An amusing evo-psych put-down

From Kevin Bird:

“Postmodern NeoMarxist” is just an insult Jordan Peterson uses for anyone he dislikes. It’s another example of projection; you know how wingnuts like to claim that the libs call everyone a Nazi? The truth is that they like to call everyone a postmodernist or neo-Marxist.

Stephen Jay Gould is just an evo-psych boogeyman, and Geoffrey Miller is an ass. This is a great rebuttal, though:

Yep, spot on.


  1. Akira MacKenzie says

    Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon? Since when (other than the late 70s) have they been relevant much less a threat?

    Also, given how much right-wing Christians apparently hate sex, shouldn’t Dworkin and MacKinnon’s anti-erotica position (I’m not going to dignify uptight prudery by calling “pornography.”) and largely misquoted statements on intercourse and rape appeal to these prigs?

  2. raven says

    “Postmodern NeoMarxist” is just an insult Jordan Peterson uses for anyone he dislikes.

    PZ Myers beat me to it.

    Postmoderns and NeoMarxists more or less don’t actually exist.
    They are just insults using some scary words strung together.

    Jordan Peterson isn’t even pretending to be an academic any more. He is just another internet troll reflecting people’s hates back to them for money. He is no different from Rush Limpbrain, Ann Coulter, or Glenn Beck.

  3. gijoel says

    @1 But they’re fat, hairy feminists™ so they’re not the right people for conservatives.

  4. brucegee1962 says

    If you define “NeoMarxist” as “someone who believes extreme disparities between the wealthy and the poor is a bad thing,” then Jordan Peterson is spot on. Marxism is everywhere! Charles Dickens was a NeoMarxist, evidently!

  5. Akira MacKenzie says

    Postmoderns and NeoMarxists more or less don’t actually exist.
    They are just insults using some scary words strung together.

    Natilie “ContraPoints” Wynn and Abigail “Philosophy Tube” Throne have brought up that point on several of their videos about Peterson. In real life, Marxists despise postmodernism. However, since the strawman versions of both Marxism and Postmodernism strike fear into the hearts of the average uneducated knuckle-dragger it’s useful.

  6. Bruce says

    I was presuming that this Geoffrey Miller person was a Poe, or was being an ironic critic of Peterson. I get so tired of alway having to hear about neoMarxists such as that Jesus guy everyone talks about but nobody ever met. Why does Peterson wrestle with non-existent ghosts?

  7. says

    The more I think about “Neomarxist” the more it makes my brain hurt. Marxism is an obsolete philosophy from the 19th century. Even the Soviet Union wasn’t “Marxist”. It’s universally recognized as totalitarian. True communism shouldn’t require an elite ruling class. Wrapping up a subject as broad as this into a single word (neomarxism) is just plain lazy.

  8. says

    No. Geoffrey Miller is the real deal: a fanatical evo-psych asshole and prof at the University of New Mexico. He once got infamous for declaring that overweight people shouldn’t even apply to the grad program there, because they wouldn’t have the discipline to succeed. He really is a terrible person.

  9. hemidactylus says

    Derrida was maybe closest to pomo on that list, mostly known for deconstruction. Foucault maybe. Why was he mentioned twice. Kendi and Ta-Nehisi Coates are antiracists. DiAngelo too. Crenshaw is the only bona fide critical race theorist. Naomi Klein is a cultural critic.

    NeoMarxism sounds weird. Critical theorists of the Frankfurt school were more interested in why the inevitability of the prole revolution didn’t pan out in advanced capitalist Western countries and came up with the “culture industry” as a reason. part of what Marx viewed as superstructure. They diverged a bit from there. Marcuse was more embracing of student radicals and the New Left than the others. Habermas converged into a more liberal than overtly Marxist outlook later on in his career. That the Frankfurters focused on cultural aspects could make them “cultural Marxists”, but that has a certain negative connotation. Many were interested in psychology, unfortunately of the Freudian kind, such as Fromm. Habermas famously critiqued postmodernism. Plus actual postmodernism was a French thing, though I doubt Debord was a postmodernist. Critical theory was mostly German (hence Frankfurt school), but critical “this or that” theory sounds fancy so many outside the German milieu would go on to confusingly adopt the term.

