Philosophy, Politics, recent

Marx Deserves Better Critics

The most shocking moment of the Žižek-Peterson debate occurred during the first five minutes. In Jordan Peterson’s opening statement, he mentioned that he’d re-read The Communist Manifesto in preparation for the debate. This, in itself, wasn’t especially surprising. One of many reasons the event was so hotly anticipated—as Dr. Peterson mentioned, Toronto scalpers were charging more for seats than they were charging for Maple Leafs tickets—was that one of the most important Marxist intellectuals in the world would be debating one of the fiercest critics of Marxism. So, one would expect Žižek’s opponent to brush up on some Marxist classics in preparation for their encounter. The shocking part came a few seconds later when the 56-year-old Peterson casually added that he hadn’t read the Manifesto since he was 18.

Peterson has a deep and long-standing interest in totalitarianism. He’s filled his house with art from the Soviet Union in order to remind himself of the evils of that system. Oddly enough, something similar is true of his Marxist sparring partner. Žižek was a dissident Communist in Tito’s Yugoslavia who quit the Party to protest the ZBTZ trial, and he keeps a portrait of Stalin in his home. While he’s explained the significance of the portrait in different ways to different interviewers, at least part of the idea seems to be that it serves as a reminder of the ways in which the socialist project can go terribly wrong.

Unlike Žižek, Peterson apparently believes that attempts to carry out a political program inspired by Marx’s writings can only go wrong. Before he agreed to debate Žižek, Peterson turned down a similar offer from the Marxist economist Richard Wolff. Although Wolff is a democratic socialist who promotes workers’ cooperatives as “the cure for capitalism,” Peterson has called his introduction to a new edition of The Gulag Archipeligo “an answer to the Richard Wolffs of the world.”

The debate about whether there’s a straight line from Marx to Stalin is an important one, especially given the revival of interest in socialism in the contemporary West. Everyone should want the key participants in that debate to be as well informed as possible. Marxists should want to sharpen their minds by having to confront the best versions of anti-Marxist arguments, while anti-Marxists should want a champion for their position who knows Marx’s writings inside and out. Unfortunately, as he’s shown on many occasions, Jordan Peterson doesn’t fit this bill.

Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program and Peterson’s Critique of Marx

Peterson seems to suggest in the video below that postmodernism and Marxism share a dangerous belief in “equality of outcome.” While he sees “equality of opportunity” as a “laudable” goal, Peterson thinks that attempts to enforce equality of outcome lead to disaster.

Many critics have taken issue with his claim about the relationship between these two schools of thought. Marxism is, after all, precisely the sort of “grand narrative” decried by poststructuralist thinkers. But what has been less widely appreciated is that Marx was far from an advocate of strict “equality of outcome.” In his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program, Marx argued that in the earliest stages of a post-capitalist society, individual workers would have to be compensated unequally for a variety of reasons:

[O]ne man is superior to another physically, or mentally, and supplies more labor in the same time, or can labor for a longer time; and labor, to serve as a measure, must be defined by its duration or intensity, otherwise it ceases to be a standard of measurement…. Further, one worker is married, another is not; one has more children than another, and so on and so forth. Thus, with an equal performance of labor, and hence an equal [share] in the social consumption fund, one will in fact receive more than another, one will be richer than another, and so on. To avoid all these defects, right, instead of being equal, would have to be unequal.

Later on, cultural and technological progress would eliminate the need for such disparities. Under capitalism, automation puts people out of a job. Under socialism, Marx predicted, it would just mean that everyone had to work fewer hours. Eventually, he thought that there would be so much abundance that everyone could simply take what they needed, and what little work still needed to be done by humans could be accomplished by everyone just pursuing whatever projects happened to interest them. “From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs.”

Critics of Marxism will likely roll their eyes at the utopianism of this vision. Some resources, they will argue, will always be scarce. Furthermore, it’s unrealistic to imagine that financial incentives will ever stop being the primary driver of human ingenuity. This is a debate worth having. To have it, though, all the disputants need to know what Marx is—and isn’t—saying. At no stage of his reasoning about how a socialist future might work does he envision anything like everyone having a strictly equal share of society’s resources.

Democracy, Dictatorship, and Revolution

In his opening statement in the debate with Žižek, Peterson said that Marx’s solution to the ills of capitalism was “bloody violent revolution.” That’s not quite right. Marx advocated revolution against the hereditary monarchs who ruled most of Europe when The Communist Manifesto was published. But I know of no passage in his and his collaborator Engels’s voluminous writings in which either man said that socialists would need to resort to a violent seizure of power in an advanced parliamentary democracy where the franchise had been extended to the working class. In, for example, his 1872 “La Liberté” speech to the International Working Men’s Association, Marx is explicit about that distinction.

What, though, about the cases in which revolution was necessary? Marx and Engels talked in a few places about the idea that a temporary “dictatorship of the proletariat” would be necessary to consolidate revolutionary gains. That certainly sounds undemocratic. But what exactly does it mean? As Slavoj Žižek pointed out in Toronto, any historically grounded discussion of “the dictatorship of the proletariat” must reference the real world example that Marx and Engels pointed to in order to illustrate the concept. In 1871, workers took over the city of Paris and created the Paris Commune. All elected officials in the Commune could be recalled by their constituents at any time and for any reason. There was a popular militia instead of a standing army. Factories abandoned by their owners were re-opened as workers cooperatives. The Commune was so radically democratic that it was viewed as a post-revolutionary model by both the Marxist and anarchist wings of the International Working Men’s Association.

Critics of Marxism may argue that radical experiments like the Paris Commune are by their nature dangerously chaotic. Perhaps there are even good reasons to believe that this ultra-democratic model would eventually deteriorate into something as ugly as the Soviet experience. Whatever one thinks about these questions, any reasonable debate has to start from the knowledge that when Marx talks about “the dictatorship of the proletariat” what he has in mind is the Paris Commune.

Capitalism, Poverty, and The Communist Manifesto

Peterson often points out that a great many people have been lifted out of poverty since the early nineteenth century. Here, for example is a tweet from July 2018:

Here’s one from April 2019, a couple of weeks before the debate:

He made the same point on the debate stage in Toronto, this time referencing 1800 rather than 1820 as the starting point. In all three cases, the strong implication was that this point undermines the case of Marxists and other left-wing critics of capitalism. Why should it, though? One of the reasons Marx thought that the transition from feudalism to capitalism was progress is that it allowed the “forces of production” to develop in a way they couldn’t when they were fettered by feudal social structures. The opening pages of The Communist Manifesto are devoted in large part to a celebration of the wonders that had been wrought by that transition.

All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air… The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground — what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?

In 1820, not only were islands of industry surrounded by a sea of countryside but a great many of the peasants who toiled in Europe’s countryside were (or, at least, had been born as) serfs. Capitalism was just starting to come out from the shadow of feudalism. A fact of far greater relevance to the dispute between Marxists and advocates of free market capitalism is the fact that the rate of extreme poverty has continued to decline two centuries later. Some of this is disputed territory. Is $2 a day or $5 a day a better indication of “extreme” poverty? Should we care about raw numbers or about the percentage of the population that is desperately poor?

In some ways an even more interesting point of contention concerns the role the People’s Republic of China has played in this process. China is full of private businesses these days, but the state continues to play an outsized role in shaping the Chinese economy. If one of the primary drivers of the global decline of extreme poverty is its decline in the People’s Republic, is this a success story for “free market” capitalism or for a modified and liberalized form of state socialism? An answer to that question might shed some light on the deeper issue of whether capitalism continues to be the most effective way of improving the lot of the poor or whether an alternative global system would be preferable. This is a debate worth having, but the pro-capitalist side deserves better-informed anti-Marxist representatives than Jordan Peterson.


Ben Burgis is the author of Give Them An Argument: Logic for the Left, which is available for pre-order from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He’s also a regular on The Michael Brooks Show on Tuesday nights and he releases videos every Monday for the Zero Books YouTube channel. You can follow him on Twitter @benburgis

Featured Image taken by Gage Skidmore.


  1. Craig Willms says

    Haven’t seen the debate yet, will tonight, but I’ve seen enough of Peterson to believe he is on solid ground in his criticism of Marx/Marxism. With history as a judge and vast numbers of similar criticisms no Marxist advocates will convince me otherwise. Can we be done with Marx already?

      • Craig Willms says

        @Greg Gasiorowski
        Fair enough. Though I doubt I’ll change my mind on Marxism in general based on a poor performance by Peterson.

        • James says

          Sorry but I’m totally missing the critiques of the debate. Where was it stated or supposed that this was somehow a contest which one might “win” or “lose.” You can take that away from it but why wasn’t it just two intellectuals talking? That’s the way I see it and from that perspective Peterson “failed” at nothing. When has he ever represented himself as an expert on the CM? Was that what the debate was about? I don’t understand the criticism. Looks more like disappointment that it wasn’t more entertaining or possibly a time investment that simply left personal expectations unresolved.

          • The very beginning of this article is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t Kafkatrap. So Peterson re-reads the Communist Manifesto and that’s used as proof that he doesn’t know it well, and if he hadn’t re read it??

            Like all Communist sympathizers, the author is intellectually dishonest through and through.

          • Maple Glazed says

            So the guy who’s been leveling critique against ALL Marxist thought hadnt even read the most basic fucking wafer thin pamphlet of the literature, has no idea what the actual concepts are and not to mention the manifesto is 170 years old and written by Marx when he was 30 years old… that’s the guy who’s been telling millions of people about Marxism this, Marxism that, Marxism bad… if that doesn’t switch on every red light in your mind, that he’s too lazy to actually engage with any of the actual thinking that has occurred over the past 170 years until now, then man you need to revise your entire approach to intellectual pursuits…

            You don’t think it’s rather embarrassing that almost everyone I’ve talked to, I was at the debate by the way, was pretty disappointed Peterson didn’t have a fucking clue what Zizek’s ideas are. I was more prepared for that debate than Peterson and I have only very tentatively engaged Zizek’s work.

            Peterson is a hack and he is doing a great job fleecing a lot of people of their money but that’s about it. He mythologizes rather than historicizes and that plays into the failure of the centrist consensus of the past 4 decades that is driving the political populism of the day.

          • Daniel says

            Exactly! When did we become so pathetic that something had to become a contect between a “winner” and a “loser”?

      • Jeremy Morris-Jarrett says

        Not really. Peterson was much more articulate. But the most surprising aspect of the debate is that no one made the case for Marxism. They both agreed on just about everything.

    • Grau Tjo says

      This article just gave you several concrete examples of where Peterson’s critique of Marxism belies a fundamental misunderstanding of it…and your response is “I’ve seen enough of Peterson to believe he is on solid ground in his criticism of Marx/Marxism”. This is called confirmation bias.

      • doug deeper says

        Psychologist Peterson has an abundance of knowledge in a great many areas. However he is not an expert on Marxism nor economics. So the article nitpicks at some discrepancies in his knowledge of Marxism. The author misses the forest for the trees. I watched many parts of the debate, two stuck me.

        Žižek found it incredible that Marxists have profound power in our society. The evidence is overwhelming that leftist control many if not most of the university departments. And self-avowed Marxists represent 25-30% of many department faculties. The funny thing about Marxists, similar to maximalist Islamacists, is that when there are over 20% of them in any group their maximalism takes over and they dominate the group. If the rest of the group are other leftists or leftist sympathizers, often called liberals, this takeover can happen very quickly. So Žižek’s disbelief in the growing power of Marxism over the last 50 years in the universities, and the resultant leftist domination of now nearly every institution in N. America, is itself a testament to his ridiculous denial that no true Marxists have power.

        The second point was when they debated the power of the individual to improve his life. Žižek seemed to rely on the old Marxist saw that individuals have limited power to control their own lives. I find this patently absurd given today’s largely capitalist-driven societies have given far more power to far more individuals than any previous society in history. When compared to the powerlessness of individuals living, and who have lived, in every sort of Marxist-dominated society over the last 100 years one can only wince at Žižek’s blindness.

        • Tim says

          Economics is simply about how humans react to various stimuli and events, incentives and disincentives. Peterson is more than qualified to judge how humans react to the various ‘answers’ under communism/Marxism . Although we already have Orwell for that although he probably didn’t understand the context and the nuance of the debate [cough]

        • MIkeW says

          I agree with your sentiments completely. I think the challenge for our society is how do we maximize individual liberty and reward achievement,the good parts of a capitalist thought system while ensuring that it is not a zero sum game. I think the author’s most important point is “If one of the primary drivers of the global decline of extreme poverty is its decline in the People’s Republic, is this a success story for “free market” capitalism or for a modified and liberalized form of state socialism?”

          I think that modern capitalism’s imprisonment to the shareholder (divorced from community) and failure to acknowledge how the US is NOT a true capitalist society (in that it uses many forms of subsidies and hidden market controls that are part of Socialist countries government interventions) are 2 major problems. There needs to be a more thoughtful conversation about how can the US stay true to its roots, while improving the economic uncertainty that the bottom 1/3 live in. My understanding is that the US could fully fund healthcare with a few percentage points of their annual military budget, which could arguably be achieved with “efficiency” improvements. I live in Canada and we have benefited from the historic stability due to US military and economic policies so I wouldn’t want to look the gift horse in the mouth. In Canada our current government is responsible for igniting Jordan Peterson, so we have our issues. The thought police is a very real and current fear.

          • Budd says

            Which States is China selling its products to? Predominantly ones based on capitalism (and democratic). That certainly has helped the one party state lift its citizens out of poverty. In any event, not a deep thoughtful paper. D-

    • Heike says

      Marxism has killed 50 million people (this is a small estimation) in dozens of countries over the past 100 years, and oppressed hundreds of millions more. Why did that happen?

      Why should people give Marxism another chance when it has failed so many times?

      Isn’t the evidence overwhelming that Marxism is a failure?

      Why shouldn’t we be afraid, given the evidence at hand?

      See St-Michael’s hospital here? It was founded in 1930 with donations from the Catholic Church. Ever wonder why there’s no Karl Marx hospital?

        • How is that a rebuttal to @Heike’s premise of 20th century’s death toll directly attributable to Marxism/Socialism/Communism?

          We know millions died in Soviet labor camps, the estimates vary, a Russia paper in the 1980s published a number of 20M dead from Stalin’s repression, a Russian historian put the number at 40M, western estimates are as high as 60M. These deaths were not due to natural disasters causing famines or government policies at times of famine but from forced exile and killings, labor camps deaths, punitive famines inflicted on peasants, executions of the “great terror,” and political arrests and executions. China’s death toll is mostly unknowable outside of China’s deeply held secret records, but western estimates range from 40M in the Great Leap Forward including post-Leap famines resulting from the forced transformation from an agrarian economy to a socialist society to an additional 80M in famines resulting from natural disasters or specific China policies and conflicts causing food shortages. Including Vietnam, Korea, and Cambodia, the western estimate for citizen deaths attributed to communist atrocities of the 20th century range from 100 – 150M.

          Given the link you posted is specific to famines and it can be argued Britain has a lot to answer for in it’s colonialist practices, forced labor camps and mass executions are not a part that I’m aware. I seen it argued Britain was responsible for India’s famines, but that’s factually illogical, as the link you posted states, the famines experienced during British rule were caused by droughts and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation, the British policies in response contributed positively or negatively to the death toll but can not be in and of themselves causal.

          Thus in order to make a comparison between the direct action communist death toll and those that perished from famines in India under British rule you have to first determine the root cause of the famine and then the death toll absent government policy and finally the death toll impact positive or negative attributable to policy. It’s a calculation that’s proven difficult to make, nevertheless the difficulty doesn’t support an argument of British rule as sole causality.

          Completing that analysis you’d potentially have a rebuttal to @Heike’s premise, absent you’ve no case to make for British India colonialism in India as comparable to the citizen death toll of 20th century communism merely because of famines experienced as a result of mother nature.

        • Ryan says

          Adam Smith wrote about the famines in Bengal. He criticized Company rule, and in fact said that government by merchants is the worse form of government.

          In short, capitalism didn’t cause those famines, mercantilism or nature did. Not everything that isn’t communism is capitalism.

      • Maple Glazed says

        Unlike the church Marx was against amassing wealth through military conquest, colonialism, imperialism, slavery, genocide and fascism which the Catholic Church not only participated in but condoned and provided theological justification for most of these things. They at least didn’t do jack to change it while taking 1/7th of all wealth and land acquired in the new world. So yeah literally starting st mikes in the 1930s is literally the fucking least they could do. Not to mention that literal least they could do is only ever done to maintain their position of wealth and power it has nothing to do with substantially changing anything. Charity is the fundamental constituent of capitalism, it keeps it just palatable enough not to do anything about structural issues and that’s just the way the elites of our society like it.

        Bringing up the longest standing most profoundly disgusting organization in all of human history isn’t helping you make the point… Let’s ask very poiniently though, how many has Catholicism killed? How many are dead because of religious fighting? Aren’t they all failed projects then? Why would anyone be a Christian if they found this fallacious line of argumentation you make logically sound? Pretty much every large social, political and religious organization has a huge body count…

        “The emotions of man are stirred more quickly than man’s intelligence; and, as I pointed out some time ago in an article on the function of criticism, it is much more easy to have sympathy with suffering than it is to have sympathy with thought. Accordingly, with admirable, though misdirected intentions, they very seriously and very sentimentally set themselves to the task of remedying the evils that they see. But their remedies do not cure the disease: they merely prolong it. Indeed, their remedies are part of the disease.
        They try to solve the problem of poverty, for instance, by keeping the poor alive; or, in the case of a very advanced school, by amusing the poor.
        But this is not a solution: it is an aggravation of the difficulty. The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible. And the altruistic virtues have really prevented the carrying out of this aim. Just as the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realised by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it”

        • Kosie Kloete says

          Don’t confuse Cathlics with christians with true believers, not the same thing.

        • hunter says

          As bad as Catholicism has been, to ignore the real conquering religion is to betray cowardice or bigotry.

        • Chizler says

          Curious Glazed Maple, where’d you get the notion that Peterson hadn’t read the document and didn’t get the basic concepts? Speaking of ‘basic concepts’, “Reread” should imply that not only did he read it; he read it more than once. I thought that was made fairly clear. How many times should a man like Dr Peterson read a “wafer thin document” to get it? And why do you suppose he doesn’t?

    • He still very much is. All the comments I’ve read about the debate forget to mention that both men agree with one another and generally get along. Zizek states he didn’t come to the debate to present a pro-Marx side while Peterson thought that was what was going to happen. When, after the 30 minute intro, it was obvious Zizek wasn’t going to follow the structure, both men decided to simply have a conversation and that’s where the ‘debate’ shined.

      There was no destruction, destroyed, slammed, obliterate or other tag lines being needed. Peterson came to critique Marxism believing Zizek would be presenting a pro-Marxist side. When that didn’t happen, the conversation was better for it.

      The sad part is that articles aren’t commenting on how much fun it was. How much we learned. How much we got to hear from two great minds. How many tidbits of info were dropped that we could pick up on our own to grow our own knowledge.

      I’ve never heard of Zizek but it felt to me like he agreed with JP far more than he agreed with 100% Marx. And JP has always be absolutely clear – capitalism is NOT perfect, but it’s the best system we currently have.

      • Joseph Ratliff says

        Thank you Jacob. THIS is what the “debate” actually accomplished. It wasn’t a “Marxism vs. Capitalism … who WINS?” debate.

        I enjoyed the conversation as it turned out (and bought Absolute Recoil).

