Jupiter is a big fan of Ayn Rand, I hear


Jordan Peterson was asked to write a foreword for a new release of The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It is truly by Jordan Peterson. It is straight-up raging capitalism.

Here’s some thoughts—no, some facts. Every social system produces inequality, at present, and every social system has done so, since the beginning of time. The poor have been with us—and will be with us—always. Analysis of the content of individual Paleolithic gravesites provides evidence for the existence of substantive variance in the distribution of ability, privilege, and wealth, even in our distant past. The more illustrious of our ancestors were buried with great possessions, hoards of precious metals, weaponry, jewelry, and costuming. The majority, however, struggled through their lives, and were buried with nothing. Inequality is the iron rule, even among animals, with their intense competition for quality living space and reproductive opportunity—even among plants, and cities—even among the stellar lights that dot the cosmos themselves, where a minority of privileged and oppressive heavenly bodies contain the mass of thousands, millions or even billions of average, dispossessed planets. Inequality is the deepest of problems, built into the structure of reality itself, and will not be solved by the presumptuous, ideology-inspired retooling of the rare free, stable and productive democracies of the world. The only systems that have produced some modicum of wealth, along with the inevitable inequality and its attendant suffering, are those that evolved in the West, with their roots in the Judeo-Christian tradition; precisely those systems that emphasize above all the essential dignity, divinity and ultimate responsibility of the individual. In consequence, any attempt to attribute the existence of inequality to the functioning of the productive institutions we have managed to create and protect so recently in what is still accurately regarded as the Free World will hurt those who are weakest and most vulnerable first. The radicals who conflate the activities of the West with the oppression of the downtrodden therefore do nothing to aid those whom they purport to prize and plenty to harm them. The claims they make to act under the inspiration of pure compassion must therefore come to be regarded with the deepest suspicion—not least by those who dare to make such claims themselves.

There will always be poor people, just as there is an unequal distribution of mass in the planets, where the biggest planets strove the hardest to be magnificently big. So what if Pluto is so small it got kicked out of the planet club? It should have tried harder.

Unfortunately, I predict his fans will defend this lunacy fanatically, rather than recognize that the guy is one of a minority of colossal loons who have hoarded all the crazy for himself, leaving only faded scraps for the Peterasts to feast upon.

Comments

  1. larpar says

    “…colossal loons who have hoarded all the crazy for himself, leaving only faded scraps for the Peterasts to feast upon.”

    It’s called trickle down lunacy.

  2. raven says

    Jordan the idiot crackpot Peterson:
    The only systems that have produced some modicum of wealth, along with the inevitable inequality and its attendant suffering, are those that evolved in the West, with their roots in the Judeo-Christian tradition; …

    It’s typical Peterson. Just a bunch of gibberish.
    He lies a lot, misstates facts, and commits every logical fallacy known to humans.
    Just about every sentence is wrong.

    This one is particularly wrong.
    .1. There have been wealthy societies since long before xianity was invented.
    The Sumerians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Carthagians, Egyptians, etc..
    .2. Xianity doesn’t necessarily give you a wealthy society.
    The xian takeover of the Roman empire coincided with the fall of the Western Empire, and a 1,000 year period of Dark Ages, serfdom, poverty, and falling populations.
    .3. Even today, there are wealthy nonxian nations such as China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and poor xian ones all over the third world. We are now seeing desperate people from some of them such as Honduras and El Salvador heading to the USA, despite a heavily fortified border.

    .4. Ironically, what has lead to the US lead in the world and a 6-fold increase in per capita wealth in a century is…our lead in science!!! Science. Science.
    It’s estimated that 85% of that sharp increase in per capita wealth in the USA is due to advances in science.
    (Source: Science 2013 What is so special about science
    http://science.sciencemag.org/content/sci/342/6160/817.full.pdf
    Read it yourself)

  3. nomdeplume says

    Peterson seems to be hell-bent on out-Randing Rand. A difficult job, but he is succeeding.

  4. raven says

    In consequence, any attempt to attribute the existence of inequality to the functioning of the productive institutions we have managed to create and protect so recently in what is still accurately regarded as the Free World will hurt those who are weakest and most vulnerable first.

    Cthulhu, Peterson is flat out stupid.

    Hasn’t he ever heard of the Great Depression.
    My parents grew up during it and it effected them for life and not in a good way.
    As usual, the Great Depression hit the poor the hardest and created more poor as well.

    This is routine garden variety Loonytarianism.
    We’ve tried it many times.
    It always fails
    Our current form of regulated Capitalism was invented to deal with the defects and failures of Laissez Faire capitalism from the 1800’s on up to the Great Recession caused by the GOP and Bush.

