If you hold to the view that the social world is naturally and god given hierarchical, and that this hierarchy is based on the superiority of, and essential differences between, men and women (patriarchy), white civilisation over all others (white supremacism), man over animals (speciesism) then you will find comfort in Jordan Peterson. In addition if you believe in the primacy of the individual, that there is a separate individual self, that culture is epiphenomenal to the individual and that there is no such thing as society, then you will find solace in Jordan Peterson. If your ontology is dualist rather than holist, if you believe in capitalist based ideas of progress, if you are egocentric rather than sociocentric, if you are rooted in, or heavily invested in, one of the Abrahamic religions that hold defiantly onto all of the above then you will find Jordan Petersen to be a messiah.
If you are looking for Daddy…here he is.
Is your life now or ever been chaotic? Looking for peace and tranquillity based in a rooted moral order? Male ‘order’ over female ‘chaos’…? Order is truth, singular and masculine. Look no further. Chaos is the ‘eternal feminine’ (well, that’s good news for misogynists and patriarchs everywhere).
If you need certainty, if you find philosophies or theories that challenge the notion of truth uncomfortable, totalitarian or defiled, then you will cheer Jordan Peterson.
Your reaction to Jordan Peterson is not his fault entirely.
He roots fundamental truthful axioms in Western Theology and Evolutionary Biology and Neuroscience which gives cloaks of scientific and philosophical respectability to his world view. His book ‘Maps of Meaning’ and the follow up ’12 rules for life’ will be key texts, although I suspect the latter is more read than the former.
I don’t think necessarily that JP is wrong, merely that his world view is partial, and paradoxically can be used by reactionary student activists (and others) in a muddled headed way, This is something he criticises other young student activists for: incompetence, ignorance and meddling in complex systems and he blames Professors in Humanities departments for encouraging young people to challenge truth and tear down the current order before being able to change their own beds. This I think is a straw man.
He attack post modernism for undermining truth. He is not the first one to do so, and indeed in Sociology there has been for a long time discussion critique and discussion of the ‘post-modern turn’. However, JP attacks the strong version of post-modernist relativism in which because there are no grand narratives, there is no truth, just power. In this version, science is no more true than religion rather that it merely has more power to establish its truth. However, his critique of post modernism and Marxism is based on the flimsiest of straw men.
If you are of a conservative frame of mind, and you feel uncomfortable or threatened by views expressed by non-white ethnic groups or by feminists, then you need a comforter. Jordan Peterson is that man. Instead of thinking “Do the widely varying and differing perspectives of feminisms have a point, do those writing from post-colonial viewpoints have something to say about the assumptions of White European civilisation?” Instead of engaging with that material, you need to just rebut. Jordan Peterson provides that handy rebuttal without having to examine your own epistemology or ontology. Your religious, conservative and traditional based moral intuitions will lead you very quickly into post hoc rationalisations and rebuttals.
Why are we talking about him? Because he is a YouTube sensation, articulate, charismatic and scholarly. He is right that many young activists don’t know their arses from their elbows and their overreactions to his theories has fuelled controversy where there is none. He is wrong to suggest the humanities tells students to be that way. Sociology’s task, among others, is to challenge orthodoxy, taken for granted assumptions and common sense understandings. If there are claims there are universal axioms that apply across all societies at all times and that these axioms derive from Western theology and evolutionary biology, then this needs to be discussed.
it is actually churlish to expect supporters or detractors of Jordan Peterson to do this, as this would mean painstaking scholarly work and a good deal of critical reflexivity rather than hysterical reaction on both sides.