:14 pm

Cian 136, your dishonesty deserves to be called out. fn has by no means misrepresented mcmanus. Here’s the quote from 102:

“the first thought when designing the ACA for instance was how they [Obama and the Democratic party leadership] use this to make themselves and their friends more money. They are pretty smart about it.”

It’s an egregious lie in the service of a reactionary political outlook that is de facto aligned with the Extreme Right. Why are you covering for that BS?

141

engels 05.29.18 at 7:59 pm

What do you think Peterson is alluding to when he chooses to use the word ‘enforced’ (a synonym of ‘coercive’) in the context of discussing sex?

The fact that marriage is a legal contract, hence ultimately backed by state coercion, would be one possibility (obviously I don’t want to get sucked into defending him…)

142

anon/portly 05.29.18 at 8:47 pm

115 Anon/portly, you’ve moved from misunderstanding my story to doubting it and also to saying any difference in reaction in the supermarket must have been because lots of native Americans are thieves.

84 The two people who have responded to my friends anecdote have completely missed the point, assuming the privileged white guy was stealing even though I made very clear he wasn’t.

66 He one day discovered that his rich white college friend used to go into supermarkets in his rich white area and eat the produce as he was shopping – grab some grapes and eat them, or open the biscuits and eat one before he paid. My friend was flabbergasted, because where he grew up that would get the police called on you.

Mea culpa, mea culpa. It’s “very clear” to me now that these were grapes in a pre-weighed package, not grapes that had to be weighed, and it’s “very clear” also that the guy was not just eating them in the produce section or as he was wandering the aisles, so that it would be possible for him to ditch the package at some point. Clearly from the context provided in comment 66 it should have been 100% clear to me (and the commenter in 68) that the guy was not doing anything that could be interpreted by store personnel as “stealing.” Where I got the idea the idea that “as he was shopping” meant that he was eating the grapes as he was shopping, not as he was paying, is a mystery to me now. What was I thinking?

More seriously, was I wrong in thinking that since your Indian/NA/Tribal/FP (*, hereafter INTF) friend was “flabbergasted,” plus his certainty the cops would always be called, made it sound like more than just eating a cookie while your items are being scanned?

Here’s a question. If 100 INTF persons went into 100 supermarkets (or grocery stores) located in or near INTF areas and ate 100 cookies while their items, including the package of cookies with the bar code intact, were being scanned (because it’s “very clear” no really very, very clear that no stealing is involved here), how many times would the cops be called? I admit I have no idea – there’s a lot of variables. For example, in some cases “the cops” would be Tribal Police and in some cases your standard issue local cops/sheriffs. For another example, the extent to which the INTF persons would in general be considered by store management as well-off, highly respected, locally politically powerful, etc etc, I believe varies greatly. For another example, in some cases the store operators and/or employees might be INTF persons and in other cases not.

Not that I’m suggesting for a moment that “where he grew up that would get the police called on you” isn’t already “very clear,” all by itself.

84 Is that because you wanted to assume the native American dude was stealing? Hmmm…

I made the mistake of mocking this comment, because I had to read it two or three times before I finally understood it, and then it genuinely made me laugh – where in either the other guy’s comment (68) or my comment (78) does any hint of the idea “the native American dude was stealing” come up? There’s nothing in Faustusnotes’ own comment, or in 68 or 78, about his friend stealing anything, or wanting to stealing anything. I mocked it because it was so bizarre.

Unfortunately, when I said “you are too generous – too generous by far” it didn’t occur to me that Faustusnotes would take this not as mockery, but as good advice. Oh well. Anyway, now supposedly I’m saying that “any difference in reaction in the [two] supermarket[s] must have been because lots of native Americans are thieves!”

Here’s what I actually said:

If a store is particularly intolerant of [eating groceries that haven’t been paid for, but it appears that they will be paid for], quick to call the cops, then I’d guess they have a high number of relatively impoverished customers – supermarkets near reservations or colleges come to mind as possible examples.

Obviously my real point is not that INTF people (or college students) are “thieves,” it’s that they’re more likely to be “relatively impoverished.”