        But Marxism didn’t work, won’t work, and that “experiment” shouldn’t be repeated. But that said … Marx is still worth a read to understand it.

        To be clearer, even though I will read Marx a little more carefully, no amount of “This is what Marx REALLY meant” will convince me that social experiment needs to be tried again.

        Capitalism isn’t perfect, far from it. But it “allows” freedom that Marxism doesn’t provide (good or bad as that may be).

        This article read a lot like a sales pitch for Marx’s ideas, with a light sprinkling of viable Peterson critique on top. (Because the author is right, Peterson does need to sharpen his critique).

        • How can you say, “…that social experiment” with a straight face? Or are you too unknowledgeable on the topic to realize social democracy is what we have now and is largely based on Marx? We are living in a world where the atrocities of capitalism are prevented by workers unions ( which have weakened too far of late but that’s another debate). Who else could you credit for the establishment of unionsm more than Marx, whose ideas once adopted by workers in capitalist regimes stopped child labour and severe exploitation of workers?

    • Grant says

      All that one really needs to know about Marxism is that Jordan Peterson would be dead or in jail under a Marxist government.

    • Disingenuous author would have you think Peterson didn’t argue his side well when Zizek spent 3 hours arguing about why capitalism should be improved/adjusted without advocating for how marxism or the economic systems inspired by it could make people happier than capitalism could.

      The debate wasn’t even a debate for most of the time, just 2 people agreeing with each other and talking about various things. The debate question should have actually been ‘pessmism or optimism’ about capitalism since Zizek doesn’t think Marxism or its systems could replace capitalism.

    • Matthew Foster says

      Marx already had the best critic ever,

      Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

      (drops mic)

      • Nemo says

        You mean the anti-semite guy who says the Russian Empire was a sacred pursuit, the Tsar appointed by God, and that communism is an invention of Jewish Bolsheviks?
        Solzhenitsyn is basically a nazi and most of the things he said are completaly made up >(his own family said as much). Gulag archipielago is a NOVEL of FICTION.

    • More Weight says

      Sounds like a valid argument to completely dismiss the other side. “With vast similar criticisms no Marxist will convince me otherwise.” Solid stance. Can we be done with sheep like thinking and people who just regurgitate other’s talking points?

    • Theodore A Hoppe says

      I tend to agree since one must understand not just Marx but the movement as well. Take for example the influence of Rosa Luxemburg, “in Sozialreform oder Revolution? (1899; Reform or Revolution), in which she defended Marxist orthodoxy and the necessity of revolution.” The author would have us ignore such players in the Marxist movement.

      • Andrew Roddy says

        We might set ourselves again any rerun of the ‘Marxist Social Experiment’ but it might be worth noting we cannot eschew social experiment itself. Like our ancestors in their time, we have never been here before. We choose, to the extent we can, individually and collectively, how we proceed. Surely experiment is, and has been, inextricably enmeshed in our condition?

  2. E. Olson says

    What is the point of this article? Support for Marx? Criticism of Peterson? History lesson on the early industrial revolution? Summary of the debate? All I can say is it doesn’t succeed at accomplishing any of these things, but at least it was relatively short.

    • Dave the comment poster says

      The argument seems straightforward = Peterson appears, on the evidence of this debate and other instances, undereducated about the nuances of the capitalism/marxism debate.

      He doesn’t appear to have much deep knowledge of Marx (he may do, but he’s yet to evidence it, as far as I know).

      He doesn’t appear to know a great deal about economics.

      I’m a fan of Peterson, but he’s very clearly out of his element most of the time when discussing Marxism with a decent debate partner who can bite back.

      • David of Kirkland says

        Just list all the communist/socialist countries, and then all the capitalist ones, thoughout history and then think which has shown the most success.
        You can even see it in full parallels: the split of Germany, Vietnam, Korea and China/Taiwan/Hong Kong to see a single culture and ethnicity vary by these systems.

        • FernoKlump says

          Because correlation equals causation amiright?

          • Defenstrator says

            Because evidence equals confirmation. No matter how much the willfully ignorant pretend it is not there.

          • FernoKlump says

            Insisting on a logical fallacy doesn’t make it any less fallacious. Try again with an actual logical argument, this time

          • Ashley says


            Try cracking a history book and learning about the number of countries and economies that socialism/communism has ruined.
            Call it the causation/correlation fallacy if you like, but don’t expect anyone with a brain to take you seriously.

          • Stephanie says

            FernoKlump, you dont understand what that expression means. Correlation is either indicative of causation or indicative that another related correlative factor is causative.

            If you run the experiment a dozen times, varying the history, culture, and economics of the countries at play, and you get the same exact result every time, only an insane person would dismiss that as mere uncausative correlation.

          • “Because correlation equals causation amiright?”

            Correlation and causation are modal concepts, which means that the argument can be represented along lines of possible worlds (or in Graham Priest’s terminology: possible situations). A significantly large number of possible situations has been presented by communists before and are fairly clear in their writings that the want access to a special kind of possible situation: the achievement of communism (as a side note, something tells me you would never say “correlation doesn’t equal causation” to communists; nevertheless, the modal structure you are critiquing is exactly the same). When their state of affairs obtains — possible becomes actual — they never end up reaching their idealized possible world. Along with these instantiations of communist actual worlds comes the usual actualized things that everyone has a problem with: totalitarianism, police states, gulags, control over things that aren’t economic (culture for instance), etc. Presumably, you used the correlation-causation argument because you want another shot at possible world achievement (even though your original argument also works against your own political view). I’m sure the gigantic army of “ironic” twitter DSA bros who regularly joke about gulaging and guillotining people would never screw this up.

          • @fernoklump

            “@P so you don’t have a counterargument? Just a wall of text wildly speculating about my motives? This website sucks, nobody is interested in actually engaging my arguments. It’s all just ideological horseshit”

            Imagine thinking a modal analysis of your argument is not an argument. How ignorant of philosophy are you exactly? It’s a fairly comment technique among philosophers to transform arguments about causality into modal arguments. One of the major recent formal tools in causality (bayesian causal graphs) can trace its roots to modal logic that was developed by philosophers (see Judea Pearl’s works). Feel free to engage with that part of the argument, but I doubt you can because it’s obvious you don’t have the intellectual chops and rely on wikipedia. As to your motivation, that was one sentence near the end of the paragraph, not the entire wall of text that you didn’t respond to (I still believe I’m right, and you are ignoring it because you know your own causal argument counts against your own beliefs as well. Beliefs that you don’t want to critique because you are an intellectual coward). To call that last part of the paragraph “a wall of text” solely on that topic is what you would have called a strawman had someone else done that, but again you wouldn’t as you are a coward who is unwilling to assess his own beliefs.

          • hunter says

            FernoKlump is doing a great job of applying creationist arguingt to socialism.

          • Ferno, that is a cut-and-paste response. Tobacco correlated with cancer long before the best studies were done. Altitude correlates (negatively) with temperature. So don’t think you made a point with a cliche you don’t even understand.

          • Ashley says


            Are you seriously trying to imply that it is merely a coincidence that the socialism/Marxism/Communism portions countries David of Kirkland listed above were much worse off than their free market/capitalist neighbors?

          • FernoKlump says

            @Ashley are you seriously implying that the only alternative to causation is coincidence? Read the article I linked LMAO

            A correlates with B. Could mean:
            A causes B
            B causes A
            C causes A and B

            Read the article, I’m not going through the entire list! X’D

          • FernoKlump says

            @Stephanie that is not correct. Please scroll down and see that I’ve already explained what a correlation indicates more accurately and in more detail than you just did.

            And that’s definitely not how you determine causation. You seem to think causation is when you have a really strong correlation? That’s false. Correlation is not even a prerequisite for causation.

          • FernoKlump says

            @P so you don’t have a counterargument? Just a wall of text wildly speculating about my motives? This website sucks, nobody is interested in actually engaging my arguments. It’s all just ideological horseshit

        • Chad Chen says

          Capitalism has failed everywhere in Africa and Latin America. At least Cuba, on the other side, has the excuse that its economy has been under attack by the United States

          We are still waiting for Russia and eastern Eurooe to blossom from a transition to capitalism. Socialism transformed both Russia and China into great industrial powers, a result comparable to the transformation of Western Europe and North America by capitalism.

          • FernoKlump says

            Only poor countries choose socialism. Russia went from being the “old man of Europe” to becoming a world superpower.

          • Ashley says


            I’ll take that as a yes.
            So The fact that:
            Soviet Union
            North Korea,
            East Germany
            Are all Socialist/Communist countries and have been a total economic disaster has nothing to do with socialist/communist economic policies.

            I don’t think you understand the correlation is causation argument. Or how evidence works. Or logic in general for that matter.

          • FernoKlump says

            @Ashley. No! Can you please not double down on your extremely bad logic and please just read the wiki article? It lists every alternative to the “coincidence” or “A causes B” dichotomy that you laid out. You’ll learn the same thing in any intro to statistics course, it’s very valuable.

          • Ashley says


            Try cracking a history book and learning about the numerous countries and economies that socialism/communism has ruined.
            Ignoring 100 years of evidence to call it the “correlation is not causation” fallacy is as ridiculous as it is disingenuous.

          • FernoKlump says

            I’m sorry that your ideological hatred for socialism has rendered you incapable of acknowledging a simple logical fallacy. If this single argument is so crucial to you, then perhaps the case for anti-Marxism is weaker than I thought.

          • FernoKlump says

            For the record, Ashley, increasing the sample size does not improve the argument for causation. Neither does a stronger correlation.

          • Ashley says


            I am sorry that your ideological commitment to the failed experiment that is socialism prevents you from being able to think properly.
            You can flail your arms around and make up fallacy excuses all you like but it is a not a substitute for cold, hard reality.
            Socialism has a 0% success rate. No amount of historical revisionism and quoting fallacy pages from Wikipedia will ever change that.

          • FernoKlump says

            Sad. Why do you think everyone who studies data and logic says “correlation does not imply causation” is wrong in this case? Why are you so special that you get to decide the one exception to this logical rule? I’m really curious how you justify it to yourself.

          • y81 says

            That’s a pretty strange thought from people who purport to be materialists, that Cuba has an “excuse.” We have to live in the world that is. If your ideas create opposition which crushes you, then from a materialist perspective your ideas are bad. Only a bourgeois idealist could argue otherwise.

          • JacksonAshley says

            China is capitalist now in everything but name. The only reason it is a superpower now instead of a country barely able to feed itself is because of capitalism. Russia’s socialist utopia collapsed before reforming under capitalism.

            Capitalism has not failed everywhere Africa or Latin America. By any metric Africa is doing really well. Mostly because of wait for it… capitalism. The greatest failure in Latin America is Venezuela. a Socialist Country.

          • FernoKlump says


            At the height of VZ’s government expansion, it still had a larger private sector than France. Is France a socialist failure too? How about the nordic countries?

          • Stephanie says

            Chad, you are factually incorrect. The economies of Latin America and Africa did better when they avoided communist utopianism. Check out the historical difference between capitalist South Africa and communist Zimbabwe.

            Many people, myself included, have already explained to you that China only took off economically after communist economic principles were abandoned after Mao’s death, and Russia’s revolhtion slowed the rapid growth it had experienced prior.

          • Next up, watch FernoClump go off the deep end talking about Smurfs and Skies and thinking it’s a rigorous defence of Socialism.
            This keeps getting better by the minute.
            “Don’t you ever get tired of arguing with the religious”?
            “No”, said Christopher Hitchens, “because you NEVER know what they’re gonna say next”.

          • Paul says

            Hi Chad, have you done much business in China? I have some experience there. In my experience, it is not a socialist country except from propaganda and political power centralization perspectives. While there are indeed State Owned Enterprises driving certain industrial sectors, recent economic growth has been driven (or at least heavily augmented by) by new venture formation within the private sector. Additionally, SOEs have generally been pursuing public listings, which essentially privatizes ownership of production via capital markets. What distinguishes the emerging large Chinese tech enterprises from US/Europe enterprises is the degree to which their flourishing has depended on their accordance with policies designed to perpetuate Communist Party rule. Suggest you research data sharing policies in the large Chinese tech giants such as Alibaba.
            Am I missing something? I’d love to know if I’m wrong re the above and China is indeed a socialist country. Maybe this is a zen koan but if a socialist country is driven by privately owned ventures, lets supply and demand be driven by market forces, and transfers production to private ownership over time via capital markets, is it still a socialist country?

          • Gera says

            You’re kidding right? My family escaped the Soviet Union in the 70s. My father and I went back to our birth city in 2007. The city has changed incredibly- my dad could barely speak when we went into the markets brimming with food.

            It’s pure willful ignorance to state that we’re waiting for Russia and Eastern Europe to bloom from their capitalist transition.

          • Locketopus says

            Capitalism has failed everywhere in Africa and Latin America.

            That is, of course, sheer nonsense.

            The wealthiest country in South America is either Chile or Brazil, depending on the vintage of numbers you’re using (Chile was the undisputed champion for decades, thanks largely to their having given their homegrown Marxists free tickets for one way helicopter rides, but Brazil has been moving up fast since they abandoned socialism).

            By contrast, Venezuela has moved from being one of the wealthiest countries in South America to being one of the poorest.

            Socialism transformed both Russia and China into great industrial powers

            Naziism transformed the defeated and destroyed post-WWI Germany into a great industrial power. So you’re saying Naziism is good, then? Or are socialist slave-labor states only good when it’s “international” (i.e., Russian-run) socialism rather than “national” (i.e., German-run) socialism?

          • Zero Armed Peddlar says

            Interesting comment Chad. And the transformation was done very quickly in those two countries, by Stalin because of preparation for World War 2, and by Mao in his various Great Leaps Forward and Cultural Revolutions. I won’t go into the depredations of Stalin, but Deng Xiao Peng (sp) is the real founder of modern China. Mao’s efforts cost hundreds of thousands of lives, Deng transformed the economy to a capitalist one. In face, China might be seen as more capitalist than countries like the USA, as there are far fewer regulations on business in China. (e.g low environmental regulations, zero employment standards acts, worker rights pretty much non existent). A mix of capitalism and socialism within a democratic environment seems the ideal, as in Western Europe and Canada.

          • Grant says

            Russia and China would have by now far exceeded their economic status had they developed a Western European democracy after WWII instead of communism. Indeed China all but abandoned Marxist economic models 25 years ago.
            Meanwhile the weight of oppression, murder, suppression, corruption, pollution, injustice, stagnation fell quite heavily on China and The Soviet Union.
            No thanks. Traveled some through Eastern Europe 35 years ago and it sucked. Freedom has transformed Eastern Europe since then.
            Economic, political and cultural freedom of the individual makes great vibrant societies.

          • peanut gallery says

            I wish we would stop using that word this way. It’s not capitalism that brings “human flourishing,” it’s freedom. Those people still have little of it in many aspects. The Constitution isn’t “The Capitalist Manifesto” of capitalism. Freedom is the key ingredient. Capitalism is just an economic idea, not a political movement. Capitalism cannot flourish in Russia, because the people are still tenants of powerful oligarchs. Those in China that benefit most from looser economical rules are a lucky few.

        • FernoKlump says

          For any two correlated events, A and B, the different possible relationships include:

          A causes B (aka socialism causes poverty);

          B causes A (aka poverty leads to socialism);

          A and B are consequences of a common cause, but do not cause each other (aka socialism and poverty are both caused by past imperialism);

          A and B both cause C, which is (explicitly or implicitly) conditioned on;

          A causes B and B causes A (aka socialism causes poverty and poverty causes socialism);

          A causes C which causes B (aka socialism causes CIA coups and sanctions which cause poverty);

          There is no connection between A and B; the correlation is a coincidence.

          • Ashley says

            Do you think that you can honestly hand waive away a century of failed states, ruined economies and 100 million dead bodies with a “correlation is not causation argument”?
            A isn’t B but C is X and if D is L then it..
            Stupid non sequitur arguments do not take the place of facts.

          • Ashley says


            I’ll take that as a yes.
            Thank you.

          • FernoKlump says

            @Ashley love the irony of you handwaiving away millions of people killed by ideology immediately after accusing me of the same. It’s called “psychological projection”

            It’s cool, i get that you just aren’t ready to have this conversation. You need to learn some statistics 101 first =)

          • Next up,
            Watch FernoClump hand waive away any connection between The Spanish Inquisition, The Crusades and Christianity using “logic”.
            Should be a beaut.

          • FernoKlump says


            I never claimed there was “no connection”, just the opposite in fact. It’s very sad that you are too intellectually insecure to engage with my arguments at face value. But please, keep slaying those strawmen!

          • Next up,
            Watch FernoClump say that the horrors that occurred in socialist countries starvation, genocide, ruined economies) are both not the result (correlation is not causation) and the result (I didn’t say that) of socialism at the same time using “logic”.

          • FernoKlump says

            Yikes Ashley, did you just have a stroke or something? That’s pure gibberish! X’D

          • Next up,
            What FernoClump nervously change the subject after he runs himself headlong into the circular logic wall.
            Peak logic is nearing.

          • FernoKlump says

            Honestly i love arguing about math and logic shit, but you won’t bite. You’re basically just screaming at me and insulting me for pointing out that your argument was fallacious. I didn’t even say your conclusion was wrong jfc. I just want to see an argument against socialism that isn’t based on a fallacy that fucking Aristotle identified thousands of years ago.

            Is that too much to ask?

          • FernoKlump says

            Ashley: “the sky is blue because it’s made of SMURFS”

            FernoKlump: “that argument is definitely wrong”

            Ashley: “this fucking idiot thinks the sky is NEVER blue!”

            Can you try out a tad of nuance and separate the conclusion from the reasoning?

          • Next up,
            Watch master Logician dazzle you with talk of smurfs and blue skies.

          • FernoKlump says

            You’re a troll and you’re boring. Thanks for wasting everyone’s time.

          • Ashley says

            And now watch a master logician, who thinks he can hand waive away 100 years of evidence that a socialism is a disaster when put into practice with “logic” call other people trolls.
            Sooooo much tasty logic.

          • Bootstamp says

            FernoKlump, thanks for the exhaustive list of possible relationships between two correlated events. The examples were especially helpful (and plausible!).

            I think it might not have been clear to Ashley that you were emphasizing the lack of a NECESSARY implication, rather than how likely one explanation is based on years of data. For example, it is unlikely to be a coincidence at this point (although of course, still not logically impossible).

            To Ashley, it might have sounded like you’re saying that we can ignore the data using armchair logic, whereas all you were saying is we have to be more careful of the conclusions drawn. This is understandable – you were probably pattern-matched to someone who is just unaware of the data.

            At any rate, do you have some not-too-impossible ideas to tease apart the causal model here?

          • Locketopus says

            A causes B (aka socialism causes poverty);

            North and South Korea.

            East and West Germany.

            Essentially identical people. Essentially identical cultures and histories.

            In both cases, one of the pair went Marxist and the other didn’t.

            Guess which ones devolved into slave states?

            You can yammer about “correlation and causation” all you want, but the facts on the ground prove you wrong.

          • Cay says


            Your British imperialism in India ref, had me rolling on the ground. I am afraid that statement was a more than a lift of the petticoat and exposing an ankle.

            Please open a book, perhaps more than one and read on Imperialism. That was not a capitalism vs socialism.

            Until then not gonna be able to read anything you write without a chuckle.

        • Softclocks says

          China and Russia have been notoriously vicious towards their populace regardless of ruling ideology. What is culture and what is ideology? Why is Communism as an ideology straddled with the continuation of what can only be called a culturally embedded lack of respect towards the value of human life?