    Gould knew tar more about molecular evolution than evolutionary psychologists would, but it wasn’t his forte, being a paleontologist. He was aware of Kimura and neutral theory and collaborated with Lewontin. He knew the evodevo literature at the time he died. He wasn’t a psychologist either, but offered up spandrels as being relevant to brain evolution and our psychological makeup. Given the concept short circuits many ev psych approaches before they can get started he is quite despised. He was no postmodernist. He had some affinity for Marxism.

  10. nomdeplume says

    Is it just me or is Jordan Peterson getting worse, much worse? I see YouTube stuff (who seem to think my algorithm means I want to watch Peterson, whereas I would rather pour molten lead into my ears) which seems from titles to be getting more and more insane.

  11. chrislawson says

    So the babbling, uninformed hatespittler in his supposed field of expertise turns out to be even less coherent on other subjects. Quelle surprise!

  12. Jazzlet says

    nomdeplume of course he’s getting much worse, that is his only alterntive to admitting he was talking rubbish, and might just possibly keep some of his audience.

  13. chrislawson says

    (1) Marxism is a modernist theory and thus a target of postmodernism.

    (2) Postmodernism is notoriously difficult to pin down definitionally, but one of its few widely accepted values is skepticism towards statements of absolute truth, especially when those statements are supportive of powerful groups in society. Whenever Peterson complains about left-wing academics shoving left-wing ideas down students’ throats…he is being a postmodernist (but a very, very bad one since he applies his skepticism only to power groups he doesn’t like while accepting uncritically any argument that supports the far more dominant and actively harmful right-wing power structures he loves).

    (3) “Neo-Marxism” is a meaningless term invented for the sole purpose, as far as I can tell, of making it sound like a more historically-informed position than simply saying “Marxism.” Like everyone else, Marxists have evolved their positions over time and there have been disagreements between subgroups from its inception, but the fundamentals of Marxism are essentially unchanged. Since there is nothing to separate a Marxist from a neo-Marxist belief, it follows that the distinction is imaginary and nothing more than a cheap rhetorical othering ploy.

  14. hemidactylus says

    @14- chrislawson

    Post-Marxism could be a useful term. At least the critical theorists of Frankfurt weren’t purist in their approach. They were influenced by Nietzsche, Lukacs, Weber, and especially Freud. Freud, given he gave up a thankless toiling in the neuro lab for a more lucrative career with post-Nietzschean psychoanalysis was pretty damn bourgeoisie in orientation. Habermas is way off the map with all his non-Marxist influences. He went well beyond a primitive Freudian orientation.

    And post-structuralists had even more historical accretion as they came somewhat later. I dunno perhaps Levi Strauss, de Saussure, Lacan and others. Where does Barthes fit? Foucault seemed somewhat unique as did Baudrillard.

    I would say antiracism and critical race theory are pretty far removed from the rest given an African American milieu, though even traditional critical theory was emancipative at its core or tried to be.

    I suppose there could be a conflict between class reductionism, identity politics, and overarching narratives.

  15. chrislawson says


    (1) Yes, JP is getting worse. Like most people who embrace the alt-right, once they know they have that audience they’re only going to double down on the worst of their arguments.

    (2) YouTube has become progressively more unpleasant to use since Google bought it. Among the many, many things it now does a lot worse than it used to, its recommendation algorithms have clearly been redirected. They are now highly biased towards keywords/tags that appear on videos you’ve watched previously that advertisers have nominated as tags of interest. Which is why I get f***ing Discovery Institute press releases coming up in my “science” newsfeed that never used to happen before.

    On the one hand, it helps break up the “echo chamber” effect, but unfortunately it does so by immersing users in a torrent of garbage from motivated sponsors, so there’s only a tiny expansion in the breadth of information coming in to users and that info is almost never of good faith. Google does not give a damn how much damage they do so long as they squeeze the last fraction of a penny from their revenue projections.