Let’s focus on the “college student” case – I know more about their culture anyway. Am I saying that “lots of” college students “are thieves?” No, I’m saying because their finances are often precarious – they tend to be young, new to managing on their own, in debt, drinking to excess, and so on – they have a greater incentive, I believe, to engage in a little pilfering or petty thievery in local supermarkets. I lived in a college town for awhile and heard a lot of stories about such practices. Maybe this statistical fact (if it is one) is misleading, and has over-influenced my thinking.

But I believe that in general if I go into a grocery store or any store near a relatively impoverished area, there is a greater emphasis in those stores on preventing shoplifting and theft – more stuff behind the counter, more bars on the windows, that sort of thing. Is this wrong? I thought it was obvious, but maybe it’s wrong.

So it seems to me that the point of Faustusnotes’ Indian/NA/Tribal/FP friend’s experience is that the stores where he lives really wants to crack down on anything that is even suggestive of theft, because they’re (legitimately or otherwise) worried about this problem. Meanwhile the store in the rich area doesn’t think letting one guy eat his cookie in the check-out line is going to lead to problems, apparently.

But maybe that isn’t the point – maybe the point is that the store operators and/or employees where the INTF friend lived just didn’t like, or didn’t trust, INTF people. Or just didn’t like or trust people in general. Or maybe the point is just that they’re hard-ass types where the INTF friend lived, they like everything done by the book, something more like that. Maybe Faustusnotes could ask his friend for some interpretation or gloss, and report back….

(*) I’m using every term I can think of so Faustusnotes can’t jump on me for using the wrong term – it would seem obvious that I could just use “native American” like he is and be okay, but you have to admit he’s pretty cunning about this sort of thing, and that may be just the slip-up he was trying to bait me into.

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bianca steele 05.29.18 at 9:44 pm

I ran across the Yang piece mentioned @15. It’s interesting how similar the rhetoric in the piece is to the way (a large subset of) David Foster Wallace’s fans talked about him.

It’s one thing to feel that conservative, religiously based values are good and have been neglected by the people who educated you. It’s also one thing to argue your case. It’s another to berate atheists and liberals for being so “unfair” as not to present your case for you instead of their own. If your point is that liberals have a responsibility to make sure a proper conservative religion is available for the “non-elites”—which is the only way I can make sense of it—then knock yourself out, I guess.

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Chip Daniels 05.29.18 at 11:20 pm

Given how much we know about the connection between male angst and the relationship of boys to fathers, I wonder why Peterson didn’t talk about “enforced fatherhood” instead of “enforced marriage”.

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Cian 05.30.18 at 12:06 am

TM: ‘Expanding Medicare != the ACA. Yes expanding Medicare was a small piece of it, but there was a lot more to it than that. I don’t think it takes much thought to realize that he was probably talking about the expansion of and support of the health insurance markets.

Bob’s criticism of the ACA is a pretty standard left wing critique. So probably not a right wing reactionary.

As I said – this kind of thing doesn’t really help your case.

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Faustusnotes 05.30.18 at 12:08 am

Cian I guess that this is the thread where quoting what people write is triggering for them, but I think TM has shown you exactly what McManus said. If you have any quibbles about that then feel free to read between those very clear lines. In the meantime I will remind you that, since mid 2016, I have been trying to call out the bullshit you Putin fluffers spread here, and this really is a prime example isn’t it? We all know that Clinton got rich selling pizzas to paedos from her foundation but how exactly did Obama get rich from the ACA? how did he benefit personally from extending heath insurance to 40 million people? Did he take a dollar for each of the 25 million covered by the Medicaid expansion, the largest expansion of the us welfare state in fifty years? Did he get a percentage of the subsidies that helped 10 million working people get insurance? There must be a mechanism and McManus must know it to be able to make such a claim. Or do I have to go to the Alex Jones website and endure his spitttle to find out? Perhaps I should just ask Putin directly instead of going through his conspiratorial intermediaries?

It’s remarkable hereabouts the number of Putin fluffers and conservatives and faux centrists who jump to the defense of one of their own on the basis that he “couldn’t possibly have said that,” only to discover he did. You guys are so sure of your own purity even as you spew volumes of the worst kind of bile. A little self reflection would serve you well.