          • Cay says


            What about Venezuela ?
            What about Vietnam ?
            What about Myanmar ?
            What about North Korea ?
            What about East Germany ?
            What about Zimbabwe ?
            What about …

          • Softclocks says

            Yes, what about them?

            Do you believe that it is the strict adherence to communist doctrine that is the cause of North Korea’s treatment of its people?

        • l'abbe c says

          The eastern bloc countries were all poorer than western europe (including east germany compared to west germany) for centuries before the USSR though. Its all the same countries that had export-led revivals of serfdom in the 16th-19th centuries. You’d do better comparing these countries to their post-communist trajectories but that is much more of a mixed bag (life expectancy declined by more in Russia in the 90s than in China under any period of mao’s rule. rural healthcare collapsed and people in siberia were dying of medieval diseases).

          You can’t compare Taiwan or Hong Kong to all of China – its the size of a small continent with vast rural expanses and hundreds of ethnic groups. Taiwan is a small island with 1/3 of the population living in the capital and suburbs and Hong Kong is literally just a city. Shanghai area is pretty wealthy too, you know.

        • Nemo says

          Yeah because “communist” china is not the worlds largest economy by purchasing power. lol

      • Am I wrong or is E. Olson one of our resident trolls? These people who roast every single Quillette article in such a conveniently sweeping manner one wonders why they spend any time here.

        But I appreciate your maturity. Eric Weinstein seems like a good candidate for the job, too. I thought Peterson did okay, and the problem may be equally with the litany of representative variants who lay claim to the Marxist brand. Peterson was likely motivated by, for example, the variant of certain campus activists as much as Marx’s actual works. He used to work for Canada’s socialist party, after all. It’s not like this is all so foreign to him.

        • Stephanie says

          WH, uh, EO has been a regular commenter here since before I arrived, and he always makes relevant points about the topic at hand and engages in productive debate. He is by no means negative about every article. Now, who the hell are you? Because from the outside you look like the one trolling.

          • Amin says

            @ Stephanie

            “and he always makes relevant points”

            No he doesn’t. He likely never bothers to read the articles but trots out well-versed ideological positions.

            And a LOT of times he makes things up. I have caught him doing it plenty of time.

          • Amin says

            @ Stephanie

            “Amin, stop projecting.”

            It isn’t projecting. More dumb absurdities out of you. Try looking up the word “Projecting” and what it means.

            And I can highlight comments where I caught E.Olson’s bare faced lies. Can oyu do the same? No. Then how is it projecting?

      • Amin says

        @ Dave the comment poster

        This is why Peterson ran away from debating Wolff. Žižek has never made any sense and likely never will. Wolff would have really exposed Peterson’s shortcomings. This was seemingly a clever move, but has took some shine of Peterson.

        • Jennifer Teasley says

          Yeah I have to agree Admin. I was a bit disappointed with the debate. I expected a bit more from Jordan and was rather surprised with Zizek. It wasn’t the robust debate I was hoping for. Now the debate by Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson was quite enthralling. I adore Dr. Peterson but he might be out of his depth against a true Marxist opponent.

      • Alan Appel says

        Dave, One does not need a deep knowledge of Marx to recognize the results of attempting to implement his program in Russia, China, Cambodia, etc. Also, Burgis simply fails to demonstrate specifically where most of Peterson’s criticisms were incorrect. Finally, for someone like myself who is not an expert in Marxism, I found the discussion on both sides to be mostly informative, sometimes challenging.

      • That Marxism has nuances and does not end in brute force every god damned time, is evidence we still have to be presented with. It’s never shown any real “nuance” so far….

  3. Matthew O'Connell says

    Well done Ben for writing for Quillette when some of the left-leaning folks automatically consider it to be an alt-right rag. I couldn’t agree with you more in your criticism of Jordan: He came ill-prepared and I think as a result his stock has gone down amongst those occupying nonpartisan grounds. His arguments were repetitive of those he has made before and it is clear we need more intelligent and better informed, as well as nuanced discussion of the consequences of Marxist thought today rather than a boring rehash of the past. You were right to identify that the issues are whether the ways we measure the success of capitalism are appropriate and sufficient enough for us to understand its role both today and in the coming future as we face the end of limitless growth, and also a separation of utopian idealistic thought from more pragmatic analysis of the relationship between theory and practice.

    • Erica from the West Village says

      Here here!! That’s the point of this community, isn’t it?

      No matter what you believe, you’re given a platform for making your argument for/against any topic on earth.

      Wish it were so on YouTube, Facebook or Twitter.

      There loss.

        • Andrew Roddy says


          Well, since you’re at it, I think ‘hear, hear’ has better provenance. It might appear anachronistic in textland but that’s all the more reason to cherish it.

    • Spitshine Tommy says

      “the coming future”

      As opposed to a stationary future?

      Peterson is a lone woodsman hacking away an entire forest of socialist and Marxist proponents. He isn’t just debating the one man, but the increasingly ominous infestation of leftism into every corner of our culture. Marxist principles are so ubiquitous in academia, entertainment and media that westerners have become socialized to it at an early age and see people like Peterson as a threat to everything they have been trained to hold sacred. The neoliberal version of Marxism (such as AT&T’s profit driven takeover of the socialist CNN), is especially critical of Peterson, and on a near constant basis.

      Peterson represents the few versus the many, so naturally we’ll learn his style and life’s work quicker than his leftist contemporaries. They are – as he pointed out during his GQ interview – interchangeable. There is no discernible ideological difference between Robin Meade, Alyssa Milano, Chris Cuomo, Richard Wolfe, Barack Obama, etc. If you can find a difference between leftist influencers, those differences will be suppressed and sequestered, while Peterson’s misgivings will be amplified.

    • Ah yes, moar nuance!!! I remember the heady days of the late 90’s and early 2000’s when Venezuela’s full embrace of Marxist Socialism was going to lead to heaven on earth. Every Marxist supporter shouted it from the hilltops. Now that Venezuela has tuned into an unmitigated disaster, we’re back to the “no true communism has been tried” again.

      Same as it has always been with this garbage political philosophy…

  4. Diogenes says

    The point of the article is that you can’t legitimately critique something you dont know well. Peterson. provides the facade of understanding communism and postmodernism, but he understands neither well. You already have declared that you refuse to be influenced by new information. Of course, just like on a jury, this means your position can be ignored. Truth is.not about your undying dedication to your team. As soon as it is, you are not a thinker, just a fan.

    • The interesting thing in your and other leftists arguments is that Peterson must be singularly well versed on the communist manifesto is disingenuous. He is perhaps the world leading expert on the book The Gulag Archipelago, a book completely about the utter failure of the Soviet attempt at Marxism. Of course Marxists always insist you debate ONLY the communist manifesto and none of the voluminous set of works that have documented its failure over more than a hundred years….

      • Will says

        ? No serious marxist would require you to debate the Communist Manifesto ? Like are you kidding with this response ?

        Also, how is Peterson a world leading expert on The Gulag Archipelago? And what is the value of being an expert on one book?

  5. And the left needs a better one than Mr. Bergis. Mr. Peterson approach is raised from the individual, from a jungian perspective. None of that is mentioned by Mr. Bergis. The main critic of marxism by Mr. Peterson is its teleological cliving, in which he and Mr. Zizek agree. Marxism leads to tyrannies, Just look at what has been happening since the manifesto.

    • Dzoldzaya says

      What has been happening since the manifesto? Do you think that the democratic west hasn’t been influenced by Marx? Look at western europe in the post war period: super high taxes, free health care, strong unions etc. Largely because of the threat of Marxist revolution and the influence of radical (at the time) left-wing ideas. Did they always lead to tyrannies?

      • Stephanie says

        Dzol, Europe has indeed adopted elements of Marxist thought, and in proportion to those has indeed become a tyranny. In the most socialized countries the political parties are ideologically homogenous on the most important issues, meaning voters must accept the party position. Black horse parties advocating for any sort of real change are under constant attack by the (often largely state-owned) media, tarring anyone known to be a supporter as an evil person. This thought policing includes jailing thousands of people a year for expressing heterodox opinions online.

        The EU is run by unelected bureaucrats whose ability to interfere in local governance increases by the year. There is no leaving, especially for smaller states, and non-compliance with EU dictats can mean crushing punishment (see Cyprus).

        Europe is closer to a full-on tyranny that we’re comfortable recognizing.

        • Amin says

          @ Stephanie

          More of your usual dumb ranting:

          “This thought policing includes jailing thousands of people a year for expressing heterodox opinions online”

          Which social country is that?

          “The EU is run by unelected bureaucrats”

          No it isn’t. This isn’t quite so is it? So why this silly little lie?

          “There is no leaving, especially for smaller states”

          Another lie.

          “Europe is closer to a full-on tyranny that we’re comfortable recognizing.”

          Given what you have said eariler, likely not.

          • Stephanie says


            1) Thousands in the UK alone.
            2) What proportion of the Hungarian populace voted for Jean-Paul Junker?
            3) If the UK has this much trouble, what chance do smaller countries have? Cyprus got raped and it still couldn’t leave.
            4) Yes, the EU is tyrannical in proportion to its adoption of socialist systems.

            As usual, all you can say is that you disagree. Somehow you can never explain why. And you have the nerve to criticize EO’s contributions?

            Try to articulate an argument next time. I know it’s scary to take a position, that actually expressing a thought opens you up to criticism, but until you do you aren’t actually saying anything. Be explicit and specific.

          • Amin says

            @ Stephanie

            “1) Thousands in the UK alone.”

            Evidence? References? And it has to shows this “thousands”, else…


            “What proportion of the Hungarian populace voted for Jean-Paul Junker?”

            In 2003 over 3 million people [83%] voted to join the EU.

            on 25 May 2014 over 2.3 million voted for the EU Parliament [about 29% of eligible voters].

            The President of Commision is elected by the European Council and formally elected by the European Parliament. The commission is collectively responsible to the EP.

            Now let us re-cap:

            “The EU is run by unelected bureaucrats”

            So this silly little lie still remains.

            “3) If the UK has this much trouble, what chance do smaller countries have?”

            Um… it is fault of UK and NOT of EU. If UK sorts itself out… it can. EU is NOT responsible for UK’s internal politics.

            “Cyprus got raped and it still couldn’t leave.”

            Oh look your usual foulness raises its head…

            ” 4) Yes, the EU is tyrannical in proportion to its adoption of socialist systems.”

            Mere subjective opinion unaccompanied by any evidence or argument. Therefore easy to boot away. This is just repeating the same thing in different words.

            “As usual, all you can say is that you disagree. Somehow you can never explain why.”

            It isn’t my job to… look:


            You are responsible for YOUR claims. It is up to you to provide evidence.

            You are dumb and ignorant… and clearly you haven’t got the foggiest to the masses shit that you post up here. And that is not my problem. So why is it that you did not know how the EU is run?

            “Try to articulate an argument next time.”

            Lol! I had a good fucking laugh at this… why?


            ” 4) Yes, the EU is tyrannical in proportion to its adoption of socialist systems.”

            Yeah… this is stating an opnion and NOT an argument. You are so DUMB you do not know what one is…

            So another boot up your ignorant arse eh?

          • “So this silly little lie still remains.”

            Stephanie is not talking about politicians. She is talking about the permanent unelected bureaucracy that stays in power year in, year out. Bureaucrats aren’t politicians. They have completely different functions. You do know the difference right? Your counter-example doesn’t refute what she is saying.

            “It isn’t my job to … Burden of Proof”

            Highly amusing that you pull this one out, but refuse to engage in other sorts of argumentative norms. Goes to show you aren’t really committed to this idea, and are using it as an instrument rather than an end.

            It is your job to support your counter-claims. If someone asserts x, and you counter “x is a lie” then one might think an ideal arguer committed to norms like burden of proof (that contains obligations towards certain behavior in argument) might have other argumentative values that may even trump norms like Burden of Proof. What values? A value that might move someone to supporting the statement you made “x is a lie.” The concept of burden of proof is a norm that is a subset of general argument and logic. But logic is about good reasons for claims in general. This covers all arguments. Since someone actually being guided by general norms presumably thinks of themselves as a disinterested arguer and the value of good argument is good reasons, you have a higher obligation to support your claims over minor norms like burden of proof. Having said this, I’m pretty sure you aren’t interested in these higher encompassing argumentative obligations. Someone asserting y, and your counter being “ur dumb” indicates you picking and choosing values as a sophistic weaponized argument, not someone committed to rationality that you project yourself as.

          • Amin says

            @ N

            “Stephanie is not talking about politicians.”

            No she is not. Let us see:

            “The EU is run by unelected bureaucrats”

            So what do the Politicians do? It is like claiming UK is a autocracy run by the Civil Service. The EU is run by the politicians.

            “She is talking about the permanent unelected bureaucracy that stays in power year in, year out.”

            And to claim it is they who hold the power is outright a lie.

            “Your counter-example doesn’t refute what she is saying.”

            Quite clearly and reasonably that is precisely what it does.

            “Highly amusing that you pull this one out, but refuse to engage in other sorts of argumentative norms. Goes to show you aren’t really committed to this idea, and are using it as an instrument rather than an end.”

            Baseless claim. It simply highlights your enmity towards me… and notice I was 100% correct.

            ” but refuse to engage in other sorts of argumentative norms”

            Such as? And where?

            “It is your job to support your counter-claims.”

            Sure. Any claims I make – it is up to me to support with evidence or argument. Especially when challenged.

            “If someone asserts x, and you counter “x is a lie” then one might think an ideal arguer committed to norms like burden of proof (that contains obligations towards certain behavior in argument) might have other argumentative values that may even trump norms like Burden of Proof. What values? A value that might move someone to supporting the statement you made “x is a lie.” The concept of burden of proof is a norm that is a subset of general argument and logic. But logic is about good reasons for claims in general. This covers all arguments. Since someone actually being guided by general norms presumably thinks of themselves as a disinterested arguer and the value of good argument is good reasons, you have a higher obligation to support your claims over minor norms like burden of proof. Having said this, I’m pretty sure you aren’t interested in these higher encompassing argumentative obligations. Someone asserting y, and your counter being “ur dumb” indicates you picking and choosing values as a sophistic weaponized argument, not someone committed to rationality that you project yourself as.”

            Lond drivel… says Zilch… so which claim of mine are you challenging? None. And I was so right and sharp putting the boot to her silly lies… that you somehow wanted to outdo me but there was nothing juicy to get your teeth into. But rather you wrote all this twattery which means nothing.

            Now on your way… before I flex my muscles.

          • @Amin

            “So what do the Politicians do? It is like claiming UK is a autocracy run by the Civil Service. The EU is run by the politicians.”

            And again, she’s not talking about the politicians. The claim that the “UK is an autocracy run by the civil service” couldn’t be a worse analogy for your case. It is exactly a claim that some have made in the UK for a few decades, including to the point of parody (see the TV show Yes Minister which was a parody of this topic based on the diaries of an actual politician who made the same claims about the bureaucracy running things). This is a common criticism across the west (see the “deep state” accusations).

            “Baseless claim. It simply highlights your enmity towards me… and notice I was 100% correct.”

            Unsupported claim. No counter-argument. I showed in the paragraph you ignored as “drivel” that you were using argumentative norms as a means not an end. That’s generally what you do when you make an argument: place a claim then support it. Your reading comprehension is garbage.

            “Such as? And where?”

            Such as right now, wherein you don’t support your claims just as Stephanie said you didn’t and continue to do.

            “Sure. Any claims I make – it is up to me to support with evidence or argument. Especially when challenged.”

            And you haven’t, e.g. when you say something like “baseless claim” without argument. You do this on most posts. You suck at this.

            “… so which claim of mine are you challenging? None.”

            I’m giving a meta-level account of your shit argument skills. I’m also showing the way you deploy arguments is not any good. The fact that you think that arguments can only be evaluated along content lines shows your ignorance.

            “I flex my muscles”

            You’re either a troll or one of those low IQ hyper confident types that doesn’t realize how dumb he is. I’m guessing the latter.

          • Amin says

            “And again, she’s not talking about the politicians. ”

            You are lying through your teeth and you know it. She is talking about the whole running of EU and ascribed it to bureaucrats only. Which is a silly lie [delibrately false info whilst knowing it not to be the case]. That WAS the whole point. She left out the politicians… who ultimately control the EU and not the bureaucrats.

            “The claim that the “UK is an autocracy run by the civil service” couldn’t be a worse analogy for your case.”

            Why not? Notice how you actually didn’t say… you wankered off into unrelate nonsense. This fits exactly. Look at what I said:

            “So what do the Politicians do? It is like claiming UK is a autocracy run by the Civil Service.”

            Totting up: you simply claimed the same thing again WITHOUT adding anything new.

            Let us face it… I am 100 correct.

            “I showed in the paragraph you ignored as “drivel” that you were using argumentative norms as a means not an end.”

            Nah! You just invented guff as NOT to give a “concrete example”. Once again I am 100% right. Once more you just repeat yourself. Such guff is easy to boot away.

            “Your reading comprehension is garbage.”

            Another baseless claim. And a false one in this case… no mistakes of mine were highlighted.

            This simply shows your enmity towards me… you are simply desparate…

            “you don’t support your claims”

            So which claim did I make? Ah… I didn’t. See what I challenge – Look:

            “This thought policing includes jailing thousands of people a year for expressing heterodox opinions online”

            Which social country is that?

            “The EU is run by unelected bureaucrats”

            No it isn’t. This isn’t quite so is it? So why this silly little lie?

            “There is no leaving, especially for smaller states”

            Another lie.

            “Europe is closer to a full-on tyranny that we’re comfortable recognizing.”

            Given what you have said eariler, likely not.

            Notice how example of other person’s [likely yours!] quote were used to highlight EXACTLY what is challenged. So something concrete is challenged… and not utter BS like your little hissy fit above!

            “And you haven’t, e.g. when you say something like “baseless claim” without argument. You do this on most posts. You suck at this.”

            Lol! Outright lie there and… I challenge something solid… like shown above. And not this invented semantic piffle.

            Come on Stephie – we both know that you do not have anything actual claim I have made to challenge. That is abudantly clear…

            “I’m giving a meta-level account”

            Lol! No you are not… you are just wakering around make complet bullshit up. Becuase you have got nothing solid and actual to challenge me on.

            The ONLY real thing is first bit:

            “And again, she’s not talking about the politicians. ”

            And you were wrong to object to that and we both know it. After that it is Horsehit all the way down…

            “The fact that you think that arguments can only be evaluated along content lines shows your ignorance.”

            Er yes… 10001% so. All arguments are based in reality else they utter shite. This is EXACTLY why science works so beautifully and about 90% of philosophy utter garbage.

            But on this point… you will not find any decent scholar who says otherwise.

            So I really must be “ignorant”.

            “You’re either a troll or one of those low IQ hyper confident types that doesn’t realize how dumb he is. I’m guessing the latter.”

            Yeah… you see this doesn’t work. Lol! Just conveys your enmity and gives away the fact that I am quite clearly able to control you. I elicited that response!

            And you came here deliberately being a pretentious prick… your type thinks to spout big words make them look profound deep and ‘knowledgbel’… but as they say proof is in the pudding and not in how fancy it looks. With that haughty garabage you sound more and more of a clown…

            Now do enjoy this meta-kick up your plump arse. More where that came from!