  16. chrislawson says


    “Post-Marxism” is a reasonable term as it applies to the history of various political thoughts. It would be a good word to describe, say, modern China or Eduard Bernstein. But as those examples show, it’s too broad to have much specific meaning. And in the context of this thread it doesn’t matter. Even when words have very clear meanings, the alt-right loves to convert them into rhetorical carpet-bombs for belligerent morons.

  17. nomdeplume says

    @17 Yes I object to the stream of Fox/Sky “News” YouTube videos -umping out propaganda against any politician anywhere who is even slightly left of NeoFascist.There seems no way to block these from my echo chamber. I can’t get rid of mad-brained creationist and religious rubbish ,but accept that as the price of watching, say, PZ and Aaron Ra videos.

  18. StevoR says

    @8. Ray Ceeya :

    The more I think about “Neomarxist” the more it makes my brain hurt. Marxism is an obsolete philosophy from the 19th century. Even the Soviet Union wasn’t “Marxist”. It’s universally recognized as totalitarian.

    If only that was true.

    Academically recognised and recognised by the people who understand what Communism is – and isn’t – and how it differs from Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism, Trotskyism, Bolshevism, etc.. sure. In popular culture by people who are very wrong about it OTOH..

    FWIW Wikipedia :

    Neo-Marxism is a Marxist school of thought encompassing 20th-century approaches that amend or extend Marxism and Marxist theory, typically by incorporating elements from other intellectual traditions such as critical theory, psychoanalysis, or existentialism (in the case of Jean-Paul Sartre).

    As with many uses of the prefix neo-, some theorists and groups who are designated as neo-Marxists have attempted to supplement the perceived deficiencies of orthodox Marxism or dialectical materialism. Many prominent neo-Marxists, such as Herbert Marcuse and other members of the Frankfurt School, have historically been sociologists and psychologists.

    Neo-Marxism comes under the broader framework of the New Left. In a sociological sense, neo-Marxism adds Max Weber’s broader understanding of social inequality, such as status and power, to Marxist philosophy. Examples of neo-Marxism include analytical Marxism, French structural Marxism, critical theory, cultural studies, as well as some forms of feminism. Erik Olin Wright’s theory of contradictory class locations is an example of the syncretism found in neo-Marxist thought, as it incorporates Weberian sociology, critical criminology, and anarchism.

    Of course that is wikipedia so a lick of halite ( & correction?) might be in order…

    Also :

    Postmodernism is an intellectual stance or mode of discourse[1][2] defined by an attitude of skepticism toward what it considers as the grand narratives and ideologies of modernism, as well as opposition to epistemic certainty and the stability of meaning.[3][4] Claims to objective fact are dismissed as naive realism.[4][5] Postmodernism is characterized by self-referentiality, epistemological, moral relativism, pluralism, irony, irreverence, and eclecticism; [4] it rejects the “universal validity” of binary oppositions, stable identity, hierarchy, and categorization.[6][7]

    Postmodernism developed in the mid-twentieth century as a rejection of modernism[8][9][10][11] and was then extended across many disciplines.[12][13] Postmodernism is associated with deconstructionism and post-structuralism.[4] Various authors have criticized postmodernism as promoting obscurantism, as abandoning Enlightenment rationalism and scientific rigor, and as adding nothing to analytical or empirical knowledge.

    Same applies as before.

    Then there’s this long essay which I will admit I’ve skimmed through here :

    Which notes :

    For the past several years, Conservative efforts to find or create such a master-signifier have been frustrated, as Oliver Traldi complains in a recent piece:

    But “critical race theory” is not the first name people like Rufo and Lindsay have used for the sort of thing they are talking about. Some have labeled the general phenomenon “wokeness.” That term has come under fire for being an appropriation of black slang. Before that, some called it “cultural Marxism.” That term was attacked for apparently anti-Semitic overtones. Jordan Peterson called it “postmodern neo-Marxism,” which was mocked for being an apparent contradiction in terms (I don’t myself think it’s an oxymoron). The term “postmodernism” is attacked for being unclear. When one simply calls it “social justice,” one hears the response that social justice is good by definition. And so on. You get the idea. There’s a concept or issue needing a name, but in the case of this one particular concept or issue, no name will do. We just need to discuss the problem of its name first, forever.

