“he often, at times, seems like he’s speaking to academic ghosts in his head, rather than speaking to the mainstream culture at large.” Yes, this is most definitely an issue, but if one is going to undertake writing books, and otherwise inviting people to pay for what you have to say about culture and society, you really ought to do better than to try to exorcise your shadow in public and say that it has meaning for the larger world.
Peterson is a classic misogynist, meaning not that he hates women or believes them naturally inferior. It means that he believes women belong in their place and if they don’t want to go there, he will be a part of the policing force that pushes them back into their biologically (he believes) determined lane. Lucky for him he is married to a woman who holds the same beliefs. He reported that she once said to him, “When are all the men going to stand up and push back?” That one just about made me snort coffee out of my nose…… There’s just a huge amount of cognitive dissonance going on there.
There is a difference between misspeaking or finding your way as you go and routinely declaring things that are in direct contravention of each other. So, either he’s really not that smart (I don’t think it’s that one) or he is blinded by his own ego and shadow to the insconsistencies he puts out there, because to him it’s more important to slay the dragon than it is to have a consistent philosophy — say whatever the hell you want, as long as it puts another spear in the dragon. The shadow and the ego need that in order to feel valuable, nevermind that the dragon is imagined.
For example, hierarchies are natural and therefore beneficial to society, even though there are all kinds of examples of hierarchies that are actually harmful and have been down through time. But, monogamy should be societally enforced because it’s what is best for society (even though it’s not natural; if it were, it wouldn’t need to be enforced.) So, natural is good, except for the places that he deems it isn’t. It’s just making stuff up as you go along……
“But in his academic argumentation, he is tone-deaf to the actual, everyday struggles of women.” Yes, he absolutely is! He’s also tone deaf to the actual everyday struggles of people of color. And when was the last time that actual Marxism held any relevance in North America? 1958? He is Don Quixote tilting at imaginary monsters that have no real bearing on the actual problems of this country or any other, frankly. He rants and rails against things that are largely irrelevant to the dynamics that are in play in society, in part because he isn’t a sociologist and doesn’t particularly understand that field of study, although that doesn’t keep him from spouting off about it as if he did. He’s like the gun nuts who think that the way to have a safer society is to bring in even more guns. Let’s combat the societal ills brought on by patriarchal norms by going back to 1955 and instituting even more of them.
So, if you agree that he’s often tone deaf to real people’s problems and that he’s often chasing ghosts in his head, that he’s wrong to pretend there is no such thing as white privilege, that he frequently contradicts other things that he’s said, what is it exactly that you like about him? I’ve already spoken to the group identity thing and I think that is entirely a false boogeyman that is truly a ghost he’s chasing. It’s a strawman. When I’m getting harassed by a man, I don’t think of myself as a feminist being oppressed by the patriarchy. I think of myself as a woman who is dealing with an unpleasant man, who may or may not try to actually do me some physical harm. And that’s what everyone does because everyone is more concerned about their individual issues than their group identity. The two examples I gave about the Women’s March and about #MeToo illustrate this perfectly. But if you get enough people with the same wounds and the same concerns, they are likely going to band together to try to effect change (and that’s a good thing), but it’s still ultimately about trying to help themselves and their individual situation above all else. And this is what happened in the Revolutionary War and all the other examples I gave. Enough people with the same issues banded together to improve their individual lives and it happened to help the society as well. Fascism is an entirely different animal, and one that Peterson clearly doesn’t have much understanding of if he actually thinks that people with real problems getting together to try to improve their lives is likely going to end up turning us all into Nazis. It’s completely ludicrous!
My first exposure to Peterson was his lecture series on the mythological foundations for our concept of God. I thought that was pretty cool, but my opinion erodes further each time I hear him speak. He really needs to stick to that kind of thing and stop trying to comment about topics where he is out of his depth. I have no training in either psychology or sociology, but as an informed student of the world, I can pop just about any assertion of his with one finger. If that’s the case, that little ole’ me can do that, with just my self education around these topics, well, it says a lot about how flimsy his positions really are.
It’s kind of shocking to me how many people adhere to them with no critical analysis whatsoever. But for a lot of them, he hates who they hate; he stokes their insecurities and reinforces their biases and they love to have a strong leader who can aggregate them around their fears. That’s what I mean when I say he is a cult leader. I also think he’s a narcissist and a sociopath, which is why he can never see beyond his own shadow driven myopia, but that’s a topic for another day.
So again, what is there to like or admire exactly?