            Keep it coming…

        • Harbinger says

          @Steph..the paradox of this day and age is that the “conservatives”, those who would have things stay as they are, are actually those who support the Progressive goals of state dominance of social and economic matters, and full efficacy for the “Empire of the Rules Based World Order”.

          On the other hand, the “radicals” at this point in history, those who would “change things”, are people on the political right, who oppose the impulse towards global empire, and the predominance of bureaucratic supervision of individual lives and collective culture.

          Most of the pro- Marxist comments I’ve seen on the Peterson-Zizek debate, have seized on the point made by Zizek, also made in this article,that China’s great lift out of poverty is the not the result of “free market” capitalism but of a modified and liberalized form of state socialism.

          Of course Zizek’s implicit conclusion that China’s totalitarian governance deserves the credit assumes that the matter rests entirely with the form of China’s internal structure. Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, China has remained mercantilist. It’s government has unalloyed control over everyone’s property and the direction and outcome of commercial activity. The reason it has been successful in raising living standards, is because the developed countries have to date allowed it to trade internationally, as if it were a market economy. In other words, its success in reducing poverty is a consequence of international “free markets”, not it’s internal modified state socialism.

          As a permanent resident of a certain Chinese province, I would be the last person to decry the “greater good” which has resulted from the generosity of the US and the other trading nations over the last 30 years. However China’s rise has had it’s costs for the other nations, and Mr Trump is correct in now calling the Chinese to account. On a more equal economic playing field, it is an open question how state control with Chinese characteristics,(which pre-date Marxism) would perform. I would add that I have no doubt whatsoever, that given the population’s natural aptitude for making a buck, real capitalism in China would do a world of good well beyond its shores.

          • Heike says

            China was raised not due to its wonderful socialist system (I thought China wasn’t socialist?) but American elites who decided it would be a great idea to allow it to join WTO. Without that, China is still a backwater today. Marxism was SUCH a disaster in China that a simple regression to the mean was a great triumph for them.

        • Closed Range says

          Stephanie – you’re quite right that the EU is largely tyrannical, but I don’t know if it’s Marx’s fault this time round. My overall impression is that the EU largely follows in the Germanic tradition since the time of Bismarck and the Kaisers of autocratic rule by an elite cadre of highly conditioned, highly conformist bureaucrats and technocrats. This is the common thread through German governments from 1871 to now, with Kohl and Merkel as the latest figureheads. On the EU side, maybe Juncker is the Kaiser but Martin Selmayr is the real powerbroker. The EU just adds a little bit of French pomp and amour propre to take away any cause for self doubt.

          Oh and the people? Is it not obvious that they’re too ignorant to know what’s good for them. Why else would they vote against the EU in almost every referendum carried out across the countries of Europe, including France, Denmark, Ireland (round one), Portugal, and most lately the UK. You can’t trust them to make the right decision. Instead, their votes exist only for them to affirm their submission to the supreme leaders.

      • hunter says

        Check out what the EU is doing lately in the suppression/censorship/surveillance front and get back to us.

  6. Richard says

    If the author is arguing that Marx critics mischaracterize him and impute to him statements he never made, then the author’s argument seems reasonable. Marx critics, however, are now at the stage of exasperation toward debating finer points of beliefs that for reasons known and unknown have never, ever resulted in an increase in human prosperity. Moreover, to whatever extent Marx’s beliefs have been “correctly”, implemented according to Marx they have everywhere and always resulted in horrific human suffering, misery and death. At what point do the rest of us get to say, “Enough!”

  7. gda53 says

    Psuedo-academic and Marxist fan-boy is annoyed with Jordan Peterson’s disinterest in delving into the weeds of Marxist minutia.

    Yawn. How boring. But hark. In his (continuing) attacks on Dr. Peterson, do we detect a whiff of envy?

    Can’t even get one lousy review on Amazon for that book of yours, can you? It must really grind your gears. No wonder you hate Peterson. 5,000 reviews, and how many books sold?.

      • gda53 says

        Wow! More Marxist fan-boys leaping to the defence of their hero. One so anxious to please that he posts twice!

        But guess what? They are correct – his book isn’t out yet. So mea culpa on that particular book.

        However, given his only other appearance on Amazon, Ed & Matt should’t hold their breath. He may, if they manage to battle the crowds to help him, break his own record of 1 review for his shitty sci-fi. But he seems sadly unable to sell his dreck in the real world, so he’s pretty much tagged himself as a failure up front as a writer.

        And does anyone (besides Ed & Matt) have a burning desire to read a book whose title contains the words “Logic for the Left”. The left is anything and everything BUT logical after all.

    • Farris says

      One isn’t required to smell a turd daily to be reminded that it stinks.

    • Grant says

      I think Peterson is bored with it too, like any person with half a brain should be, but he’s involved in the last institutions (ironically), universities that still have an odd fascination with Marxism, so he feels like he needs to counter their childish obsessions. Intuitions that again ironically haven’t changed that much.
      Maybe I would champion it too if I had a state supported job that I couldn’t be fired from, no matter how incompetent I am. It’s a workers dream, but a consumers nightmare. No matter, we’ll just keep raising costs without concern, and simply erase 1.5 trillion in loans and move on.

  8. dirk says

    Desperately poor: I have lived in a small Peruvian mountain village without tap water, electricity, cars, roads or busses, and even stone houses, but there was always enough to eat there for everybody, even meat, milk and eggs. I wonder, what did the people there earn? Per day? One dollar, two, or something??Nobody there even asked themselves. But, I’m sure, in the US and the NLs (was yesterday on our TV), there are many desperately poor people with incomes of about 1000 dollars/month or more.

  9. Erica from the West Village says

    This is really what I want to see in the United States more often, More honest defense of Marxism/Leninism/Stalinism by the Democrat Party leaders who call themselves Social(ist) Democrats.

    Why apologize? Be honest with people.

    Authenticity sells.

    Ask any of Bernie or AOC or Ilhan Omar’s followers.

    Although…the Godlessness of Marxism has to be squared somehow with the ideology of the Islamic Socialists like Omar.

    Not sure how that’s going to happen in a country where people can only believe half of what they see with their own eyes and none of what they read.

    • Brian from Flushing says

      Erica from Greenwich Village,

      Just a quick question: Why would someone who is ostensibly fostering an ideology of equity (socialism) need to identify themselves by their neighborhood? A neighborhood which also happens to be one of the priciest, most expensive and inaccessible zip codes in the USA?

      Please be honest. I am honestly wondering why socialists routinely advocate for such virtuous, selfless causes, yet identify there social STATUS at the very first opportunity.

      How is socialism doing down on Bleecker Street? (Market value of a brownstone has got to be 10 million there?)

    • Harland says

      Marx would be deplatformed and shunned were he alive today. You’d be the one leading the Twitter mobs.

      “… it is now completely clear to me that he, as is proved by his cranial formation and his hair, descends from the Negroes from Egypt, assuming that his mother or grandmother had not interbred with a nigger. Now this union of Judaism and Germanism with a basic Negro substance must produce a peculiar product. The obtrusiveness of the fellow is also nigger like.”
      — Karl Marx

      “Without slavery, North America, the most progressive of countries, would be transformed into a patriarchal country. Wipe out North America from the map of the world and you will have anarchy, the complete decay of modern commerce and civilization. Abolish slavery and you will have wiped America off the map of nations.”
      — Karl Marx

  10. Maxim Kryzhny says

    In order to effectively criticize Marx, it is necessary to understand economic theory. See: “Eugen Böhm von Bawerk”, “Karl Marx and the Close of His System: A Criticism” (1898)

    • All that’s required is to understand human nature, which Marx did not.

        • Andrew Roddy says


          ‘All that’s required is to understand human nature,’

          Are you really sure you want to say that?

  11. Shaun says

    As a clinical psychologist, Peterson is well versed in the behavior of the human animal. 100% self-sacrifice does not exist, and as a result, there will always be cause for envy, outrage, and rebellion.
    Socialism will not solve—and has demonstrably exacerbated—these issues. Repeatedly.

    It is immaterial what Marx intended, or even believed, given the historical preponderance of catastrophe the philosophy has spawned. If this article is correct, Peterson isn’t the only one “misconstruing” the intent of Marxism / Socialism / et. al. Adherents repeatedly persist in the argument that True Socialism has never been attempted, but are equally incapable of describing what True Socialism is, or how it is somehow possible to enforce or advocate such a thing universally.

    Peterson comes from the frame of reference that a total Idealistic Utopia is not possible, because it must be enforced in a way that always leads to totalitarianism. So far, he’s been proven correct. How many times do we have to try that failed experiment before it finally sinks in?

    • @Shaun
      Good points…you beat me to the punch, but I’ll add a thought or two.

      Peterson repeatedly outlines two other related points in his lectures:

      No static idea can be carried forward for very long because the environment in which the idea operates changes radically and unpredictably, and
      The most abundant resource on earth is a great idea that fails repeatedly in execution (addressed by @Shaun already)

      To point #1…I agree with @Craig Willms above. Can we please be done talking about Marx already? I only have 24 hours in a day and a reading list as long as my arm. Why would I spend even 3 minutes researching the finer points of an economic/social theory that’s 140 years old when the entirety of modernity (for the West, anyway) has happened since the theory was proposed. I’d much rather research where we are now and develop ideas for moving the current economic system forward. Continuing to pretend that Marx has anything interesting to say about the state of affairs in rich, Western, Capitalist societies seems a little ridiculous.

      The author’s point on China fell completely flat, in my opinion. Can anyone other than a fully committed Marxist ideolog claim that China isn’t acting as a major capitalist player in the world economy? The world creates demand and China produces the supply through private and public capital investments and profit. The country and its citizens have grown wealthy as a result. The author pretends that this state of affairs represents a successful Socialist experiment with a sprinkling of Capitalism on top when in fact, it’s the other way round.

      • Grant says

        You are correct sir. Revisiting Marxism is to improve our society is like revisiting the Model T to improve a 2019 Tesla. Marxist thought is childish and lazy. The details involved in maintaining a free and safe society are lost in most people.

  12. Russ says

    Hayek taught me all I need to know about Socialism. That and the trail of the dead leading to the utopian vision.

    • Jack Mackerel says

      Zizek’s central point is that Peterson’s decrying of identity politics runs into a dead end. It is capitalism’s drive for profit and expansion and its need to commodify all aspects of individual life that create the moral relativism and “disturbance of all social conditions” that Peterson decries. But because the conservative has no economic analysis, the conservative must locate the problem in an external force. Hence “Cultural Marxism.” But this is the equivalent of a conspiracy theory — an ideological illusion — that serves as an obstacle to confronting the reality of class society: just see the way Bernie Sanders is now attacked for being a “white male” and all of this other humbug from liberals, and he’s not even a Marxist but just dares to approach the subject about concentrations in wealth and power.

      It was a brilliant move by Zizek. Peterson wanted to make the debate a referendum on Marxism, but Zizek flipped it around and used Marxist analysis to do it.

      • codadmin says

        ‘…because the conservative has no economic analysis’

        And so, Zezek’s argument went off the rails at that point and what proceeded was gibberish.

      • The Lords of Lies says

        “It is capitalism’s drive for profit and expansion and its need to commodify all aspects of individual life that create the moral relativism and “disturbance of all social conditions” that Peterson decries.”

        Yeah, you leftists keep saying this, but it is bullshit. If this is the case, why did the Soviets use identity politics as a weapon? See Harry Hay for instance in LGBT issues who was explicitly supported by the communists, or the black power movements all over America that the communists supported financing and activist training. The Brooklyn based black power movements was an explicit example of this. This sort of stuff goes even further back than the Soviets, you can see similar sort of identity politics back to the French Revolution. A ton of continental philosophers from the 1950s onward are open about their support of various kinds of far left economics, and these people were also pushing a lot of the pre-cursor ideology in academia. This isn’t a conspiracy theory, you can read it in academic books with leftist academics near bragging about it. Take any major sub-component of identity politics, and it nearly always has its roots in the left wing not capitalism.

        Also, the most overt inconsistency y’all have is that you support this state of affairs. You simultaneously say that this is caused by capital, yet you go out an agitate and politically support the same positions. You’re full of shit. You’re a liar. It’s highly amusing to me just how mad you leftists get when your plans are caught out in the open. You guys really hate it when people point out what you are doing, and try extremely hard to gaslight people that it doesn’t exist (“you’re a conspiracy theorist! it’s ideology sniff“).

      • Northern Observer says

        But my Dear Jack, it is class analysis that is an illusion and cultural Marxism that is the reality. You are standing reality on its head to please zizek and Marxist thought itself.
        As for non marxists economics not having a theory I just had to laugh. You don’t need a theory when you are describing reality you simply observe model and refine. This is why non Marxist economics is dynamic, it studies reality and presses on like all other human science. Marxist economics is a static dead letter producing the same answers to a changing world because it is the prisoner of its axioms. Peterson is just the rooster of the dawn, the dawn of human progress unimpeded and unencumbered by the dead hand of Marxism.

        • Jack Mackerel says

          Zizek looked and talked like a real intellectual, academic, while the moderator piled on accomplishments and accolades on him, Zizek just waved it all away humbly, because none of that mattered except his ideas. Peterson attacked Marxism, because all Peterson knows how to do is construct dichotomies and present everything in a black and white, good vs. evil sense. Zizek showed that critiquing something isn’t necessarily taking the opposite position then attacking the other one. I enjoyed the “debate,” mostly because Zizek showed that the frameworks we have inherited from the 19th and 20th century are not adequate to explain and tackle problems of the 21st century. Peterson was shown to be stuck in those frameworks, a fossil of the past, while Zizek posed questions and challenges to be resolved without presenting any solutions, in the true Marxist sense. Cause Marx himself never indulged in fantasies and theories of what a utopia might look like, just that we have to create the material conditions where a social system that works for all may develop and thrive.

  13. jon says

    I think it’s an unecessary critique of Peterson, what about Zizek? I understand Quillette maybe want to show a more diverse political spectrum, but, Peterson is confronting Socialism, which is a proven failure, and he’s been standing against the abomination that is identity politics like few people dared to, so come on, give me a break Ben.

  14. David of Kirkland says

    Well, actual democracies have never fared any better than actual communists. Power seems to corrupt both, which is why liberty and equal protection were devised to keep the biggest powers (big government and big corporations and the super-wealthy) in check.
    Few believe this lesson is real, hence the ongoing suffering wherever adult citizens revert to being children of central planning.

    • Defenstrator says

      That’s a statement which is demonstrably untrue. While democracies are not perfect, when compared to communist countries they are comparatively more successful at providing freedom, and fighting poverty. The elites of communist countries are just as far above the citizens of democracies, they are just there as members of a political rather than economic elite, and even then communist leaders seem to always end up with an inordinate amount of wealth. Something about absolute power corrupting no doubt.

    • TarsTarkas says

      Democracies also don’t engage in wholesale massacres of their own populace, which communists/hard socialists do on a regular basis (See Soviet Union, Han China, Kampuchea, Ethiopia, many many more). Has Democracy/Capitalism allowed/fostered miserable poverty and wretchedness? You betcha. But it’s more of a flaw in the operation, not baked into the design as in the case of Marxist-Lenism/Maoism/Pol Potism.

      • Jack Mackerel says

        World War I saw the Western capitalist powers send millions of their own people into barbed wire — a wholesale massacre of their own populace by any objective standard, and done for the sake of national glory and imperial booty.

        • Andrew Roddy says


          Heads up. We don’t talk about that here.

  15. David of Kirkland says

    Rather than discuss poverty in terms of dollars (after all, one dollar doesn’t mean anything if it’s spent across the world where it would buy different amounts of stuff), extreme poverty was described as attributes of life (living on dirt floors, no plumbing, water is retrieved from far away on a daily basis and carried back). When we pretend America’s poor as anything like extreme poverty, it’s just nonsense. When the poor have cell phones, they already have more capability than the richest had just a few decades ago.

  16. MMS says

    Though I share Peterson’s outlook I am very glad Quillette is publishing a verity of voices and opinions (which ironically would not be tolerated under Cultural Marxism)

  17. OWG says

    Marxism, Marxism/Leninism, Marxism/Leninism/Maoism?? I studied this 50 years ago and followed evolution of nations since then. Philosophical debates about whether or not “…attempts to carry out a political program inspired by Marx’s writings can only go wrong.” seem pointless based on the track record where, on a national level, it has gone wrong every time. A dictatorship of the proletariat has turned into a dictatorship every time and always will given the practical necessities of carrying out a program and the attendant corruption of power.

    As for desperate poverty, define it by whether or not there is food in the house for that day in the morning; or access to useful basic medical care; etc.

  18. Shawn T says

    Marx thought the Parisians should have seized the banks and destroyed their class enemies. In other words, they started off with too little tyranny. The author blasts the concept of “equality of outcome” as a flaw by claiming Marx believed no such thing. Overall, what was the point then? Same sh!t, different beneficiaries? The same argument is happening now. We are supposed to believe it important to force one group of people to “pay their fair share” so others can be given a college education, free healthcare, free daycare, free housing or a guaranteed monthly income. Why? Because these people couldn’t possibly be expected to work for any of it – we must guarantee them success. Sure, the objective isn’t to make everyone Bill Gates. Merely to take what Bill made to provide a basic outcome for others. I fail to see how this changes the argument. Marx says some will be more equal than others, but none will be equal to their own effort. The idea is still to force an outcome. Eventually, that force always becomes excessive and the outcome always the deaths of millions in the name of fairness. Quibbling over quotes doesn’t change the nature of man or the evidence from attempts at Marxist purity. The author is just another i a long line of, “If they had only done it better, it all could have been perfect. The next time should do the trick” hucksters. One doesn’t need to know every word uttered by Marx – the proof is in front of our eyes with every bloody failure and rising “star” destined for bloody failure. The progression from the latter to the former has always proven true.

    • Stephanie says

      I agree Shawn, that was a bizzare argument. Saying that “at first” Marx envisioned people would be paid slightly differently hardy takes away from the fact the final goal was that everyone be the same. Perhaps it is Marx that needs better defenders? If all they have is rhetorical slights of hand and historical amnesia, that is pretty weak.

  19. Jeremy H says

    “This is a debate worth having, but the pro-capitalist side deserves better-informed anti-Marxist representatives than Jordan Peterson.”

    Don’t you mean the pro-Marxist side needs someone who is, well, actually pro-Marxist? Zizek seemed more of a recovering Marxist than anything, one who had more scorn for the contemporary left and post-modernism than Peterson or his followers. The author also neglects the fact Peterson’s animosity is for contemporary Marxism, particularly in academia, and is focused on criticizing current dogma, of which things like equality of outcome are very much a central focus.

    The response of the left to this debate has been to dismiss it with the kermit vs oscar meme – that it was just a boring non-confrontation between two cranky, out of touch (white) men. I’ll agree it was poor as far as debates go (probably the wrong format), but as a simple discussion of a very relevant problem today it offered more than any mainstream (so-called) analysis of these issues ever does.

  20. codadmin says

    Marxism doesn’t need better critiques.

    But Capitalism needs better rivals.

  21. asdf says

    “A fact of far greater relevance to the dispute between Marxists and advocates of free market capitalism is the fact that the rate of extreme poverty has continued to decline two centuries later. Some of this is disputed territory. Is $2 a day or $5 a day a better indication of “extreme” poverty? Should we care about raw numbers or about the percentage of the population that is desperately poor?”

    The poor keep having children, and their children are poor, so there is are greater absolute numbers of poor in the world.

    The only way you are ever going to keep there from being a lot of poor people is to eugenically purge (actively or simply by denying aid) people below a certain IQ threshold.