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Cian 05.30.18 at 12:11 am

engels 125: The ‘enforced’ in ‘enforced monogamy’ is a bit of a give-away. In traditional patriarchal monogamy, the wife has a duty to serve the husband sexually. Not long ago, rape of the wife was not considered a crime. What do you think Peterson is alluding to when he chooses to use the word ‘enforced’ (a synonym of ‘coercive’) in the context of discussing sex?

It really isn’t. That quote supports a range of meanings. You’ve just chosen the meaning that makes him look worst.

I find Peterson’s writing/thought utterly banal, but you’re playing into his hands if you don’t engage with him honestly.

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Kiwanda 05.30.18 at 12:41 am

If the Yang piece describes Peterson as arguing for “religiously based values” that “liberals have a responsibility to make sure…is available”, I’m not finding that.

Mannes:

But notwithstanding the mere existence of such great heights, we should ask: who in the world is likeliest to be experiencing vertigo at the moment? Peterson does not consider this question, but its answer is not far to seek: those with furthest to fall, given their historically great expectations. Privileged white men, all else being equal, who also happen to number disproportionately among Peterson’s loyal readers.

This article claims otherwise regarding the “privileged white men”. I don’t know how people know this, in either direction.

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Chester C. Graham 05.30.18 at 1:33 am

I was disappointed the TLS did not choose a reviewer who would give an honest discussion of Dr. Peterson’s ideas. Manne misrepresents the premise of Peterson’s book. Peterson’s advice isn’t how to “win at something, anything, nothing in particular: and how not to be a ‘loser.'” Peterson’s advice is how to deal with the problem of living a life – something universally agreed to be difficult. Readers of the TLS would be better served with a reasoned analysis of Peterson’s ideas.

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Peter T 05.30.18 at 1:56 am

anon/portly will now tediously dissect every anecdote about arrest for driving while black, smoking while black, looking funny at people while being the wrong sort and arrive at the conclusion that every anecdote is false because what if we all did it.

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faustusnotes 05.30.18 at 2:36 am

A note for engels: marriage, a legal contract, does not require either of the parties to the contract to be monogamous. It’s entirely up to the parties to the marriage if they want to enforce that or any other condition on their marriage. Peterson is advocating enforced monogamy, which is a different thing entirely. Under a regime of enforced monogamy we can all only be having sex with one person at a time. This policy is intended to stop women engaging in “hypergamy”, a bullshit concept amongst incels and PUAs which argues a small number of men are getting all the girls. By stopping “hypergamy”, the idea is that women with lower “social value” will be forced to choose from amongst only men with lower “social value”, which currently they supposedly refuse to do because they can all fuck “chad”. The theory here is that it forces all women who are not “stacies” to choose from amongst all men who are not “chads” or go without sex, and it stops them from sampling from amongst any men – first one they get they’re forced to stick with.

There is in addition the question of how the state will “enforce” monogamy. Stoning? Fines? Prison? Public shaming? This is what Peterson wants. For more detail, you can watch the Handmaid’s Tale.

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J-D 05.30.18 at 6:35 am

Marc

I’m not clear on how these remarks are supposed to be relevant to this discussion. Presumably you have in mind examples where wealthy people have been lecturing people from a working-class background about the privilege they derive from their whiteness and/or where practitioners of identity politics have been casually calling people sexists or racists and/or where leftists who prioritise class issues have objected to Hillary Clinton getting massive payments for speeches to bankers and been told that the only thing that could be motivating them is misogyny; but I am not familiar with any of these examples so, in a strictly literal sense, I can’t tell what you’re talking about.

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Ray Vinmad 05.30.18 at 7:04 am

“There was obviously a structural change in the class structure of anglo countries, and its intersection with sex and gender, starting back in the 60s and not perfectly complete yet (i.e the remaining single-digit gender income gap). The cultural ramifications of that are far from being fully worked through, leaving a chunk of people working to outdated cultural scripts or wrong expectations.

Meanwhile, due to the recency of the change, there are presumably institutions and practices that would be clearly positive-sum, but have not yet been founded.”

I’m not entirely sure what you are saying. My guess is what you mean is ‘there was a change in class structure. This led to a cultural change. The cultural change leaves some people adrift in various ways.