  5. mailliw says

    Surely post-modernists and neo-Marxists dominate the social sciences because of their inherent genetic superiority? It is inevitable that those who share genes with Roland Barthes or Jacques Derrida will be at the top of the social science hierarchy, whereas those who lack these genes, like Peterson, will remain on the sidelines being able to do nothing other than complain bitterly.

    Sorry Jordan, but there is nothing you can do about the fact that that Straussian anthropologist got that coverted parking space right next to the door of the humanities building, while you face a long, cold trudge from your car through the icy cold of an Ontario winter.

  6. cartomancer says

    So those sixty years of Soviet Communism and forty-odd of Chinese Communism didn’t created the greatest increases in collective wealth that any nation has ever seen then? Turning deeply impoverished, feudal societies into superpowers? In the Chinese case the superpower that makes everything the West uses and bankrolls the spiralling debts of basket-case Western economies like the US?

    You can make a lot of criticisms of collectivist economic systems, but not leading to increased wealth is definitely not one of them.

    Or does Peterson think that the disgustingly over the top wealth of the Russian oligarchs was stashed away in secret Tzarist bank accounts on the eve of Lenin’s revolution, to be disbursed to whatever ruling elites take over once the Soviet system is done?

  7. raven says

    In consequence, any attempt to attribute the existence of inequality to the functioning of the productive institutions we have managed to create and protect so recently in what is still accurately regarded as the Free World will hurt those who are weakest and most vulnerable first.

    Hard to say when Peterson’s sick mind leaves off and his evil mind kicks in.

    Watch out for people who say inequality is inevitable and just the way it is.
    While it probably is inevitable, the magnitude is anything but inevitable.
    To a large extent, inequality is a choice societies make and it can be large enough to seriously harm a society, or small enough that societies function better.
    It’s known that higher inequality leads to political instability.

  8. Knabb says

    The inanity of the statement is bad enough, but it also has nothing to do with The Gulag Archipelago. Not only does this book forward not even mention the book for that entire fairly long excerpt, it manages to miss the point of both the text of the book and the Solzhenitsyn quote the forward starts with in spectacular fashion.

    It’s not just an insult to the intelligence of everyone who reads it. It’s an insult to the author and the text, both of whom/which deserve better.

  9. John Morales says

    nomdeplume @4, nah, not like Rand. She at least was atheistic.

    Peterson is a goddist.

    The end of that verbose “foreword”:

    We have been provided with the means to transform ourselves in due humility by the literary and moral genius of this great Russian author. We should all pray most devoutly to whatever deity guides us implicitly or explicitly for the desire and the will to learn from what we have been offered. May God Himself eternally fail to forgive us if in the painstakingly-revealed aftermath of such bloodshed, torture and anguish we remain stiff-necked, incautious, and unchanged.

    (Such humility!)

  10. robert79 says

    “Every social system produces inequality, at present, and every social system has done so, since the beginning of time. The poor have been with us—and will be with us—always.”

    True, but just because it has always existed does not make it right. While I agree that inequality cannot be eradicated completely, if you look throughout history you’ll notice that, however you measure inequality, there have been societies that have had more of it, and some that have had less. The societies with less inequality sound like better places to live for the majority of people.

  11. monad says

    I will hold out for an edition of The Gulag Archipelago where the foreword is a geologist rambling about the formation of island chains. Same level of connection to the book itself, but hopefully more interesting.

  12. nomdeplume says

    @10 Yes John, but isn’t that a bit like saying that Hitler wasn’t all bad because he liked dogs? That prayer at the end is sickening isn’t it. If Peterson had any inowledge of history he would inow that he is just the latest in a long line of privileged people who think the world is just fine. For thousands of years, at least since agricultural societies got under way, there have been priests telling the peasants that god intended there be rich and poor, that the king and nobles have been ordained by god to rule the society and be rich, that the poor should just accept this and get on with doing the drudgery on which the wealth of society depended, and if they did this uncomplainingly and without trying to change anything and if they produced enough offspring to keep the system going in the next generation, then they might, just might, find that things were a bit better for them after they died and ended their nasty brutish and short lives. Peterson is just the latest of such priests who have been rwarded well through the millenia for keeping the system ticking over.

  13. aziraphale says

    I wonder where in the animal kingdom one animal can command literally millions of times more resources than the average for his species. Lobsters? I think not.

  14. says

    4 nomdeplume
    Peterson seems to be hell-bent on out-Randing Rand. A difficult job, but he is succeeding.