    If you aren’t advocating that then you just have to live with there being lots of poor people.

    “If one of the primary drivers of the global decline of extreme poverty is its decline in the People’s Republic, is this a success story for “free market” capitalism or for a modified and liberalized form of state socialism?”

    Chinese people living everywhere but Maoist China got fabulously rich. Having been held back for a few decades by communism mainland Chinese are catching up to where their genes say they should be.

  22. The Paris Commune lasted a bit over two months. As such it can’t be used as an example of anything except possibly the inherent fragility of direct democracy in all public decision-making. What it might have become can be debated, but what it actually became can’t. That Marx didn’t see that his sole example of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” was an organization that accomplished almost nothing and disappeared quickly is yet another reason to take Marx less than seriously.

  23. Leo Strauss says

    I really like what JBP does; and, his critique of the Manifesto by itself was helpful. But, come on, the Manifesto is more of a rhetorical document than a theoretical feat. At least read the Economic Manuscripts of 1844 and Capital. Marx, as Zizek pointed out in the debate, does acknowledge that the Manifesto is overly simplistic. One doesn’t have to go into the weeds of Marxism to read those two books I mentioned.

    The best critique of communism is the ironic account of it in Book V of Plato’s Republic. Having everything in common is very difficult in light of the love of our own. To be sure, a Marxist might object that Marx doesn’t mean that there should be a sharing a wives as well, but, then that Marxist would not have read Engel’s absolutely insane essay Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, where he does advocate against the “oppressive” character of monogamy.

    Thinking back a minute though, I do think Peterson’s best claim against Marxism in the debate was his concern that abolishing class difference will remove all conflict. Sure, maybe his dictatorship of the proletariat reference was too abstract, but, he is right to say that new sets of hierarchies will emerge and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if Marxists who somehow establish communism detest the new hierarchies that emerge as well.

  24. Pavel Alexiev says

    Interesting article. I generally like Peterson but this was a reasonable critique. It’s also nice to see Quillette post post slightly more left leaning articles.

    • Stephanie says

      Pavel, most Quillette articles are left-leaning (when was the last time you saw praise for Trump?). This was borderline Marxist-sympathizing.

  25. Donnerhauser says

    I appreciate articles like this and I agree that some critics of Marx don’t seem to understand him. However, the problem is – what is Marxism? Am I to criticise the communist society he thought of? It’s well known he was incredibly vague about what it would be like. Am I to criticise his economic writings? To take issue with his analysis of history? To argue against his social analysis? What is being debated here, exactly? To argue the means of production should be permitted to be privately owned? To question his criticisms of capitalism?

    I also feel a point should be raised on Marx’s ideal society and the actual results to realise that. While I agree that Marx had the Paris Commune in mind, I also believe the fact that a lot of efforts to implement his ideas have turned into dictatorships isn’t something that can be ignored. One of my big questions for any Marxist in a debate is “How do you know you’ll get the Paris Commune and not the USSR?” This is a standard I apply to other ideologies (I am highly critical of anarcho-capitalism because I believe it will never achieve what it claims it will, for example).

    Nonetheless Mr Burgis is right that many critics of Marx are attacking a strawman and that one should really read up more on him beforehand. My own understanding of Marx took a long time to develop (I routinely attacked strawman in my early days) and I had the luxury of debating actual communists, which not everyone has (and many of these people had their own issues with the specifics of Marx). I hate to say it, but I find the Wikipedia articles on Marxism tend to have better criticisms of him than Peterson does.

    • codadmin says


      So what is Marxism, now that you have transcended straw-manning it?

      And why has every single attempt to implement it, as you suggest, and without exception, led to a totalitarian dictatorship?

      • TarsTarkas says

        Because they didn’t have the right people in charge, or exactly the right framework, or most importantly the right populace. Never fear, they’ll get it right next time!

        A system of government that requires having the right people in charge in order for it to work is one too fragile to endure when it runs up against reality.

      • FernoKlump says

        Violent revolutions lead to dictatorships. The French revolution was predicated on the ideals of the Enlightenment, classical liberalism, and capitalism. Yet, like the Russian revolution, the result was an asshat dictator murdering his way to total power. I don’t see what Marxism has to do with it.

  26. Thomas says

    A winding tale that seemed to be building to some larger criticism of Dr. Peterson, and instead ended with the open question of China’s role in elevating their people out of poverty. Seemingly, the answer to the final question either proves or disproves all previously stated defenses of Marx.

    To the question of China and the relative degree of freedom allowed in capitalism, it appears the author ends one step to soon. It is agreeable that elevation of the Chinese people had a large impact on the declining worldwide poverty figures, but was China truly responsible for this elevation? I would argue that the true catalyst for the economic boon to China was the rapacious consumerism in western “free market” capitalist countries. That China was able to harness this flood of FDI capital is no great feat to be impressed with. Instead it feels akin to crediting US political leadership with the economic performance of the late 20th century, rather than the say disruptive innovations such as the internet. The “free market” saw the advantage in underutilized labor and put it to work, not China.

    That China was able to get out of it’s own way, in respect to Socialist inclinations, in order to capture a flood of true “free market” foreign direct investment, should not be a tribute for intervening against degrees of freedom.

    • Jack Mackerel says

      In a way I don’t really disagree. But I think crucial to this story is how China maintained its sovereignty and control over its own resources and major industries. It never let the Western capitalists privatize its state-owned enterprises at fire-sale prices, and China retained a monopoly over a state-owned banking system (directing investment) and kept all land collectivized. There is, to this day, no private land in the world’s second largest economy and biggest country. If this is a victory for the free market, it is a highly qualified one. It is the case, incidentally, that China is now increasing the role of the state enterprises in the economy and re-emphasizing Marxist curriculum — which is not something liberal economists would have predicted in the 1990s.

      If it’s a tribute to anything Marxist, though, it’s to his own view of history as proceeding in dialectical stages, with China as the synthesis of the conflict between 20th century free-market capitalism and planned state socialism.

      • Defenstrator says

        It is perfect true there is no private land ownership. Instead there are long term leases which allow people to act as property owners within a fixed amount of time. This has turned the communist government into the capitalist government of rent seekers. They do no work and invest nothing, and live off the workers sweat that actually produce, They are in fact the leeches that Marx railed against.

        I honestly don’t know why people try to claim that China has anything to do with communism anymore. They have an effectively one party state, led by a great ruler, with a rise in ethnic nationalism, and a capitalist economy controlled by the party. They are in fact the worlds largest a most successful fascist state. They left the dead end of communism behind and are trying a new bad idea.

      • codadmin says

        What would Chinas GDP be if it had the same population size as the USA?

      • Thomas says

        It may be crucial to the story of China and an interesting study on redistribution of rent seeking from Capitalist Western States to Chinese Political establishment, but I would hesitate to say that this had any impact thus far on lifting the Chinese people out of poverty.

        It could impact the sustainability of the economy going forward, and this remains to be seen how impactful the decisions will have been to the future of their economy.

        My contention would be that they have not developed any competitive advantage alternative to harnessing the underutilized labor. There is plenty of consumerism to feed now, and potentially into the near future, but consumers seem to be demanding more experiential and intangible service based goods than before. Additionally, quality is making a new emergence of importance and China will struggle greatly to re-brand from years of stealing IP and making cheap knockoffs. Where experience, quality, and authenticity are the new consumer demands, China is dreadfully unprepared to supply.

        Inherent to the experience is the individual. Inherent to our nature is the individual, and to some degree the group, but mostly how it can serve the individual. Our nature utilizes the group, it bends it’s will to benefit the propagation of our own individual genes. The group is a tool for the individual. Inherent to Marxist philosophy is the destruction of the individual for the promotion of the group, the individual becomes the tool. It must contravene both nature and human desire to succeed, which makes it a futile endeavor.

        Furthermore, there are new markets of underutilized labor undermining China’s corner on the market of consumer durables. India, S. Africa, Vietnam, etc. might very well be the new markets delivering their people from poverty by addressing this market. Where will China turn in this environment? How has their sovereign control of resources set them up to address the ever fickle consumer demand?

        Potentially massive municipal investments in R&D could produce innovation and be fed from the sovereign resources, but it would require risk taking for rent seeking on the individual basis it seems. Will China promote this? China has innovated in certain durable goods markets, can the replicate this in intangible goods markets?

        Future aside, it still stands that true free market capitalism has been the best of the economic solutions to our human nature. The best of the worst perhaps, to borrow from Churchill, the worst except for all other forms that have been tried. So, in relative terms, in a shallow field of competition, Marxism may not seem far removed from the top. However, in absolute terms and in practice, it has been horrific.

  27. Ashley says

    “The debate about whether there’s a straight line from Marx to Stalin is an important one, especially given the revival of interest in socialism in the contemporary West.”

    Good god. Yes, that’s just what we need. “Debate” about this subject. It’s not like we have 100 years of failed Marxist/Socialist/Communist projects from every corner of the globe in multiple countries and cultures. It’s not like these projects don’t all end the same way – a collapsed economy with people starving in the streets with generous smattering of genocide.

    Yes, we need to “debate” this some more because some utterly historically ignorant, hopelessly naïve and ideologically possessed 20 year-olds have taken a shine to socialism in the last 20 years. We should definitely ignore what happens when you vote for it, like say in Venezuela.

    The author of this book already wrote a Quillette article. The author if this article should read it.

  28. dirk says

    Marx started his career in Trier, amidst a rather feudal system of landowners and poor peasants, often without land, only much later he learned about the factories and real proletarians (though, I understand, never entered such factories to see with his own eyes how it was there). Zizek must know this Trier system very well from his own rural middle European Slovenia, the Habsburg times, and somewhat later. He certainly also must have known about the early Sovjet agronomist Alexandr Chayanov, an anti-communist (but Lenin’s new economic policy for the farmers then) but also anti-capitalist hero of that good old peasant economic system , and its future possibilities fortified by cooperatives (as known from western Europe and USA). Peterson does not know anything about this, I fear, because it lies beyond the academic and dogmatic battlefields. A pity it is, and rather simplified. Ni modo!

    BTW, Chayanov also never believed in equality of outcome, but in earnings depending on hours worked, family size, abilities, state organisations and needs.

  29. Denny Sinnoh says

    Suffering succotash!
    It turns out that communism is the best way to happiness.

    • Mark H. says

      Except in all the places it’s been implemented.

  30. Ashley says

    In days gone by, I would have called myself a militant atheist. While I still consider myself an atheist, I would not attach “militant” to that description.
    It’s articles like this that remind me so much of reviews of books and debates, etc that I used to spend countless hours listening to. In particular, I recall reading many a review of Richard Dawkin’s “The God Delusion” or Christopher Hitchens’ “God is not Great”. Without fail, every review written by a god-botherer was identical. You could set your watch to it. “He doesn’t understand this…He’s ignorant of that…there’s an argument to be made but this guy can’t make it…etc,etc”
    You could take this article and substitute Marx with God, Marxism with Christianity, the history of capitalism with the history of Christianity and Jordan Peterson with Christopher Hitchens and you’d have a ready-made critique of “God Is Not Great.”

    The “that’s not real Marxism/Communism/Socialism” argument is getting a little old…

    • Jack Mackerel says

      I was once a big fan of Christopher Hitchens and I also think he was a lot like Jordan Peterson and this whole crew of IDW charlatans, and not to his credit. Looking back at Hitchens, I was reading a lot of moral dudgeon and his warnings against “moral nihilism” and how Western civilization was standing on a precipice — and a lot of style but not much substance. It was a way of aligning your class interests with conservatism without calling yourself one, because conservativism was too gauche. And like Hitchens, I don’t think Peterson will age well.

      • Ashley says

        Not sure what that’s got to do with this article or Marxism or anything that I’ve said but thanks for the info.
        Not a Hitchens fan any more.
        So noted.

    • Amin says

      @ Ashley

      “Christopher Hitchens’ “God is not Great”.”

      Yeah? There are 101 “factual” errors in that book. And it is a completely rubbish book – a complete fraud. Never mind the religious – even atheists panned it. It was the ramblings of drunkard who couldn’t put the glass down long enough and sober up to write something worthwhile.

      “Without fail, every review written by a god-botherer was identical”

      No it wasn’t. And this is illogical appeal to authority. You were already, rightly, criticised for your lack of logic…

      “Richard Dawkin’s “The God Delusion””

      Is a better book but has mistakes of its own. Which many “religious” people were right to highlight.

      You seem to have trouble understanding that to dismiss criticism of Atheism by saying that the such critisim is from a theist so is automatically wrong is itself dead wrong. Now substitute for Communism and some patient soul above was trying to get that exact same point across to you…

      • “And it is a completely rubbish book – a complete fraud. Never mind the religious – even atheists panned it.”
        4.6/5 stars on (127 reviews)
        4.6/5 stars on (2296 reviews)
        3.97/5 stars (4371 reviews)
        I would not refer to overwhelmingly positive reviews on multiple platforms by thousands of reviewers as “panned”.
        You seem to have trouble understanding my argument.
        When people’s ideologies get criticized (whether its contemporary religion or communism), their go-to defence is to claim that the person doing the criticizing doesn’t know anything.
        If you knew anything about logic, you’d recognize that immediately as the argument from authority.

        • Amin says

          @ Ashley

          “4.6/5 stars on (127 reviews)
          4.6/5 stars on (2296 reviews)
          3.97/5 stars (4371 reviews)”

          Lol! Doesn’t count for fuck all. How many scholars do you see regularly commenting on any of those sites?

          Here is a reviewer who gave him 5 stars:

          “As a fellow Atheist, Mr. Hitchens is preaching to choir, so to speak”

          Yeah. This should set the alarms off…

          How many ordianry Christians do you think would give 5 stars to the Bible uncritically?

          “When people’s ideologies get criticized (whether its contemporary religion or communism), their go-to defence is to claim that the person doing the criticizing doesn’t know anything.
          If you knew anything about logic, you’d recognize that immediately as the argument from authority.”

          Huh? That is just about what I said above! And I said it to counter you…

  31. Leo Strauss says

    To speak about the debate more generally, I wonder if it would have been better for JP to critique one or two of Zizek’s most important/recent books. That would have compelled Zizek to defend a position instead of just riffing on whatever comes to mind like he often does. His riffs are spectacular, but, it could have been more of a debate if they approached each others’ work. Zizek made a lobster joke, meaning that he might have read 12 Rules, but, I would be interested in seeing him take Maps of Meaning to task. Going after each other’s books might have let us see them operating at full argumentative strength.

  32. peterschaeffer says

    “Many critics have taken issue with his claim about the relationship between these two schools of thought. Marxism is, after all, precisely the sort of “grand narrative” decried by poststructuralist thinkers.”

    For better or worse, poststructuralist thinkers tend to be (without exception?) Marxists.

    Quote from Francis Fukuyama

    “I decided it was total bullshit. They were espousing a kind of Nietzschean relativism that said there is no truth, there is no argument that’s superior to any other argument. Yet most of them were committed to a basically Marxist agenda. That seemed completely contradictory. If you really are a moral relativist, there is no reason why you shouldn’t affirm National Socialism or the racial superiority of Europeans, because nothing is more true than anything else. I thought it was a bankrupt way of proceeding and decided to shift gears and go into political science.”

    Perhaps poststructuralist thinkers should oppose Marxism. The reality is that they don’t, indeed they generally embrace it.

  33. Reb says

    Ummmm….what debate was this author watching? Zizek was largely incomprehensible, and not due to his heavy accent. Between rambling stories and platitudes I found myself feeling sorry for Marxists that this guy was the best they had to offer. Seriously…if my drunk uncle walked in mid debate and didn’t even know the topic he could have done better than Zizek. Zizek’s only 2 pro Marxist comments seemed to be:
    1. Hey look at China, it’s doing well!
    2. “Marxists! What marxists? There are no real marxists anymore!”

    All the author seems to be saying is ‘yeah but we still haven’t tried Real marxism yet, you know the way it is SUPPOSED to work!’
    So sick of this argument. Jordan was the only thing that made that debate watchable.

    • Amin says

      ” Jordan was the only thing that made that debate watchable.”

      No he wasn’t. And the consensus of opnion is against you. This was like watching a really boring 0-0 draw. Peterson knew less about communism than Zizek [a feat in itself]. Wolff would have ripped him apart – hence why Peterson didn’t debate him.

  34. Marx didn’t espouse the idiotic ideas you accuse him of. He espoused different idiotic ideas.

    Best defense of Marx evah!

  35. V 2.0 says

    There are two elements in this debate that need to be kept separate:
    1. Marxism is a faulty economic view of the world. For example, it seems to completely ignore the intellectual labor that goes into organizing these ‘means of production’ it speaks of. Who is worth more? The man who invented the cotton gin and created (admittedly miserable) jobs for thousands or the man standing in front of it?
    2. The totalitarianism and accompanying murder is a direct result of it’s appeal to the true believer in all of us. It sells a better world, the kingdom of God on earth, which gives rise to fanaticism and the usual heretic burning. This can be laid squarely at the door of religion, or rather the impulse to excessively view the world through a mythological framework (what is the downtrodden worker rising under a communist flag but another hero?).

    Personally, I am waiting for the day when we apply some solid engineering to these problems rather than ideology.

    • Are you dumb? The man who invented the cotton gin doesn’t own all the cotton gins. Tesla was a genius who ‘invented the modern world’ and he died in poverty. Capitalism doesn’t really reward the inventors. The guy who really invented cellphones? Similar story. He didn’t get anything. The guy who invented social media? hardly anything. Zuckerberg made slight improvements, and managed it better. That’s who wins. The managers. Not the intellectual laborers.

      • doug deeper says

        Oh M,

        Have you never met an entrepreneur, or visited a factory? If you think the world goes from inventor, who may or may not be a fool when it comes to business, to corporate “manager,” you have never been in the real world of business.

        I have spent most of my life as an entrepreneur and in factories. I have known literally hundreds of “capitalist owners,” largely of small and medium size firms. You base your knowledge on a few you have read about, Eli Whitney, Tesla and Zuckerberg. The vast majority of entrepreneurs I have known and know personally are simply the hardest working, most creative bunch I have ever encountered. And I know lots of academics, professionals and craftsmen as well.

        Very few people have the energy and the sheer will to found and grow a business for more than a few months, fewer still are those willing to make the sacrifices necessary to succeed over time, and fewer still combine the savvy and creativity to out-compete similarly endowed competitors. I founded and grew a large furniture manuf. co. for 28 years. Today I am struggling for 6.5 years building an ed-tech company. The financial risk and personal sacrifice I am making to build this company, my passion, to succeed, I know is rare. I have made enough in furniture and real estate to play the rest of my life.

        Unless you have walked in an entrepreneur’s shoes or known a great many, be at least so humble as to respect that which you know nothing about.

  36. Harry says

    Am I missing something or does the author not understand Marx’ quote below:

    But what has been less widely appreciated is that Marx was far from an advocate of strict “equality of outcome.” In his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program, Marx argued that in the earliest stages of a post-capitalist society, individual workers would have to be compensated unequally for a variety of reasons:

    [O]ne man is superior to another physically, or mentally, and supplies more labor in the same time, or can labor for a longer time; and labor, to serve as a measure, must be defined by its duration or intensity, otherwise it ceases to be a standard of measurement…. To avoid all these defects, right, instead of being equal, would have to be unequal.

    It would appear from the quote that Marx is saying that right of individuals would have to be unequal in order to bring out equal outcome for all individuals. He sees the inherent individual differences as “defects” to be rectified.