    Or the right wing really want to find a label to stick on all their opponents that suits the reich wing name-callers but all the one’s they try have issues..

  19. StevoR says

    @9. PZ Myers :

    He once got infamous for declaring that overweight people shouldn’t even apply to the grad program there, because they wouldn’t have the discipline to succeed.

    I wonder if this fool considers Trump successful? Or England’s King Henry VII or Sumo champions?

  20. hemidactylus says

    What I find funny and head scratching is how to address the term neoliberalism. I too use the term as a pejorative against those people who must be despised, but it has broad and confusing application. Does it apply more purely to the Mont Pelerin crowd and descendants (Hayek et al) who are Austrian schoolish and more libertarian oriented and the subsequent Thatcher/Reagan counterrevolution in economics? Glenn Beck and the GOP tin foil tricorn wearers love them. Does it apply to the Third Way of Clinton/Blair? Does it apply to the Bilderberg/Davos globalists who as a group might favor transnational corporations and a less sovereign nation form of governance but aren’t all of one mind politically? Beck et al despise them.

    Neo-Marxism suffers the same disparate grab bag cast of characters problem IMO.

  21. says

    @22 hemidactylus
    I feel ya man. To the GOP, Liberal = socialist. It’s simply not true. Liberals are aligned with capitalism. That damn Overton Window just won’t stop moving right. Democrats today are more right than Nixon. They are right of AOC, and she’s a bit too right for my taste. The left is withering. IMO, the goal should be a classless non scarcity based economy. It’s a Star Trek fantasy, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be an end goal. We should keep working toward that goal even if it’s unachievable. We should stop punishing people for being poor. The GOP is so far right they left 90% of the population behind. Ditch the politics and just ask conservatives how they feel about healthcare (don’t mention ACA), ask them about maternity leave., ask them about infrastructure. We are ALL on the same team here. The problem is team killing fuckers don’t want to help. MAGA is killing this country.

    Classic DJT quote: “then you won’t have a country any more” Well it’s his followers who are an active threat against our country. Vicious bastards just don’t understand.

  22. kingoftown says

    @22 hemidactylus

    I don’t see much of a distinction in politics between Thatcher/Blair/Cameron/Clegg. Tuition fees are a good example: Thatcher wanted to introduce them, Blair actually introduced them and Cameron/Clegg tripled them. I would describe every prime minister in the last 30 years as neoliberal because they all embraced Thatcher’s bullshit about free markets and continued her dismantling of the state by austerity and privatisation.

    I used to respect Blair (and Clinton) for his part in the Northern Irish peace process but looking back at that warmonger’s legacy he can get fucked.

  23. seachange says

    The majority of the current batch of republicans, authoritarians, racists and fascists: they couldn’t define liberal, socialist, or communist if their life depended on it. It isn’t just the really obvious examples often expounded all over freethoughtblogs, it has been decades of my own life experience that it is generally true that they. just. can’t.

    I dunno why it is an issue here as to whether or not the words that JP has spouted here have meaning or not.

    They are attack words. No more no less. Humpty Dumpty was right.

  24. Russell says

    Chill, PZ-

    Such questions put to our mutual friend Steve Gould got a straght answer:
    “My Daddy raised me to be a Marxist”

    Would the world be worse for wear if Ibram X Kendi, Ta-Nahesi-Coates, Kimberle
    Crenshaw, bell hooks, & Naomi Klein were as candid ?

    Foucault and Derrida speak for themselves.

    Judith Butler, and Jacques Derrida and,be equally candid