    THE VIRTUE OF SHELLFISHNESS

  15. says

    It seems like it must be really hard to actively refute Peterson, since I’d immediately have to point out that everything he says is just straight up lies. I have a horrible feeling that the response would be ‘so what?’

  16. John Morales says

    nomdeplume, can’t dispute you.

    The rich man in his castle,
    The poor man at his gate,
    God made them high and lowly,
    And ordered their estate.

  17. says

    I wonder if Peterson has read any of Solzhenitsyn’s works or writings beside Gulag. He might find Solzhenitsyn isn’t exactly the fan of Western capitalism he thinks.

  18. stwriley says

    Raven @ #3

    I had the exact same reaction, especially to the quote you cite. It just makes you want to slap Peterson up side the head with a good history of Imperial China (pick any dynasty; Han, Tang, Sung, etc.) to show him incredibly prosperous societies that were not Western, Christian, or individualistic (by and large) but run on the more cooperative (though no less hierarchical) Confucian model. But he can’t let a little thing like historical fact get in the way of his preferred ideology, so I doubt even such a blunt lesson would do any good, for him or his deluded followers.

  19. Artor says

    Of course, only the West has ever created wealth, There have never been rich people or rich societies in Asia or Africa. Why… -wait a minute- that’s complete bullshit. It’s ALL bullshit!

  20. nomdeplume says

    Like any Dunning-Krugerite troll on a Comments thread, Peterson can only spout the nonsense he does because of a commplete lack of knowledge of history, anthropology, psychology, biology, politics and economics, and because of a politicians ability to pretend that nothing has preceded him, there is no pre-Peterson thought. Nice work if you can do it, but it is the opposite of science as I understand it.

  21. anchor says

    @18: “Would Solzhenitsyn have approved ?” — I rather doubt it.

    The next question would be, what fool responsible for publishing the new release of his book asked Peterson to write the foreword?

  22. raven says

    Peterson: Analysis of the content of individual Paleolithic gravesites provides evidence for the existence of substantive variance in the distribution of ability, privilege, and wealth, even in our distant past. The more illustrious of our ancestors were buried with great possessions, hoards of precious metals, weaponry, jewelry, and costuming.

    Peterson gets this simple fact completely wrong.
    .1. The Paleolithic was the upper stone age.
    It’s even part of the name, lithic meaning stone.
    No one in Paleolithic gravesites were buried with precious metals or any weaponry except stone tools.

    .2. What we do know about ancient hunter gather cultures is that they are the exact opposite of what Peterson is claiming here.
    They tend to be far more egalitarian in many ways, gender included, than the agricultural and herding societies that followed them.

    Hunter-gatherer – Wikipedia

    A hunter-gatherer is a human living in a society in which most or all food is obtained by …. Nearly all African hunter-gatherers are egalitarian, with women roughly as influential and powerful as men. Karl Marx defined this socio-economic system as primitive communism.

    We humans spent most of our time as a species and during our evolution as…hunter gatherers.

  23. Rob Grigjanis says

    Analysis of the content of individual Paleolithic gravesites provides evidence for the existence of substantive variance in the distribution of ability, privilege, and wealth…

    How does the content of gravesites provide evidence of abilities, unless you equate status with ability? It’s a real-life ripe dead-certainty (stolen from this) that there were serfs, slaves and other oppressed folk who were Newtons and Einsteins without the opportunities.

  24. drivenb4u says

    Peterson has been on a speaking tour lately; my friend went to go see him in Dallas a few weeks ago. I wonder where to start with him on countering Peterson’s nonsense…

  25. davebot says

    There’s always been iniquity, but we shouldn’t try to fix it because it will destroy oligarchic democracy, which is the best society we’ve come up with. The status quo is fine. – Jordan Peterson, 2018
    There’s always been iniquity, but we shouldn’t try to fix it because it will destroy segregated democracy, which is the best society we’ve come up with. The status quo is fine. – Jordan Peterson equivalent, 1964
    There’s always been iniquity, but we shouldn’t try to fix it because it will destroy slave state democracy, which is the best society we’ve come up with. The status quo is fine. – Jordan Peterson equivalent, 1861
    There’s always been iniquity, but we shouldn’t try to fix it because it will destroy constitutional monarchy, which is the best society we’ve come up with. The status quo is fine. – Jordan Peterson equivalent, 1775
    And on and on and on…
    Every generation has an assortment of pseudo intellectual fools who carry water for the rich and powerful because they fear social change will cost them wealth, status or privelige. Jordan Peterson is one such fool.