    • Jack Mackerel says

      It’s an objective measurement using strict Marxist economic logic, following the theory that all value is created by labor, and thus compensation would differ because the duration and intensity of labor differs. In practical terms this would mean compensating laborers based on hours worked, for instance. Marx envisioned this as a method of distributing goods in “first-stage communism.”

      One way to do this, which caught on in the 19th century, is by replacing money with labor tokens representing hours worked. When you go into a store, the “price” of goods would match the amount of labor put into them: a pair of jeans that takes 15 minutes to produce would be “15-minute jeans.” Tokens would also be one-use-only, like a movie ticket, and there we be no circulation and no profit. Everyone would get exactly back what they put in, and everyone would have an equal obligation to work.

  37. Marx does not deserve better critics, because his ideas are so bad both in theory and in practice that it is a waste of time 150+ years on to continue to discuss him. Marx did not argue that Communism would be a nice way of government if we could implement it; he argued that it was an inevitable result of the contradictions of capitalism. Nevertheless, Communism has only been implemented in countries where it has been violently imposed by a (mostly bourgeois) revolutionary vanguard. And, far from leading to a world revolution and the eventual withering away of the state, Communism has disappeared almost everywhere it has been implemented (after impoverishing those countries). China is not even a good counterexample because they became economically successful only once they abandoned strict Marxism and implemented market reforms.

    There are some things to be said in favour of socialism; I do not agree that it is a good idea, but I can see a reasonable debate about it. Marxism is a ridiculous pseudo-science that should not be taken seriously.

    • hunter says

      You hit nail on head. Marxism/socialism are failed dead end ideas.
      They rate down there with UFOs and creationism.

  38. One of the most striking things about communist parties as they have actually existed is their fixation on ideological purity and party loyalty. The “circular firing squad” of progressives reminds me of nothing so much as the continual infighting and purges within the CP-USA in the 1920’s and 1930’s

    • Jack Mackerel says

      Nah, the CPUSA was way more brutal about it.

  39. EventHorizon says

    The human nature needed to make Marxism work doesn’t exist. This was realized early on when Marxists introduced the “new human” as a workaround. Needless to say, it was an abject failure. Marxism will never be better than capitalism because most people don’t care to wake up one hour earlier and work as hard for the common good as they would work for themselves. Capitalism might be harsh and inequitable, but it doesn’t go against human nature. In fact, it embraces it and thus it is natural.

    • Chad Chen says

      China and Russia generated the highest rates of sustained economic growth in the 20th century, but because of the disappointing performances of socialist eastern Europe and North Korea, copiously exploited by Western propagandists, most Western elites have persuaded the rabble that socialism is a recipe for poverty. Unbelievable. Just like the uninformed people who think Vietnam is a basket case.

      Take off your ideological blinders, folks, and see the squalor of Latin American capitalism, a capitalist system OLDER than that of North America. Look at the squalor of capitalist Africa, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand. You must all be blind.

      • TarsTarkas says

        Latin American capitalism? Que? Ain’t no such beast and never was. All Simon Bolivar & Co. knew about economics is the system they inherited from the Spanish & Portuguese – a command economy based on exploitation of natural and human resources. All that happened was the command economy went local or went in hock to the British. The starving masses stayed starving. Chile is the only non-anglo country south of the equator who can be called capitalistic.

      • Concrete says

        Yes, Komrade, Russia most great success of world!! Russia, one-sixth of world land area, 17 million Km², ranks 11th in world GDP. Japan, free market, ranks 3rd. Japan must stole Russian gold, is no other explain!
        Latin and South AmeriKa so bad, Brazil is #9. Brazil stole Russian silver, is only reason!

        China was Communist during the time of Mao, but created a politically authoritarian, economically capitalist system with far less regulation than the West today. Two stones in the new mountain: China now is the #1 or #2 importer of Rolls-Royce cars and has over one million millionaires. How was it built? With a combination of government incentive and private action, China developed a strong entrepreneurial environment which has created enormous wealth. For example, Foxconn, Inc. is a privately owned multinational corporation and its owner is a billionaire.

        Uhm, but they are Socialist multinational corporate millionaires, is different!

      • Peter from Oz says

        You need to remember the old adage that 10% of nothing is still nothing.
        BTW, the USSR fudged all of its statistics.

      • hunter says

        Chad Chen,
        It is not that the critics are blind but rather that you are delusional.

  40. Hamish Alcorn says

    The author’s central point – that Peterson is underqualified to seriously debate the corpus of Marx’s thought – is well made.

    a) The Communist Manifesto, the logic of which Peterson did grasp and argue against decisively, remains the most widely read Marxist document. I am a book seller and that is what young people constantly ask for. Very few people read Kapital. Fewer still read the brilliant polemic which is The 18th Brumaire of Lois Bonaparte, which Zizek mentioned. In itself a rubishing of the Manifesto on its own is completely reasonable, from the perspective of its intellectual influence on the young.
    b) It’s hard not to notice how much of Peterson’s critique Zizek – an actual expert in Marxist thought – agreed with.

    The author’s well-made points notwithstanding, this was an excellent debate between two wonderful intellectuals, both of whom appeared to be focused on what they should be focused on – the actual intellectual and social impact of the ideas under disputation. A more correct, informed academic discussion of Marx’s thought would be excellent for sure, but may not have served us as well, in my view.

  41. Cedric says

    Two things:

    (1) To say that in order to properly discuss Marx you have to constantly be reading his stuff beginning to end (e.g., the Manifesto) is like saying a critic of religion has to constantly be reading the Bible, the Quran, the Book of Mormon, Dianetics, and every other religion’s text. There is enough study material on Marx’s work (and on religious doctrines) to know it without having to read the work itself over and over. I felt that was a weak argument regarding Peterson’s alleged lack of bona fides. (Also, why would you spend all your time reading Marx if you hate his ideas? Just so you could argue with people? The person in the debate I would expect to be a Marx expert would be the other guy.)

    (2) A constant refrain I have noticed in modern arguments supporting socialism is that the state should have greater control over existing industry (i.e., industry created by capitalism – we saw vivid examples of this in Venezuela, if I’m not mistaken). The author even mentioned the Paris Commune where the workers took over factories abandoned by their owners. Are there any examples out there of socialists building something rather than just taking over something someone else had built? (I know it sounds like a snarky question, but I am asking in good faith, I promise.)

    • Leo Strauss says


      I think Marxism is a massively incorrect account of human nature and therefore not worth pursuing. But, the Communist Manifesto is a 25 page rhetorical document designed to whip up people’s passions. The Marxist “Bible” would be Capital. Peterson’s critique of the Manifesto would be would be like an atheist reading Paul’s Letter to the Romans and skipping the Gospels.

      I found the critique of the Manifesto to be helpful and accurate but if JP wanted to convince anyone who didn’t already agree with, merely commenting on the Manifesto is not enough.

      In a sense, though, I agree with you; some of my friends mentioned “late stage” capitalism–why didn’t he read Lenin, Adorno, Marcuse, etc, etc. So, you are right to say that Marxists shouldn’t be able to hide behind the large number of re-interpretations of Marxism that have happened in light of the earlier failures of Marx, etc.

      As for your second point, it is a great question and I would be interested to hear the answer.

      • Cedric says


        Thanks for the thoughtful response. I should have framed it as: studying analyses, reference material, etc., can educate you on a subject better than just reading the source material can.

    • neoteny says

      Are there any examples out there of socialists building something rather than just taking over something someone else had built?

      There are many examples of such projects. One is the Moscow Canal:

      The Wiki article mentions that it was built with 200,000 slave labourers, but doesn’t mention that some 22,000 of those died during construction.

      So socialists building something isn’t meaningful without asking: at what price were those things built?

  42. Peter from Oz says

    If you are an atheist, there is not much point in taking part in a debate over the doctrine of St Augustine. It is the same with Marxism. It is a creed that only a few old wankers and some silly young people can now believe.
    There are in fact no front line marxists in any position of power anywhere today. There are plenty of folk-marxists and socialists from traditions other than Marxism, but real marxists have no influence whatsoever. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Marxism was defeated as a serious ideology.
    Listen to the leaders of the left today, and you will never hear the word “proletariat” pass their lips. None of them have ever read or ever intend to read Marx. What has happened is that over the years a generational game of Chinese whispers has taken place. The first generation imbibed Marx and passed their interpretation on to a second generation, who read less Marx and passed on a garbled version of the ideas to the next generation. And this process kept on going until now, where the broad spectrum of the left has really forgotten Marx altogether, but still carry on with a few of his ideas, distorted into a strange new creed that is even sillier than the original. That is folk-Marxism. Instead of a class struggle we now have intersectionality and identity politics. Instead of state ownership we now have state subsidy and crony capitalism. The idea that all human relationships are now seen as relationships between the oppressors and oppressed is another distortion of Marxist thought. Whereas the old oppression was supposedly economic today it’s all about unalterable characteristics. But in both cases it is about collectivism and the utter rejection of individuality.
    One thing you can bet with utter certainty is that Bernie Sanders, Occasio Cortez and the rest of the far left of the Democratic Party and their fellow travellers have never read Marx. They are folk marxists at best or socialists in the older British tradition.
    Marxism is now a theme park philosophy of the past which has as much relevance as the religion followed by the Aztecs at the time of the Conquistadores. It is interesting for historians and for those studying the roots of today’s SJW madness, but it is no longer something worth debating in itself.

    • Chris says

      Peter from Oz….,great comment.

      When a critical comment is made of Socialism, or Marxism the response is often “that’s not the real meaning of it” Well maybe it’s just too complicated for us poor old regular folk! Or maybe it’s just a wide load of bullshit.

      If it’s really that hard to get right it’s probably not going to work out.

    • Nathan says

      This is a fantastic synopsis of the current state affairs.

  43. Joseph Tomasic says

    I suppose that Ben Burgis was too shocked to hear JBP say a minute later, “…it was quite a miraculous re-read…” Kind of spoils the rest of the piece for me.

  44. Lifesong says

    Bad arguments are easy to undermine. Marxism doesn’t need better critics, it needs legitimacy. That’s something it doesn’t have and by my estimation never will have. A free market has huge authoritative advantages Marxism can’t hope to touch. One is measured in degrees of success. The other is measured in degrees of disaster. They aren’t on comparable ground.

    The thing Jordan Peterson helps to illustrate is that Marxism’s baseline principles are wrong on a psychological level. For that reason you can criticize them with psychology. In that situation you don’t need to engage with the economic potential of the Marxist manifesto. It’s barely relevant. Who cares if Marxist economic principles work theoretically if they don’t work for humans?

    What I heard Peterson say is that he reread the communist manifesto before the debate. Not that he hadn’t read it. He did say that he hadn’t read it in full since he was 18. He’s not an economist. I don’t see why that’s a problem or even a surprise.

    I was surprised by how poorly Zizek represented communism. His best defense was to admit that he admires other things Marx wrote. Who knows, maybe they are interesting. Do they absolve the communist manifesto? I don’t feel like reading through flawed economic predictions to find out. I’d be interested to hear someone give a good criticism of them. Do they deserve it? I have no reason to think they do. This debate didn’t give me a single reason to think Marxism deserves a better critic. Zizek didn’t give one.

  45. John says

    I watched/listening to this “debate” which was hyped as the “debate of the century”.
    It was excruciatingly BORING.

    If Jordan Peterson is lauded as one of the preeminent “experts” on the human condition in the Western world then in my opinion we really ARE in deep trouble.

    Everybody either becomes or is deeply imprinted with what they associate or put their attention on on a regular basis. Or even momentarily for that matter.
    Why would any sane person “decorate” his house or living space with the life-negative relics of Soviet communism?
    One’s house or living space should be a life-positive place filled with light and beauty.

  46. Stephen says

    A great thing about Dr Peterson is his lack of ego. He would probably agree.

  47. Fickle Pickle says

    Augustine of course was one of principal proponents of the entirely bogus doctrine of original sin. Humankind has been cursed with benighted doctrine ever since!

    By contrast Jesus taught that every single human being should repent or transcend sin. He taught that the Spiritual Way of doing and practicing this was to Love The Living Divine being absolutely or with every minute fraction of ones entire body-mind-complex. And then on that basis practice self-transcending love in relation to all seeming “other” human beings, knowing/recognizing that in Truth and Reality they ARE YOU.
    But what is sin anyway?
    It is to be entire Godless!
    It is moment to moment active denial of The Living Divine Reality in which, and as which all of this, including the entire human body-mind-complex is spontaneously arising.

    Sin or the active denial of The Living Divine Reality is the worst cancer in the universe. It is the worst sickness. It is the most horrific dis-ease. Its implications cover and darken the entirety of everyone’s life. The world is filled with its symptoms and reeks with its torments and potentials, coming from all directions, most of which people cannot even see.

  48. Michael Bethune says

    Petersen often makes broad unfounded generalisations with great authority.
    That he is ignorant of Marx would not surprise.
    Determining Marx’s views on almost anything is difficult given the volume of his writings.
    There always seems to be a counter example, and as the author of this piece points out,
    often one can only surmise what he meant – we think he meant the Paris Commune as the Dictatorship of the proletariat but no one can really be sure.

    • Arche Lasalles says

      Hello Michael,
      Aren’t you doing the same?
      Examples where Peterson makes “broad unfounded generalisations” please. My experience has been he always backs up his conclusions with evidence.
      Peterson was referring to The Communist Manifesto not every Marx utterance.
      “We think he meant” Isn’t that the problem? Whatever he “meant” is irrelevant if it always translates into into tragedy.

      • Michael Bethune. says

        Hi Arche,
        I’m agreeing with the article, that Marxism should be critiqued, but from someone better informed than Petersen. The debate was about Marxism, that Petersen has only read the Manifesto rules him out as a serious contender.
        This article is exactly right in calling Petersen out for his grand generalisation about “equality of outcomes” which he cannot substantiate. Moreover, his manner of delivery, with authority,
        leaves many in the audience, possibly such as yourself, with the belief that he has
        extensive footnotes to back his statements, but as shown in this case, when subjected
        to scrutiny he is wearing no clothes.
        My point is that this is typical of the man.
        That he came to prominence from publishing a North American self help book is
        entirely indicative of his intellectual depth outside his area of expertise.

        • Arche Lasalles says

          Oh Michael, still waiting for your ‘evidence’? Perhaps it is JP that deserves better critics?
          Are you really suggesting widespread ‘equality of outcome’ from the Marx ‘inspired’ is not a thing?
          As I previously stated but you conveniently ignored, Marx’s intention &/or his other more ‘balancing’ works are irrelevant when only the chaff is valued. Marx like Islam, is only the preferred totalitarian car that many in their target audience possibly such as yourself are too naive or romantic to notice.
          Funny that one who decries arrogance is above self help even at the expense of helping many.
          Seems 12 rules might come in handy least where it is wanted…..

          • Michael Bethune says

            Hi Arche,
            Thanks for your interest.
            If you want a more expanded version of my take on Marx see my comment below.
            In respect of “Examples where Peterson makes “broad unfounded generalisations” please.”
            12 Rules for life?

          • Michael Bethune. says

            Hi Archie,
            Thanks for your interest.
            You mistakenly presume I’m batting for Marx, my comment below in respect of Marx may be of interest.
            My evidence for JP making grand generalisations?
            That there are 12 rules for life would be a start.

  49. Michael Bethune says

    The line is clear from Marx ,or the Left in general, to Stalin – it is the belief that its political opponents are not simply wrong but bad.

    Foundational in Marx’s thinking is the idea of class consciousness, that one’s ideas arise from one’s material circumstances, from one’s class position. If one’s ideas are formed simply to perpetuate ones own class advantage then there is no arguing, no persuasion is possible.

    That material circumstances make the Man is absolutely foundational to Marx’s thinking,
    it isn’t a minor stray observation apparent in only one or two quotes, it runs through his entire
    work, though curiously it contradicts to his own personal history and that of Engels.

    If you disagree, it’s not because you disagree in good faith, no, you are racist or class enemy and
    you have to be shutdown … or eliminated. This is the origin of the Left’s intolerance to pluralism
    Where the Left can, they shout you down, ban you from speaking, cancel visas, run you off
    campus, and where they have the instruments of violence at their disposal ….

  50. aaroutio says

    At first glance, the author has a point. The problem is he didn’t live in the USSR, while I did. That system only worked for those on the top. In socialist countries workers were way worse off that their counterparts under capitalism. Marx laid a very sweet foundation for multiple social ‘experiments’ in the past century. His theories were so attractive because of the noble goal – to help poor and ‘oppressed’. The problem was they didn’t take into account human nature, and Peterson points out the ultimate fallacy – hundreds of millions dead. Sometimes the big picture is way more important than ‘attention to details’.

  51. Thank you Mr Burgis for posting on Quillette. I was previously unaware Marx conceding the equality of outcome could not be possible, at least at first. I am unlikely to live to witness the next step in the post capitalist evolution of human society, I hope for all of us it does not cost another 100 million souls. We rely so much on technology now, eventually a candidate solution to the economic calculation debate will spontaneously emerge, it will be interesting to see what new mechanism replaces the division of labour and the great economy of scale of resource allocation through simple prices. Lets hope we live in a political system that will allow multiple new global systems to emerge, be tested and cast off by popular vote.

  52. Bill Smith says

    JP was not at his best at this event. He seemed way off his game. It did not help that SZ started by stating that he isn’t really a Marxist, that he only says that to be provocative. JP was debating a ghost.

    The crux of SZ’s argument was global warming and China. Does Marxism run on green energy? The dark brown haze you see hanging over every Chinese city suggests otherwise. The former Soviet Union was an ecological disaster.

    But I disagree with the title of this essay. Marx is deserving of absolutely nothing. His scientific socialism has been completely discredited: 100+ million corpses is argument enough.

    • dirk says

      But Bill, those 100+ million corpses? And I read it again and again here, can they be attributed to person and author and activist Marx? Or even to the Marxists (those cultrual Marxists, for example)? What about the corpses of the crusades and religious wars like the bloody German 30yr war 17th century? Attribute it to Jesus Christ? I wonder very much.

  53. Gwyddion Flint says

    Marx was writing about the emancipation of the prolatariat and the working class. Why he didn’t write most hofohis work in a way the working class could actually read and understand it is probabably the same reason he didn’t deserve better critics. Peterson’s work is far more useful for everyday people in an immediate sense. Because it is more accessable. Unfortunately the left seem to have given up on the working class, especially the poor whites and white working class. Until this is redressed why would anyone take academic and Champaign socialism seriously?

  54. Antonio de Llamas says

    “Marx Deserves Better Critics” No he doesn’t
    And Karl Marx WAS an intransigent advocate of violent revolution, so much that he died bitter at the “Marxist” Social Democratic Party of Germany for playing the democratic game around the 1870’s instead of pushing for a violent revolution

  55. Owntown Dart Scene says

    So… another in a series of articles in which Quillette totally proves it’s cool by flicking its peas at Peterson and Rubin’s table? How’s that working out?

    Marx doesn’t “deserve better critics”. He requires a better justification, all things considered. Not really expecting one from the Zizeks and Teen Vogues of the world though.

  56. Geoffrey Scoitius says

    I agree with Ben on very little politically, but intellectually I completely agree with his premise. Arguing with a caricature of Marx is not arguing with Marx. At the very least read Capital.

    I teach research method and applied philosophy in a university, and I teach multiple methods for doing work. This includes having a good understanding of Marx, Post-Modernists, Liberal, and Traditional (East and West) methods. I require my students to wrestle with these idea sets in their work as well.

