A Quick Rundown on the Debate That Wasn’t

A Slovenian vagrant pretends to argue with a pop-psychologist.

A Quick Rundown on the Debate That Wasn’t

I can’t really add much to the Zizek and Peterson debate beyond repeating what better educated people than myself have already said: Essentially this was a  “non-debate”, a sort of post-modern sensationalized sham that really just boiled down to an actual philosopher pretending to disagree with a self-help guru on fairly trivial points of contention. Ostensibly this was supposed to be about whether Marxism or capitalism produced the most efficient path to “happiness” for human beings, but as we all know this question is as irrelevant as it is outdated. True to form Peterson trotted out some predictable bumper-sticker level deconstructions of orthodox Marxism completely ignoring that his “opponent” or any “post-modernist” from the last 50 years tends to reject Marx’s ideas and prescriptions. Zizek was just as predictably uninterested in defending a philosophy he wasn’t sufficiently invested in.

Zizek’s slobbery elucidation of various ideas related to the problems of our modern existence was intellectually stimulating on a level far beyond Peterson’s tired pop-psychology discourse, but unfortunately this also set the tone for the meta of the whole debate: This entire production was just an opportunity for two men to get on stage and play out well-rehearsed public performances of their respective characters. The material was interesting, especially Zizek’s contributions, but ultimately if you were hoping for some kind of deathmatch bloodsport arena battle you were going to be disappointed. No one was “epically BTFO’ed” and it seems pretty ridiculous to assume that this was ever going to be a possibility in the first place given the subject matter.

Zizek’s interrogation of Peterson’s constant raving about “Neo-Marxists” and “Post Modernists” was an effective rebuke to the Canadian’s favorite bugaboo and also established what I think is a mildly interesting detail regarding Peterson’s views. Zizek points out that real genuine orthodox Marxists are nearly an extinct species, then correctly asserts that many of the “post modernists” Peterson refers to are actually critical of Marx. Both men agree that identity politics and the “oppression Olympics” in modern academia is a major problem, but in the case of Peterson, I think his interpretation of the root of this issue is both wrong and would benefit from including the analysis of the very authors he decries. Peterson believes that the “Neo-Marxist Post Modernists” have smuggled in a variation of Marx’s theory about capitalist exploitation of labor into a new iteration that emphasizes oppression of various identity groups instead of a class struggle against the bourgeoisie. To his credit, he admits this idea is met with a lot of well-deserved intellectual criticism.

I think what’s actually happening here is that Peterson runs afoul of SJWs and other lefty lumpenproles that are actually just regurgitating Post Colonial Theory. Post Modernism and Marxism may have influenced post colonial studies and theory, but the “critiques” up for display by the Problem-Glassed purple-haired crowd are themselves derivative, watered down refrigerator magnet aphorisms of the same quality Peterson himself might assemble into a book of 12 rules on life. He seems to be ascribing much more agency to these people than they deserve, as if there were some vast cabal of scheming Neo-Marxist revolutionaries pulling the strings of power instead of a sad collection of fat feminists and IPA bellied soyboys.

I would argue that far from being the final apotheosis of the Frankfurt School’s dastardly conspiracy to destroy western civilization, rather, these cultural enemies are marked more by intellectual laziness and a lack of nuance more unkempt than Slavoj Zizek’s rumpled polo shirt.

Alex McNabb

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