A lot of the incels–maybe most–are raised by upper-class parents. What you are saying erases class distinctions altogether.

Are you really saying that anyone who finds themselves with an outdated script is automatically counted as working class or otherwise class oppressed.

Also, misogyny has been around a very long time. Intellectual defenses of misogyny by cultural elites are easy to find, in any historical period.

The form any set of attitudes take will have class dimensions but this doesn’t make committed online misogynists working class or class oppressed. Understanding a criticism by elites with expertise (college professors e.g.) as illegitimate using the lens of class makes no sense. Plenty of the backlash to feminism is spearheaded by another group of elites with expertise (tech bros, e.g.).

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Thomas Beale 05.30.18 at 9:08 am

Cian @ 136
This isn’t true. Hierarchy is one structural form of many. In certain situations it’s stable, in other situations it’s very unstable. It doesn’t seem to have been a factor in human societies until farming took hold.

You appear unaware of how primate groups / tribes function.

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TM 05.30.18 at 10:07 am

engels 141: Your “charitable” reading of Peterson makes no sense. The term “enforced monogamy” must mean something other than “marriage is a legal commitment”. It implies that something happens against a person’s will, and that at least in our part of the world is not – not any more – part of the legal definition of marriage.

“I don’t want to get sucked into defending him” I wonder why you do, then.

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OldJim 05.30.18 at 1:01 pm

faustusnotes @ 122, engels @ 125 et al.

““He was angry at God because women were rejecting him […] The cure for that is enforced monogamy. That’s actually why monogamy emerges. […] Half the men fail, […] And no one cares about the men who fail […] You’re laughing about them, that’s because you’re female. […] [In situations which afford unrestricted mate choice] a small percentage of the guys have hyper-access to women, and so they don’t form relationships with women, and the women hate that”

Peterson is evidently staking out a vision in which a human society with sexual license tends to polygyny. There is no reference to individuals, only aggregates, so we cannot assert that he is referring to ‘formal’ ‘harem-style’ polygyny (the same effect can develop if neither women nor men are expected to observe any kind of sexual exclusivity, but the pool of potential partners that women will consider is narrower, and that of men wider, such that, without the property- or coercive- implications of a harem society effectively ‘owned’ by an individual man, a pool of, say, ten men have informal, noncoercive sexual access to a pool of , say, twenty women, and vice versa).

Peterson asserts that this is a problem from the point of view of society, giving two reasons: the lack of sexual relationships accessible to men at the ‘bottom of the heap’, causing them evident frustration, and the inability of women, faced with an overabundance of rival candidates, to leverage sexuality into relationships with men at the ‘top of the heap’.

Likewise, because there is no reference to individuals, only aggregates, we cannot go so far as to say that Peterson enjoins as a solution that any particular woman be compelled to sleep with any particular man. ‘Enforced monogamy’, I think, must be read as indicating the use of coercive force to discourage or punish those seeking access to multiple simultaneous partners (what constitutes simultaneity is an obvious question – two tinder dates in the same week?) — though I don’t think it sensationalist, given the context, to refer to the formulation as a ‘dog-whistle’; its purpose is certainly to only afford, under close scrutiny, this more ‘modest’ interpretation, whilst giving members of his audience with, ahem, ‘stronger views’, aid and succour.

All this by way of saying that I think that a close reading comes closer to vindicating engels than faustusnotes, but that an analysis of context and motive gives reason for greater alarm than engels allows. engels spoke of reading Peterson ‘charitably’ but it seems to me that this is precisely what Peterson is relying on. He is speaking in a context, and he is articulating extremely questionable presuppositions. What he wants is for the precise wording of his prescription to come under scrutiny and then to be found to be more modest than his opponents supposed. In the meantime, we’ve granted that human societies tend naturally to polygyny, that we are now living in just such a polygynous society (??!?), that men and women only have relationships when women are in a position to require it of men in return for access to sex; that women feel undisguised amusement and contempt for ‘undesirable’ men etc. etc. etc.

Whilst we squabble over a formulation that he has carefully massaged into a perfect admixture of the ambiguous and the restrained, he articulates the worldview which solidifies the vague and emotive grievances of his ‘incel’ followers into a questionable and dangerous diagnosis of contemporary society.

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