    I am not a Marxist, but I can concede that the system has to be popular for a reason. It answers intellectual questions in a satisfying way to some people. Also a Marxist can use their method to analyse data to come to an good conclusion to non Marxists.

    • Peter from Oz says

      Why bother arguing with Marxism at all? It’s not worth the time or effort. It can just be dismissed as rubbish without much ceremony. Every regime that tried it was a spectacular failure. We have all leant so much more than poor old Marx ever knew. We know that Marxism is all drivel. How so many people could be fooled by such an obvious charlatan and mountebank is a real mystery. But too many humans are eaten up with the most deplorable vice of all, envy, and that vice is the basis of most left wing ideology.

  57. rickoxo says

    I think much of the problem we’re having today with this debate of “capitalism vs. communism” is that no country practices anything like a pure version of either of those. So the folks criticizing JP’s take on communism want to point to every possible variant or alternate interpretation of Marx’s writings or some other economist’s take on what communism “really is” but it’s a moving target. Most people get that the job of digging into the most authentic interpretation of Marx’s writings is not worth the time.

    But when people call China “a capitalist country where the government owns the means of production”, that’s using words in some incredibly loose terms. That there is no rule of law in China, the government can pick winners, losers, take anything it wants, promote anything it wants, basically do anything it wants. That means it’s not anything at all like a true capitalist country. But the reality is, no country operating today is a true, capitalist country. Every country is socialist to varying degrees no matter how little some folks seem to think of the word.

    China is a single party dictatorship with complete control over the economic systems of the country, that uses varying degrees of market economic strategies to accomplish party goals. Pointing to Venezuela as a socialist country is like Mike Tyson wanting to box a 5 year old. It was a disaster, poorly governed country before it became oil rich and tried its wacko version of socialism and of course it was a disaster. If you want to argue about socialism, look across the range of European countries (not just the Scandinavian ones) and find the issues you want to argue about. All of the countries embrace certain aspects of capitalist, market driven economies. All of the countries embrace certain aspects of government control of critical aspects of the economy with varying degrees of tightness of regulation across the remainder of the economies.

    The idea that there is such a thing now a days as communism or capitalism was the dumbest part of the debate. To debate the history of the ideas, sure, but who cares that much and why? To figure out where we go from here and what we should do about the problems we face now, we’ve got to come up with some new language that lets go of capitalism and communism as some ideas that any one is actually striving towards.

    Every country is a socialist country. Every country has significant regulation of private industry, significant government ownership or control of varying means of production, significant taxation, distributive economic policies, etc. This argument is done. Let it be done.

    The arguments about more control, less taxation, regulate this, don’t tax that, those are the real arguments that are left to have. The problem is, the details are ridiculously complex, they dangerously incentivize rent seeking and power selling and they’re incredibly hard to test empirically. Add in the current push towards polarization of political thinking and participation and the scene is as ripe as it’s ever been for the political elite class to take turns going back and forth making money off of the changing rules they put in place.

    • Peter from Oz says

      Well did. I would add a small cavil which is that the kind of “socialism” you find in western countries is not a Marxist socialism, but a socialism that comes from other sources.
      The mistake that many people make is that Marxism is the only game in town when it comes to socialism. There was and is a strong liberal and Fabian tradition of socialism. It tore the British Liberal party apart in the Great War as half the party stuck with its laissez faire roots and the other half wanted active policies to ameliorate what they saw as the downside of capitalism.

  58. Ivo Stanoev says

    “Marx Deserves Better Critics”,
    and so does Jordan Peterson.

  59. Alfons Kuchlbacher says

    What I see in the debate and in many comments (not especially here) is, that the left is winning their old game again: Usurping the language. “No, identy politics is not Marxism! No, those atrocities has nothing to do with socialism! No, that’s not socialism, it’s liberalism!”
    As Dr. Peterson mentioned in the debate, that the system of his contrahent should better be called Zizekism.
    Yes, they both agree in many things, but when it comes down to the fundamental question: Who is in charge? – this cannot be broken further down: Either you hold the individual as the highest judge, or some predefined collective. And with Dr. Peterson: “Choose. Suffer the consequences.”

  60. Zachary Snowdon Smith says

    I’m glad to see Quillette running a piece like this. It would be fortunate if Peterson took the aftermath of this debate as an opportunity to gain a more sophisticated understanding of Marxism.

  61. C Young says

    Wolff is a democratic socialist

    So he prefixes socialist with ‘democratic’ ? There is a political movement that calls itself ‘libertarian communist’, does that make it OK? History indicates otherwise. Chavez’s regime started as ‘democratic socialist’ with ‘groundbreaking experiments’ in grassroots democracy. But these experiments always fail. Once they have failed, there are two options. Give up, or go all out for authoritarian rule.

    what little work still needed to be done by humans could be accomplished by everyone just pursuing whatever projects happened to interest them. “From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs.”

    Marx was notoriously inconsistent. So much so that its hardly worth talking about the details of the historical figure. Marx wasn’t a contemporary Marxist, just as Jesus wasn’t a modern Christian. His vision of utopia was drawn from the poets of his time.

    Some of Marx’s (best) writing was sharply anti-communist. As John Gray writes ‘Writing in the Rhineland News in 1842 in his very first piece after taking over as editor, Marx launched a sharp polemic against Germany’s leading newspaper, the Augsburg General News, for publishing articles advocating communism. He did not base his assault on any arguments about communism’s impracticality: it was the very idea that he attacked. Lamenting that “our once blossoming commercial cities are no longer flourishing,” he declared that the spread of Communist ideas would “defeat our intelligence, conquer our sentiments,” an insidious process with no obvious remedy.’

    Critics of Marxism may argue that radical experiments like the Paris Commune are by their nature dangerously chaotic. Perhaps there are even good reasons to believe that this ultra-democratic model would eventually deteriorate into something as ugly as the Soviet experience.

    Yes. That is the point. As Kristian Niemietz pointed out here, it has failed in exactly the same way, over and over and over again. Enough with the experiments.

  62. Michael Bethune says

    The “Debate” didn’t appear to have a contention being debated.
    Certainly the moderator didn’t appear to specify what it was if there was one.
    If Marx needs better critics, Marx needs better defenders than Zizek.

    In spite of Petersen’s ignorance of the subject, he did a better job criticising Marx than Zizek did defending it, assuming that was what Zizek was doing. At least Petersen stayed on point, whereas Zizek’s just appeared to ramble to irrelevance.

  63. Michael Bethune says

    Marxism lives, though perhaps not in a form that Marx would recognise.
    Identity politics that characterises society as consisting of a white male oppressor group versus a welter of oppressed groupings, is fundamentally Marxist.

    The idea that the key political question is the division of the economic cake rather than growing it fundamentally Marxist.

    The idea that your personal economic circumstances are best progressed by engaging in industrial class struggle than personal skill enhancement is fundamentally Marxist.

    The idea that your ideas are formed to perpetuate your privilege or undermine that of others is again Marxist in nature.

    Marxism is one of the mother lodes of bad ideas.

  64. Andy Simo says

    Firstly it’s great to see an article that provides counter-point.

    Second I think JP has a particular narrow vision of Marxism in that he mainly roots it from the current PM/SJW/PolCor that directly affects him and his sphere. This isn’t a critique, it’s a rational position, but to expand that idea and use it to thwack Marxism in entirety was always going to be problematic.

    Third, the take-home for me was that civil discourse can take place even in matters where opponents are half-armed and diametrically opposed (a lesson to the courser commentary seen here…).

    Finally for me it reinforces my view that the middle-path of uninspiring balance is the better one that we should evolve into – make money, spend wisely; don’t let the wealth gap get too great (guillotine) nor impose false forced equity (gulag). Both Cap and Soc have certain elements to draw on, but (as mentioned) Soc unfortunately completely forgets the human element in the equation which inevitably leads to disaster – it’s easy to get votes by appealing to the ‘many not the few’, especially when you wear a cloak of compassion, and that is all any of the political class are after rather than wanting necessarily to make the country a better place for all.

  65. Fickle Pickle says

    A superb Marxist analysis of the deadly “logic” of postmodern capitalism as it was being dramatized all over the planet in 2004.

    Note the unspeakably vile sado-masochistic snuff/splatter movie featured in this review. A movie in
    which the “hero” representing every single living-breathing-feeling human being, and humankind is systematically beaten to death.

    At the time this unspeakably vile movie was touted as an excellent vehicle for spreading the “good news” of the Gospel. Especially by all of the usual “conservative” or right wing Christian suspects, including the then pope.

  66. Rev. Wazoo! says

    The crux of the article is akin to asserting that Beowulf, and The Canterbury Tales were in in simply “English” rather than Old or Middle English. If only the direct words of St. Marx count as “Marxism” then I should be able to read the aformentioned texts without any help.

    Peterson might circumvent this purist belief by refering to Marxist-Leninist thought instead but St Marx would still be held up as the one true path to a proletarian paradise.

  67. Nick Podmore says

    Marxism, Communism, Socialism – WILL ALWAYS fail, unless at the community level where a group decides to adopt a collectivist approach. All of the above simply do not account for the biologically competitive nature of humans and animals. We do not get up and labour for the greater good, we never have and never will, we toil for ourselves and should be free to demand / command the price we wish..any attempt to thwart this evolutionary biological drive requires force and fiat, hence why these regimes collapse into totalitarianism. Successful socialism or communism requires that we all happily buy into some Utopian dream that we are all equal or should all be equal and that a big government will look after us and direct our lives…which is preposterous! There are no successful strictly socialist / communist societies, never have been and never will be. They all rely entirely on wealth generated through free market economics. The Nordic/Scandi countries are a case in point leftists in the US always point toward these countries as socialist – they are not. They are free market capitalist economies where everyone has agreed to pay high taxes in order to fund generous social programs.

  68. Agree that I was underwhelmed by Peterson’s critique of Marxism. Perhaps because i have heard it a hundred times before and it has not changed. Was impressed by what Zizek brought to the debate in terms of flare and wit. Made it engaging and fresh. But this was always going to be a ‘friendly’ match. Were not going to sort out the eternal socialist vs capitalist debate here in two and a half hours, but at least some are willing to have a go of it.

  69. Jon Burack says

    This slides past the central point about Marx’s analysis. His prediction of steady immiseration of the proletariat. Yes, Marx saw the productive power of bourgeois capitalism. He failed totally to understand the real nature of its distributive power. Even with income inequality remaining high, innovation inevitably distributes evenly to more and more of the poor. It does this by adding value not captured by prices and wages. Hence even poor people today carry around in their cell phones more computing power than the Pentagon could afford in 1950. Sure, they are still poor, relatively speaking and even in some basic ways. But they are all living a lot longer and better in spite of that.

    • Jack Mackerel says

      Zizek addressed this point in the debate — Marx laid out a half-dozen countervailing tendencies within capitalism that would not automatically lead to the immiseration of the poor. And there was no doubt that Marx saw capitalism as overall a progressive force and an engine for growth and technological change. Again, critics of Marx are poorly read.

      It is the case that Marx predicted a long-term decline in profitability. This is easily observed today in the global economy, and is something that is regularly commented on in IMF reports — hardly a bastion of Marxist thought. As a result, the bourgeoisie wads up its money and throws it at whatever smells like it could make a return no matter how speculative or unproductive, creating destabilizing asset bubbles like we saw in 2007-2008. Capitalism is not out of the woods yet.

  70. Bill Dalasio says

    The problem with Marxism was explained by Hayek 75 years ago – the information problem. The price system of the free market functions as a perpetual, real-time transmitter of information about human needs and wants that provides the basis for production and distribution decisions. Absent the price system, you don’t have a means to make those decisions relative to actual people. You have no way of deciding how many people you want to make farmers or doctors or Quillette writers (as one example). As a result, economic decisions will ALWAYS be made outside of the context of human wants and needs. Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot weren’t just unfortunate accidents of bad Marxist leadership. They were the inevitable outcome of where trying to run a society outside the price system must go.

    • Jack Mackerel says

      Hayek was arguably correct at the time about the free market acting as a transmission mechanism. GOSPLAN planners in downtown Moscow were able to calculate the values of several thousand distinct products in the 1950s — which actually worked — but by the late 1960s there were several million distinct goods circulating in the economy after the Khrushchev reforms: this was impossible to calculate. But today we have supercomputers that would be considered alien objects from the perspective of people in the 1950s, and it is the case that some of the largest corporations in the world today don’t even need to use suggested retail prices anymore (Amazon) thanks to the algorithm. When the Soviets set their own prices, liberal economists looked on in horror at “Soviet-style price fixes.”

      • Chris Power says

        This has to be the most naive post on this board. Since humans wants and needs are unlimited, even a supercomputer cannot enough bandwidth will not be able to adjust to handle that. Even if it could make the determination of how many of what products to supply at a given price, a large monolithic entity would not be able to provide those products in a quick and efficient manner. The best that could be done with central planning is to make lots of one particular product which limits choice. Basically, you can have any four door sedan that you want as long as it is black. Oh and you will have to wait 10 years to receive it because there is a backlog at the factory.

  71. Philip says

    One comment. You dismiss the concept of “equality of outcome” as a flaw by claiming Marx believed no such thing. But that is simply wrong. The quote of Marx you give is describing exactly equality of outcome…. giving different people more because of their circumstance. Equality of opportunity is gaining what your ability gives you, equality of outcome is getting what the state determines you need. What is ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his need’ if not a statement of equality of outcome. It’s the definition! If you want equality of opportunity you have to change it to…. ‘TO each according to his ability’. Oh Marx certainly believed in equality of outcome. It’s ingrained.

  72. BTJ says

    “If one of the primary drivers of the global decline of extreme poverty is its decline in the People’s Republic, is this a success story for “free market” capitalism or for a modified and liberalized form of state socialism?”

    Can the author name those principles of socialism that are manifested in today’s China? Recent news I read are more like these:

  73. Pavel Dvorak says

    If you are looking for better critics to answer your dillemas I would suggest – the Marxists. Having grown up and studied in Eastern Europe, despite my degree being purely engineering I have several semesters of “Marxism” completed by rigorous exams. And in the mind of the thousands of Marxist scientists who studied this literally for generations in the Soviet research institutes (where in fact very little else was studied) in half of Europe and produced volumes, volumes and volumes of books, articles, conferences and news articles about every possible angle of everything there was zero doubt that the only true culmination, or practical realisation of the great ideas of Marx was the Leninist and Stalinist state. Where are all these Marxists I would like to ask Zizek. They had no time for the nuances of the “temporary” nature of the dictatorship of the proletariat. You either loved the Soviet Union for eternity or you went to jail.

    • Jack Mackerel says

      Where are all those Marxist-Leninists? They became ultra-right-wing nationalists like Milosevic.

  74. Closed Range says

    I’ve recently started a flat earth party, and my main argument is that our critics are wrong because they didn’t really address the nuance that when we say the earth is flat, we actually allow for a little bit of non-flatness, more like a pizza, or the scales on a galactic turtle that’s supporting it. Obviously we didn’t mean the earth was literally flat, duh, anyone can see that there’s mountains. We really deserve better critics. Who’s with me?

    • Peter from Oz says

      Closed Range
      Great analogy. Marxism was an interesting cul de sac. It spawned folk marxism and post modernism, but it really isn’t worth studying any more

  75. Michael says

    Frankly speaking I am always surprised why do we at all discussing Marxism? This murderous ideology has taken almost 100 million of lives in 20-th century alone. This fact by itself must be more than enough.

    • Jack Mackerel says

      In the 1960s, the CIA assisted in the murder of 1.5 million people in Indonesia using garrote wire and machetes to stop the spread of communism in that country — more than the number of people killed in Stalin’s purges (using numbers from Timothy Snyder, by no means a communist). I don’t see many liberals losing sleep over this. I hope you’re also including the number of Wehrmacht battle deaths in that statistic, which is usually counted as “victims of communism” when I see these statistics trotted out.

  76. Michael says

    One more point; Marxist ideology must outlawed and not debated

  77. Matthew says

    As someone who is a Peterson follower as well as someone who have not watched the debate yet, I found this article mostly palatable until the last paragraph. Ending on China is probably not how you want to drive home your argument that Peterson is not the best critic against Marxism.

    I encourage you to see this event as more of a discussion rather than a debate. We need to avoid anything resembling the model that the MSM uses. That lens is toxic and should be avoided.

  78. Andreas K. says

    I recommend the work of Pitirim Sorokin. A Russian socialist and member of the provisional government overthrown by the Bolsheviks, he was in his non-political life a professor of Sociology at the Petrograd university, living through and writing commentary upon the newborn Soviet Union until exiled from Russia as a dissident in the early ’20s. While his persecution at the hands of the Bolsheviks inspired him to make a dramatically emotional renunciation of socialism and revolution, his partisan bias is generally tempered by his keen observations about human social character, and informed by his personal experience with the whole spectrum of society, both its preindustrial and its industrial sections.

  79. Jimmy Dzembo says

    This is the same problem that Peterson runs into in ALL of his debates because people seem unable to understand Pragmatism. In a pragmatist viewpoint, people are fueled fundamentally with the conclusions they WANT to draw. It was born of thinkers in this exact same time period (mid-late 1800’s and early 1900’s).. these people noticed this seemingly universal human trait in a time where people were arguing for/against things like slavery, science, religion, evolution, etc. They also noticed what people would IGNORE and that peoples actions really showed you what they believed and valued. For this reason, a definition of a word is what the majority believe it to be.

    For Peterson, Marxism is what the majority of self-identified Marxists actually act as. And the VAST majority of self-identified Marxists have only ever read The Communist Manifesto IF THAT. And if they HAVEN’T, they do spew the same things that are in that book. Zizek didn’t even argue against this, he admitted that The Communist Manifesto IS a propaganda pamphlet and nothing more. If the vast majority of people who claim to be Marxist only know about the very simplified views that were designed NOT as a actual functional view of progress, but as a provocative propaganda piece designed only to get attention… then that’s what Marxism IS.

    If we’re going to talk about the more nuanced views of Marx, we’re either going to have to be VERY critical of the “Marxists” who spew the nonsense of The Communist Manifesto or we’re going to have to abandon the word Marxist and come up with a new word to make the distinction clear or both.

  80. Jim Matlock says

    The article was mildly interesting but seeing it in quillette along with others of similar leftward tilt reminds me of Robert Conquest’s Second Law “Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.”

    Will we start seeing a greater and greater number of liberals and leftist writers appearing in these pages? If so, so be it. That seems to be the way of the world according to Conquest. But I will take my interest and my support elsewhere. I can get all the left wing opinion I want from Quartz or Medium or Vox or Slate or HuffPost, etc.

    • Doug F says

      Quillette is about free speech not left or right. If we object to left-leaning articles then how are we different than the screamers shutting down free speech at our campuses?

  81. Ben Taylor says

    The best critique of Marx can be found in Hayek’s work. Prices are signals from buyers to sellers, and without those signals the sellers will have no idea how much of a certain good to produce. In addition, profits provide incentives for people to innovate, so in a Marxist society (where there is no such thing as profit) there will be no innovation whatsoever.

    • dirk says

      No innovations at all, but how come then that Yuri Gagarin flying in space around the world, and the US with all its capitalism and free markets only much lateron?

