Don't be a follower of Jordan Peterson, be a thinker for Jordan Peterson (2)

Jordan Peterson, either you love him or hate him. As an admirer of Peterson myself, I've hanged on every word he said. But this doesn't prevent me of looking with a critical eye to his ideas. Because I think Jordan Peterson needs more constructive criticism.

Introduction

So I'll start this blog serie with his criticism of postmodernism. I think Jordan Peterson is really hammering down the Left with that (and attracts so much spite because of it) and because he does it with so much fortitude, the Left is unable to defend themselves properly. They simply try to attack the character of Jordan Peterson, as they can't do it with arguments (or because they do not believe in the validity of logical dialogue). This holds dangers, as it doesn't keep him sharp.

His story of postmodernism has flaws. This became apparent in for instance the deconstruction of the Lindsay Shepherd Affair video. At roughly 18:00, Dr. David Haskell drops the word "critical theory" and Peterson gives him the opportunity to explain it but fails elaborate further to it. He just moves on while you would think: "Hey, that's interesting, let's go deeper into it."

Why is that? It's because "critical theory", as part of the Frankfurter Schule, does not fall within Peterson's narrative of "let's blame the French postmodern intellectuals of all campus ills". Worse than that, he totally disregards the contribution of critical theory to Neo-Marxism, making his critique so far inaccurate, incomplete at best.

Fear to be called conspiracy theorist?

Jordan Peterson might do this for a reason. A large part of the critical theory criticism is centered around Cultural Marxism. He might not want to be associated with these "Cultural Marxist conspiracists" (although that's just an umbrella term to delegitimize all critique on the critical theory). He knows the leftist sharks are waiting for him to say something stupid and tear him apart. Associating him with such conspiracists would be just that.

However, already the critique of postmodernism is getting more and more brushed aside by the left as simply conspiracy thinking (which seems in a twist that it hurts them and that the left indeed is so deeply entrenched into postmodern power play thinking, they straw man their opponents). So Peterson shouldn't be bothered by such critics because they are playing a whole different game here (the "how can I discredit my opponent without any intellectual effort" game). The truth and any but the truth, that's all that matters. If that means touching the subject of critical theory, then so be it.

Before he does that, he needs to deepen his understanding of Neo-Marxism. For me, Neo-Marxism (or Cultural Marxism, those two are used interchangeably) is the umbrella term applying to all thinking of the 20th century that moved away from classical, materialistic Marxist thinking and rather focused on more culturalistic, institutional Marxist thinking i.e. from socio-economics to socio-cultural. This happened in several waves.

First wave Neo-Marxism

The first wave of Neo-Marxist thinkers would be Antonio Gramsci and Franz Boas between the 30's and 50's. Italian Marxist Gramsci developed the theory of cultural hegemony. According to him, the proletarian revolution didn't happen because the Marxist theory is wrong (that would be the logical conclusion of the non-ideologically possessed) but because the mass where indoctrinated by bourgeoisie culture. He suggested institutional infiltration, so proletarians intellectuals would occupy position of power and change the system from within (sounds familiar, not?). The phrase "the long march through the institutions" is however not attributable to Gramsci himself but Rudi Dutschlke, spokesperson of the German '68 student movement who was heavily influenced by Gramsci.

Franz Boas was a pioneer of anthropology who popularized the term cultural relativism, as counterweight for the Eurocentric visions of contemporary anthropology. Franz Boas was also the first academic activist, using cultural relativism as a tool of cultural critique. Boas influenced other known scholars, such as anthropologist Margaret Mead (an important person in the sexual revolution) and linguist Edward Sapir (who developed along with his student Benjamin Lee Whorf the concept of linguistic relativity, the notion that perception of reality is shaped by language). Recent research suggests that the Boas was in fact a Gramscian-Marxist.

Second wave Neo-Marxism

In the second wave of Neo-Marxism in the 50's till 70's, the Frankfurter Schule and the French postmodernists developed their insights. The Frankfurter Schule (German sociologists Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin, and Erich Fromm) introduced the concept of critical theory. Many have been fooled by the adjective "critical", believing that it is synonymous with critical thinking. No, the Marxist sociologists of the Frankfurter Schule meant actually social critique, departing entirely from the notion that sociology should be merely descriptive. For them, sociologists should also make normative claims, normative claims that is critical of capitalism. Critical theory further enforced the Gramscian notion of "it's the culture, stupid!".

For postmodernism, I refer to this excellent piece on Areo Magazine for an introduction. Postmodernists (mainly Jean-François Lyotard, Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucalt) developed the concepts of metanarrative, social constructs and discourse analysis. They viewed the interpretation of text and dialogue is determined on power relations (echoing the Gramscian theory of cultural hegemony). Social constructionism, the notion that social reality is nothing but a collection of taken-as-fact concepts between social agents ("social constructs"), quickly became the lens through which everything is looked at. Deconstruction is thus the total dissection of those social constructs as arbitrary and the result of socialization and power. Ever since, it is bon ton in sociology to wave with ill-defined jargon gibberish as social constructs, discourses and institutions.

Third wave Neo-Marxism

In the third wave of Neo-Marxism in the 80's till 00's, important developments were gender feminism and queer theory (by for instant Judith Butler) and intersectionality and critical race theory (by for instant KimberlĂ© Williams Crenshaw). These two began to concretely formulate who was oppressed (black, women) and who was the oppressor (white, men). It would be the beginning of identity politics and [group] studies. During the 90's, the social sciences and humanities had become more and more left-leaning, research shows.

Ever since, the Neo-Marxists are at a dead end. They haven't produced any new "theories" of any significance. It seems they are mostly using the established tools (critical theory and social constructionism) to subvert society. They are more busy consolidating themselves in administrations and popular culture. With success, apparently.

Fourth wave Neo-Marxism?

Are we currently in the fourth wave of Neo-Marxism, where administrators enforce the Neo-Marxist ideas? Some evidence suggests this, for instant Bill C-16 and other similar censorship laws in Europe (since 1 January 2018, a new law in Germany is into effect that urges social media to remove offensive posts, the first victim of the law is a German parliamentarian).

It is however far-fetched to state that these administrators and legislators are all Neo-Marxists or even are aware of Neo-Marxist thought. They are as much a product of their social environment as you and me. How many people know which ideologues influenced their professors and advisers? Neo-Marxist thinking has been creeping upwards ever since its inception and did it under the veil of diversity and social justice. This endless chain of influences, cultural transmission and ideology, has totally eliminated any form of conscious actors. There is no big conspiracy, just a large number of unconscious processes of selection, conformity, self-censorship, piety contests and herd-mentality on all levels of society. Even social justice warriors don't realize the origin of their activism, just that it is morally sanctioned.

Conclusion

Jordan Peterson emphasizes that we're not paying attention enough and that we better wake up before we are in a totalitarian nightmare. We must re-identify the roots of this Neo-Marxist ideology. However, we cannot do that if we're simply focusing on one aspect of Neo-Marxism (postmodernism), as Jordan Peterson does.

In an ironic sense, the Neo-Marxists has given us the tools to do that (cultural hegemony, critical theory, discourse analysis and social constructionism). Unlike the Neo-Marxists, we will not abuse these tools to subvert society but to correctly identify nefarious ideologies and cultural influences, uncover them and destroy them.

I recommend Jordan Peterson to talk with Sid Lukkassen or Wim Van Rooy, which are both one of the speakers of the event of the Nederlandse Leeuw Peterson will attend to the 19th of January in Rijswijk, the Netherlands. I believe they are the best experts of Neo-Marxism/Cultural Marxism of The Netherlands and Flanders.
0