  26. says

    Peterson’s foreword here is essentially capitalist apologetics and status-quo acceptance. He might as well have said “inequality is okay because this is how things have always been”. He’s a millimeter away from the naturalistic fallacy. It’s an invitation to do nothing about wealth inequality and poverty, because it’s “inevitable”. It sure must sound nice if you’re rich to know that you shouldn’t want to help less fortunate people because their poverty is an inevitable consequence of how the system works.

    And any attempt to regulate and fine-tune the system to counteract some of the inequality-creating tendencies it has, we can of course guess from the context which book Peterson’t foreword is to appear in, is to be feared as one step further towards Stalinist Soviet communism, gulags, mass starvation, and genocide. “The top 80 richest people in the world own more than the bottom 3.7 billion? You don’t have anything but a bowl of rice a week and 7 dollars worth of food a month? That’s bad sure, but not as bad as a Gulag. Therefore the status quo must be preserved and you should be careful what you wish for.” – Jordan B Peterson

  27. rcs619 says

    Why does he think that comparing human inequality with animals or planets is clever? Planets aren’t even alive. They’re gigantic balls of matter, entirely at the mercy of location and luck during their formation.

    Animals are alive, but they aren’t sapient. They are unable to reflect on anything outside of the most basic of needs, like eating, sleeping and reproducing. They don’t have broader awareness of the world and they don’t have morals. If an animal can recognize itself in a mirror, or perform altruistic acts, we think that’s amazing because it kind of is. It isn’t the norm in nature.

    Humans are sapient though. We’re thinking animals, driven by urges, hopes and dreams beyond our basic instincts, and that is where a lot of the comparisons to other animals break down. We experience the world in a fundamentally different way, with a broader awareness that they don’t have. We can feel empathy, and through that, we develop complex social constructs like morals. We can look at problems like inequality and go “Y’know, maybe we could do something to fix that,” because we’re not planets, or lobsters, or hyenas. Going “this is just the natural state of things,” is weak as hell as an excuse.

  28. raven says

    We’re thinking animals, driven by urges, hopes and dreams beyond our basic instincts, and that is where a lot of the comparisons to other animals break down.

    Much of our day to day human behavior and society has nothing to do with our biology or our evolutionary history.

  29. Curious Digressions says

    To paraphrase; The way things are now suit me just fine and I’ll come up with pathetic, but verbose justifications. Otherwise, it will sound like I’m a selfish creep who just wants to hoard privileged and my self-identity won’t support that.

    We see you Jordan.

  30. hemidactylus says

    Peterson’s screed reeks of just world fallacy alongside neo-Calvinist prosperity gospel and Vedic karma. Either god favors you or your spin on the samsaric wheel reflects something inherent about you based on past life actions. Or you are a good lobster.

    As Bulldog Huxley opined we should actively counter what nature has wrought. Huxley had forgotten more about evolutionary ethics than Peterson will ever know.

  31. hemidactylus says

    @6-
    So Peterson’s stance stems from deep seated ressentiment over assigned parking spaces?

    @16- Virtue of Shellfishness? I love it!

  32. Owlmirror says

    Peterson’s screed reeks of just world fallacy alongside neo-Calvinist prosperity gospel and Vedic karma.

    And/Or the Platonic/Aristotelian Great Chain of Being / Scala Natura. Maybe that’s why he keeps banging on about lobsters? Lobsters are at the “bottom” of the chain, and even they struggle to get higher in their own, bottom-belonging way. And as below, so above? Something like that.

  33. Owlmirror says

    I suspect that Peterson has gone from wafflingly agnostic to explicitly theistic in the above because he has gone from being a psychologist-cum-philosopher to a theologian.

    ==================================

    Experts on the Problem of Evil were known as theologians. These were very erudite primates, skilled in primate logic, who wrote long books trying to answer the question “Why did God create an imperfect universe?”
     
      “God” was their name for the hypothetical biggest-alpha-male-of-all. Being primates, they could not comprehend how anything could run if there weren’t an alpha male in charge of it.

     — Robert Anton Wilson

    ==================================

    Of course, Peterson’s take seems to be more that the universe is exactly the way it is supposed to be, and anything that looks like imperfection is actually an expression of God’s ineffable will, so you’d better obey that will, or else.

  34. says

    In consequence, any attempt to attribute the existence of inequality to the functioning of the productive institutions we have managed to create and protect so recently in what is still accurately regarded as the Free World will hurt those who are weakest and most vulnerable first. The radicals who conflate the activities of the West with the oppression of the downtrodden therefore do nothing to aid those whom they purport to prize and plenty to harm them.