      • Truthseeker says

        Dirk – you point to Yuri Gagarin and conveniently leave out the moon landing or the thousands of satellites that have been launched by the US and the West? How about the iPhone that you probably base your life around? The USSR paupered itself trying to keep up with the US and collapsed under its own weight. Like the US, the USSR space program was built around Nazi scientists “recruited” from Germany after WWII. Are you going to credit the Nazis with the innovation? You may as well as they were socialists too.

      • Ben Taylor says

        Dirk, you are correct: my wording was too strong. There will still be innovation, but there will be far less of it, and the government is likely to direct the innovation in the “wrong” places.

    • Chad Chen says

      Innovation is a creative process, and most innovators are curious tinkerers for whom “profit” is the icing on the cake that others usually feast on.

      Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet et al. are the richest men in America, but they have played minor roles in American technological innovation. Few people even know the names of the men who developed the industrial and post-industrial (computer) technologies that made America a wealthy and powerful nation.

      In Russia and China, which have innovated their rise to the status of great industrial powers, most new technology is created by men who work for a pittance and die in obscurity.

      But the simple-minded fairy tale about incentives for innovation never goes away.

      • dirk says

        Indeed, Chad & Ben, innovation is generally the result of passion for improvement by scientists and technologists without the least longing for profit. I remember a Russian landlord looking trhough his binoculars and solving a very important fytopathological problem, saving millions and millions in the saurkraut industry. I wonder whether he even knew about these results and profits, he was just curious and worked something out. How many more of them? Thousands and thousands, I fear. Others go with the bounty.

      • Doug F says

        This might be a stronger post with some references of substance. As it stands it really has no meaning.

        The fact that our culture created a wealthy and powerful nation is some indication that it does some thing right.

  82. Barry Dixon says

    “The most shocking moment of the Žižek-Peterson debate occurred during the first five minutes”. NO … the most revealing moments were throughout Zizeks delivery … Typical Marxist dialectics of the three card Schuster.

  83. Andrew says

    I saw the debate live. The writer of this article fails to mention that the first words out of Zizek were “OK communism is a failed experiment of the 20th century, let’s learn from this and move forward”. Those were the utterances of a marxist. Both participants agree the best economic system is a capitalist one that funds social programs. The debate quickly became about the degree to which capitalism should be regulated.

  84. Truthseeker says

    Peterson’s critique is of the current radical left which is as he describes it. He often points out the inconsistencies of the melding of post modernism and its rejection of grand narratives with cultural Marxism which is a grand narrative. The modern left are even more ignorant of Marxism than the current critics. Peterson also points out the volume of the work of Zizek was too much for him to absorb in the time frame was allowed between the time the debate was confirmed to when it occurred. It seemed to me that Zizek is also not a fan of how Marxism has been used and how it will invariably manifest itself in a society.

    The problem for the West is increasingly that it is being corrupted by big corporatism. The problem for the left is that the corruption of big government has caused the death of hundreds of millions in the 20th Century. The common factor here (as Peterson has often pointed out) is BIG. Power without responsibility creates tyranny. The answer is not only small government, it is also small companies and letting the individual be paramount. This will ensure enough wealth is created to allow those that cannot build their own wealth to live with dignity.

    I thought that both Zizek and Peterson pointed to the importance of the individual and the responsibility that everyone must adopt for meaning and fulfilment.

  85. Felipe says

    Trying to defend the “dictatorship of the proletariat” as a benign manifestation of a worker state ruled by “class conscience” is the equivalent of believing a murderer will not kill people on fridays because 2+2=5.

    It’s such an absurd defense of marxist nonsense
    only a child would accept it.

    Peterson is a clinical psychologist and a scholar, he obviously has read Marx’s nonsense before, but it doesn’t take much to disprove 2+2=5

  86. Joseph Pratt says

    This entire article is a bad attempt to malign Dr. Peterson. The author provides confusing and contradictory pseudo-attempts to invalidate Peterson’s arguments. To start, the author attempts to criticize Dr. Peterson for only reading “The Communist Manifesto” twice within his lifetime. This is a Red Herring. Read frequency is only a sensible argument if frequency equals zero. And even then imagine he never read the document. This would still not prevent Dr. Peterson, or anyone for that matter, from gaining enough knowledge of a system to level reasonable criticism against it. Important and reasonable criticisms of modern religion exist that do not presuppose reading entire religious works such as the Koran. Also, Marx is not the sole author of “Marxist” teachings and Marx’s work extends beyond “The Communist Manifesto” itself. Could a person not study these works and provide reasonable criticism of Marxism? Next, you proceed to confuse Peterson’s criticism of “popular” Marxism with the thoughts of Karl Marx himself. Ideologies evolve and the proliferated version often differs from the original. Christianity and it’s various sects are perfect examples of this effect. Are the snake handlers of Eastern Kentucky staying true to the teachings in the Bible? Very reasonable arguments would say, “No.” Next, you level a stumbling argument where I can only imagine you conclude that Dr. Peterson is somehow anti-Capitalist and Marx was not. Not only do you stumble though this section, the point is patently non-factual. That Dr. Peterson is both a supporter and critic of Capitalism is well-documented. As you might hear him say, “Any hierarchy can get out of balance, and that’s not good.” Finally, the idea that Marxism (of the “popular” variety) does not promote equality of outcome is silly. Marxism clearly advocates equality of outcome using categories and various parameters. Marxism intends to control equality of outcome based on a group-enforced resource distribution model driven by a set of metrics derived from personal contribution to society. It seeks to guard against the sins of Greed and Power – to prevent hierarchical hyper-dominance as with the Bourgeoisie. The problem is that the ideology of Marx has repeatedly and predictably undermined progress, freedom of speech, and freedom of thought. In the end, we do not need a better critic of Marx, we need a better critic of Dr. Peterson.

  87. If Marx created such a “perfect” template for a post industrial society then why every country that has tried to implement it miserably failed?

    I find it completely baffling that professors and academics still cling to the Marxist dream when reading the first twenty pages of the Gulag Archipelago reveal that the first one to get the axe were academics and students.

    • Jack Mackerel says

      Liberalism took centuries to get going, and suffered many reversals and defeats along the way. From the perspective of the absolute monarchies of the 17th century, liberalism was radical, subversive, atheistic and dangerous, and when it finally came to power in a state (in a bloody revolution no less), it was considered a great shock.

  88. Jonny Five says

    I think it is frigging fantastic to have this article published here. Compare this to top leftist reddit subs where any attempt to debate resume an instant ban.

    I think Ben does a good job pointing out weaknesses in Peter’s arguments. He may not offer any arguments that tempt me towards his inclinations but the points he brought up definitely deserve better arguments than what this debate yielded (amply reflected in the comments).

  89. Bismarck says

    „But I know of no passage in his and his collaborator Engels’s voluminous writings in which either man said that socialists would need to resort to a violent seizure of power in an advanced parliamentary democracy where the franchise had been extended to the working class.„

    Here you go:
    “[The working class] must act in such a manner that the revolutionary excitement does not collapse immediately after the victory.  On the contrary, they must maintain it as long as possible.  Far from opposing so-called excesses, such as sacrificing to popular revenge of hated individuals or public buildings to which hateful memories are attached, such deeds must not only be tolerated, but their direction must be taken in hand, for examples’ sake.”
    From Karl Marx, Address to the Communist League (1850).  Cited in E. Burns (ed.), A Handbook of Marxism (1935), p. 66 or 135ff.

  90. Chad Chen says

    Apparently there are a lot of people on this thread who believe that American workers toil “for themselves” because we live in a capitalist society.

    Actually, most Americans work in corporations. Some corporations are small, some are big, but nearly all force employees to work in groups. When individual performances are evaluated, the winners are not necessarily the most most productive or resourceful individuals. The highest employee ratings usually are awarded in a “political” process to those who form successful alliances, those who are likeable and popular and know how to make themselves look good, etc. In many organizations, the hardest snd smartest workers do not get ahead. But they keep on keeping on because they are driven by internal motivators, not by recognition or salary increases. So they toil ” for themselves” but this may have little to do with profit incentives.

    • Jack Mackerel says

      One of the paradoxes of profit as an incentive — which liberals believe is the motor of innovation — is that you are in fact incentivized to reduce the productivity of your co-workers, thereby making yourself more valuable to your capitalist masters. This can be seen in any corporate environment or satirized in that very funny movie “Office Space.” This is also true on a larger scale as businesses can often find it more profitable not to innovate, as demonstrated by all the people still buying Sony products, or the fact that we don’t have high-speed rail in the United States because of the monopoly power of oil companies and airlines.

      Capitalism, anyways, does an amazing job at sapping motivation from human beings by introducing rewards. If you’re lucky, you get into a career doing something you love, but at a certain point it becomes “just another job.” The alienation of the worker from his product sees to that.

    • Doug F says

      If two companies produce the same widget, and one promotes and rewards competencies instead of internal power, over time company 2 will win in the market. Period. End.

      No doubt that power politics infect many corporations. If they become so big they can exclude others (a monopoly) then it can indeed cancel this balancing power. But don’t pretend that most companies get ahead by rewarding the incompetent.

  91. Nick Ender says

    Marx actually does not deserve better criticism. Do I need to understand the microscopic details of nuclear physics to know staring at the sun is a bad idea? This whole article is just an extended version of “That wasn’t real communism.” Nice trie commie, but you’re still going for a helicopter ride.

    • Jack Mackerel says

      A man-portable 9K32 Strela-2 will see to those helicopters muchacho.

  92. Eddie Bres says

    I fail to see how or where the author actually demonstrates that Peterson isn’t properly informed on Marx. You make tte claim but then offer no real evidence. Very weak.

  93. Nathan says

    The author illustrates his his point that Peterson isn’t up on Marx with one piece of evidence: he hasn’t read Manifesto in 40+ years. Pretty weak, since Im told Marx wrote 1 or 2 other things, and has spawned 1 or 2 adherents who’ve written 1 or 2 things.
    The underlying nisunderstanding by author Ben is that Peterson has never been as much a critic on Marx himself as on the present-day pseudo-intellectual derivatives of Marx.

  94. brucem123 says

    Anyone want to put together a round table with Alasdair MacIntyre and Prof. Z? A.M. has all the bonafides except political ambition.

  95. Corwin Kilvert says

    The only argument that is made against Peterson’s credentials is his recent re-reading of the communist manifesto is ridiculous. It assumes the manifesto in anyway represents an integral component of the modern day discourse of Communism, which it does not.

    This is an originalist viewpoint that is equivalent to religious and constitutional fundamentalism.

  96. Felipe says

    I love us humans. We are so epic within our own miserable life. Here we are. Still discussing an Utopian society that will never happen.

    Ah the joys of when it goes wrong again.

  97. Larry Czaplyski says

    Why do people continue to talk about Marx’s ideas as if they had any value?

    • dirk says

      Any value Larry? There is no academic, philosopher or intellectual with more value and impact on the daily life and world today than Marx. If I just look around here, in my street, on the terrasses, in the supers, imagine that there never had been a Marx? Now, no (or almost no) more inequality and difference in how people are dressed, eat, live and drive around, everybody (or almost everybody) the same, all people rich and abundant, would this have been so without Marx? I doubt very much! Not that Marx saw all the details and such, and society took quite another way as he foresaw, but he was the one that triggered the changes, without him and Engels, it would have been real disaster. Imagine, more and more child labour, more and more inequality, more and more misery. I’m happy it went the other way!

  98. Jeremy Morris-Jarrett says

    “I know of no passage in his and his collaborator Engels’s voluminous writings in which either man said that socialists would need to resort to a violent seizure of power”

    Well, here’s one (from the communist manifesto):

    In depicting the most general phases of the development of the proletariat, we traced the more or less veiled civil war, raging within existing society, up to the point where that war breaks out into open revolution, and where the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat.

  99. Kev C says

    Why the hell are none of you commenting on dissenter? If you’re on a PC, there’s no excuse dammit. 😛

  100. lloydr56 says

    I have no doubt that Peterson has ventured into areas he knows very little about, yet he always speaks with the same alleged authority. A kind of blowhard version of adult education or public TV that goes down like candy for a lot of people. He started out in psychology, believing for example that there is peer-reviewed evidence to the effect that there are two genders. Does he think this prepares him to answer questions about “everything”?
    The bigger problem with the way Marx keeps coming up: it is rare for anyone to get much beyond praise of the bourgeois as opposed to a determination to find something better. The bourgeois (let us say) takes for himself, and therefore practices or supports injustice. There are still poor people, even if their poverty is mostly relative–poverty of status or recognition. Then there is happiness. Are even “successful” people happy, or do we all suffer from something like a “metabolic rift,” separation from nature? Anger always helps recruit young people to the left, but there is also a sense that we don’t know or can’t know what justice is–we have to let history decide. This makes it more likely we will put bloodthirsty killers in charge–they will do the dirty work of creating new possibilities.

  101. The points around the dictatorship of the proletariat and Marx’s view of the equality of outcome were good, but the rest horrible and the author failed to address even a fraction of Peterson’s points (despite having the opportunity). Peterson, besides a few teeny points here and there, performed excellently. Let me quickly dismantle the authors atrocious argument regarding capitalisms success in reducing global poverty.

    Before capitalism, pretty much 99% of the world was in global poverty. But in 2018, September, for the first time in human history, half of the world is now middle class or higher.

    If you define the poverty point at $2 a day, millions if not billions have risen and are rising out of poverty. If you define the poverty point at $5 a day, millions if not billions have risen and are rising out of poverty. Some socialists have this odd, cartoonish idea that if they just change the point of absolute poverty that studies use then the gains made by capitalism magically minimize by even a teeny, tiny bit. They don’t. China’s success is 90% capitalism and 10% state. All the state has really done is oppress people and keep their rights locked up, which has caused a lot more misery than it has helped grow the economy. Obviously, capitalism isn’t all that’s needed to make people happy – freedom and social connections are others. But as Peterson showed, it is one significant component of happiness that is unattainable under Marxism.

  102. Doug F says

    Let me fix one of your sentences… His argument is not:

    “serves as a reminder of the ways in which the socialist project can go terribly wrong.”


    “serves as a reminder of the ways in which the socialist project HAVE ALWAYS GONE terribly wrong.”

    At the age of 15 I was interested in what socialism was, because it sounded so fine. It did not take long to realize its one big fatal flaw – it doesn’t work.

    • Andrew Roddy says

      I have an admittedly very general impression that were a lot of very ominous weather systems and hostile fronts menacing the Europe of early 20th C. I know hindsight is a wonderful thing but were there not irresistible historical forces bent on catastrophic collision regardless of the specifics of the analysis and prescriptions of Karl Marx?

    • Nemo says

      Tell me again which is better off, Cuba or Guatemala and Haiti. You will see which project goes “terribly wrong”.

  103. hunter says

    What would be interesting would be to explore the concept of “post socialist”.
    Socialism fails yet remains attractive for many of the same reasons creationism is still popular with true believers.
    It seems that the great mixed economies, that combine powerful but regulated market capitalism, with reasonable social supports offers a way forward. But the AOC’s and Extinction Rebellion aren’t much on nuance.
    With rapidly increasing authoritarian governance using the vast power of the high tech oligarchs we may find the conversation shortened rather soon.

    • Andrew Roddy says

      Arguably more interesting to our heads around post-secularism.

  104. Isaías says

    Well, this is fantastic: Marx was not necessarily in favour of violent revolution, the author says… Yeah, sure, that’s why Marx financed, with his own money, an armed militia, that is to say a terrorist organization, several thousand strong. And not in some remote African colony or in Papua-New Guinea, but in Western Europe, in countries with parliamentary democracies, which is why he had to escape Germany and France. Even when the revolution eventually suceeded in Russia, the country had a democratically elected parliament. Of course, we can always analyze the limitations of that system, given that Russia had been for centuries an absolutist monarchy in which serfs had disappeared hardly half a century before. Fine. But then, when we analyze the bolshevik revolution, which is a pratical example of how Marxism was actually implemented, we can see how, for example, far from working less and less hours, and far from being free to work in anything people wanted, one of Lenin’s first pratical decisions was the introduction of compulsory work through conscription, with the central State deciding where everyone had to work, under which conditions, and with what salary. So much for freedom for the proletariat.
    This is always, invariably, the problem the with defenders of Marxism today, that they insist on cherry picking what Marx said/did and forgetting about the practical implementation of Marx’s ideas. Because, curiously engough, they always repeat the same refrain: what they did in XXX (make your choice, Marxism has actually ruled in some 80 countries up to the present) wasn’t really Marxism, after all. Meaning, the Kingdom of Heaven has not come, yet, but we must keep the faith, we must keep in trying: ‘Thy shall be done on Earth.’ Meaning that Marxism will prevail… provided is not implemented by mere human beings, but by Angels from Heaven. If, in the meantime, another 100 million die, well, those are externalaties.
    I haven’t watched the famous debate yet, so I cannot give my opinion on this specific event. Maybe it’s true that Prof Peterson is not the best contender for Slavoj Zizek, though I tend to agree quite a lot with most of what he says. Certainly, Peterson is not an expert in Marx or in communism. Fine. Try then Prof Antonio Escohotado. He has finished an unprecedented three-volume, 2000-page monumental work, The Enemies of Commerce. A Moral History of Property (Los enemigos del comercio. Una historia moral de la propiedad, in Spanish), to which he has devoted uninterruptedly 20 years of deep study, and in which he analyzes the genesis and evolution of communism, from pre-Christian Ebionism to 21st century Chavismo. If Prof Peterson is not strong enough to dent Marxism, that’s fine by me: Prof Escohotado, arguably the most brilliant intellectual in the Spanish speaking world alive, a fervent communist himself for decades, actually demolishes it down to its foundations.
    Maybe a public debate between Escohotado and Zizek could finally convince Ben Burgis as to why Marx and Marxism are a monumental, criminal failure.

    • dirk says

      Marx and Marxism (borne150 yrs ago) a monumental failure -. What about jihadism, IS and Al Qaida right now? A failure even before the toddler stage, maybe, but also with fierce adherents and intellectuals, and, with a lot of similarities.

  105. John Lammi PhD says

    Marx “deserves “ better? Marx deserves nothing. Who cares?

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  107. Andrew Roddy says

    I enjoyed the debate thoroughly. No, that hardly goes to the point of the article but it was the article that made me aware of the utube link. It’s trending toward 2 million views. Is it not clearly part of an emerging cultural phenomenon that should not go unremarked?

    Zizek’s instinct, in the second part (after he had mercifully ditched his script), to direct his remarks directly to Peterson changed the entire dynamic and stood in contrast to JBP’s inclination to preserve the formal structure of debate. I scored Zizek highly for this – just as a human being. The 2 men were deeply respectful of each other but did not shy completely from pointed adversarial challenge. Peterson is better, like the rest of us, when he is not fielding bitter hostility.

    I commend the debate to you if you haven’t already watched it.

  108. The only relevant critique of Marxism are the names of the millions who died in this exercise of intellectual arrogance. This is a critique that Marxists and socialist all run from. Their continuing arrogance, their failure to learn is encapsulated in this article which seems to argue that it is all about reading and understanding the turgid writings of Karl Marx and his adherents. It strikes me that the apologists for Marxism and socialism need to move away from the claustrophobic environment of their own constrained thought and develop some new ideas other than we, the intelligencia, know best.

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  110. Stephen says

    I found Zizek really interesting. I’m a new fan. I listened to some other critiques of this debate and there is definitely more to Marx than the characterization Peterson put forward.

  111. Andy Macdonald says

    “ZBTZ trial” – I didn’t know about it, so searched online and got zero. Please don’t use abbreviations when not in common use!

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