    This passage is a work of marvels, I tell you. It demonstrates exactly the kind of writing critics always accuse “postmodernists” of. All the parts of the sentence fit together, yet there’s absolutely no sense once you read it carefully.
    “the attempt to attribute … inequality … will hurt those who are the weakest and most vulnerable first.”
    I mean, how? How would successfully attributing inequality to the institutions of the West hurt the weakest exactly? And how would a mere attempt manage that?

    The radicals who conflate the activities of the West with the oppression of the downtrodden therefore do nothing to aid those whom they purport to prize and plenty to harm them.

    Again, what’s the evidence? What’s the mechanism? If, to name one activity, I support an organisation that fights for better situations for women in Asian sweatshops, better pay, shorter work hours, improved safety, how does it hurt the women in the sweatshops more than, say, a building collapsing while they’re in it?

  35. springa73 says

    Reminds me of some late 19th-early 20th century apologetics for unrestricted capitalism, especially the “everything that exists is unequal” statements.

    Of course, it’s a bit like saying that since sickness and death are inevitable at some point for all biological organisms, therefore it is a terrible mistake to try and increase health or lifespan.

    It’s also a false dichotomy you see a lot from conservatives and libertarians – nothing is possible except Stalinist totalitarianism or unrestricted capitalism.

  36. says

    anchor@24 I wouldn’t call whoever came up with the idea of a Peterson forward a fool. In fact it seems like pretty good marketing to me. What better way to get people to buy a new version of a book already published in multiple editions than associating it with a popular flavour of the month? You can be sure you’ll get some buyers who, if they saw the name Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, would think the book was something to do with chess or NHL hockey.

  37. petesh says

    @25: Yes! And, by definition, the “more illustrious” were anomalies. Peasant societies have almost always been the norm since the spread of agriculture, not to mention so-called “Dark Ages.”

  38. petesh says

    @40: Yup, marketing it is. And the decision was likely made some time back. I wonder if Peterson’s star has faded a little already.

  39. says

    Funny, I would have thought that someone as profoundly beholden to the appeal to nature argument as this passage suggests to be the case for Peterson would have to be against “enforced monogamy” (in any and all of the meanings that may be suggested by this phrase).

  40. KG says

    Mike in Melbourne@45,

    At a generous estimate, Chinese history begins around 2000 BCE with the Xia dynasty – still considered mythical by many scholars. In India, there was probably a literate civilization from arouind 3000 or 2500 BCE, but since the script – if it was one, some scholars think it included nothing more than personal and clan symbols – has not been deciphered, we don’t know of any specific events. The longest continuous history is that of Egypt, where the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt is usually cited as the first historical event (i.e., a specific happening recorded in sources believed to be fairly reliable), and is dated to around 3100 BCE. Sumerian history begins around 2700 BCE. I realise all this is somewhat tangential to your point, but it surprises me how cavalier people are with claims about the length of the historical record of various cultures, particularly the Chinese, Indian and Hebrew.

  41. haslar53 says

    If all you hasty lickspittles had waited to read the entire chapter you might have arrived at a different verdict.

  42. says

    Hey, Haslar, do you have any actual arguments in defense of the quoted nonsense or was your post the result of some “reply that sounds intellectual and mighty superior while not containing any actual argument internet genetator”?

  43. emergence says

    I’m taking a cultural anthropology course this semester. One of the defining traits of hunter-gatherer societies is that they’re very egalitarian and have little to no social stratification. In some slightly larger-scale societies, “big men” only gain prestige by giving so much away that they just keep the scraps for themselves. Even then, to accumulate enough goods to give away they have to convince rather than compel others to work with them.

    There is a general theme that wealth accumulation and social stratification becomes more prominent as societies grow in scale, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing.

    I especially doubt that the extreme wealth inequality we see now is at all healthy for society. For some reason, people like Peterson are only willing to consider the possibility that people can exploit the system to benefit themselves at the expense of others when it’s poor people doing the exploiting. It’s apparently out of the question to think that the unfathomably wealthy are the guilty ones.

    In spite of wealth inequality reaching levels that would be unheard of less than a century ago, and more and more of the world’s wealth being concentrated into the hands of a few individuals, we’re supposed to believe that this is all normal, inevitable, and good. The comparisons made here to monarchy, slavery, and segregation seem fairly apt.

  44. emergence says

    haslar53 @47

    I’d be very surprised if the rest wasn’t either

    a) more illiterate, counter-factual horsehit produced by a horrific intermeshing of social Darwinism and Abrahamic theology

    or

    b) vague pseudo-philosophical gibberish that’s the literary equivalent of a Rorschach test.

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