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Peter Joseph - Critique of Jordan B. Peterson (vs Slavoj Zizek - Happiness - Capitalism vs. Marxism) (Repository)

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Hello my name is Peter Joseph and the following is an analysis and critique of Jordan Peterson's opening arguments during the Slavo Žižek debate from April 19th, 2019. I was planning on doing a full analysis of the entire debate but once I began dissecting Peterson's statements I realized there was no way I would have time to do the full event. The title of this debate is 'Happiness: Capitalism versus Marxism,' an unfortunate decision because it sets up a binary position between assumed ideologies while throwing in the word "happiness," muddying the issue even more since what defines happiness is sociologically vague when it comes to causality. I point this out because it's time for seriousness. Human society is faced with a lot of complicated challenges. Between rising social destabilization due to socioeconomic inequality coupled with vast ecological decline, it's really critical high level debate occurs regarding how human society can solve its problems ensuring sustainability both environmentally and socially. Sadly this debate accomplished none of that, instead trapping the conversation inside of this old duality of capitalism versus Marxism or socialism. Anyone seriously involved in considering environmental social science, public health science, and what kind of social system can create the best Public Health and sustainable practices, would gawk at this kind of duality proposed. It's not a serious framing and again it's very disappointing. And yet people are gonna watch this, especially young people, and this is gonna be their limit of debate, this is gonna be how they're gonna frame their sense of possibility in terms of future social organization. That said, again my focus here will be Jordan Peterson's comments which are conservative and on the side of capitalism if you will. And the first thing I think I should point out is that he's given great advantage here because what he does is create a massive straw man, addressing and criticizing the Communist Manifesto written almost 200 years ago by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. His attacks on this book, which as I will explain are extremely poorly thought out and just wrong, become a proxy for attacks on contemporary activists and thinkers looking to alter the capitalist structure or remove it. His perspective is consistently libertarian in the modern sense of the word and his pathological fetish with taking a psychological position rather than any kind of synergetic sociological relationship in terms of causality or social structure is to me what makes him one of the most regressive intellectuals out there today, especially considering how popular he's become. And since I'm about to be thrown into defending Marx and progressive thoughts in general, let me make one thing extremely clear. I am not a Marxist or a communist or a socialist or whatever. I don't identify with any of that. And I see Marx's writings as equivalent to other philosophers from Thomas Hobbes to Hegel, to Thorstein Veblen, and many others: it's all information - and some of it's good, some of it's bad and you weigh it all out. And the faster all of you people see all of this is as information rather than ideological dualities or symbols of something, the faster we can progress the conversation. Likewise let me clarify one other very important thing. Those that invoke disapproval of historical communism, and rightly so, almost universally say it was a consequence of the writings of Karl Marx. And I would argue that it's a consequence of the writings of Karl Marx in the same way the Columbine massacre was a consequence of the music of Marilyn Manson. Any respected historian and theorist recognizes that the Soviet Union was actually state capitalism in the extreme. It never achieved any level of theoretical socialism, and certainly not communism. And if you look at the writings of Vladimir Lenin, he admits to this fact! And again that's not defending anything; I'm being intellectually accurate. All that said, let's begin. [Peterson] So I'm going to outline ten of the fundamental axioms of the Communist Manifesto. And so these are truths that are basically held as self-evident by the authors. They're truths that are presented in some sense as unquestioned and I'm going to question them. "History is to be viewed primarily as an economic class struggle." Alright, so let's think about that for a minute. First of all, the proposition there is that history is primarily to be viewed through an economic lens. And I think that's a debatable proposition because there are many other motivations that drive human beings than economics. [PJ] He goes on a brief explanation here about how there are other important observable things occurring in history that relate to human society as if that's a revelation, as if that's a rebuttal. The text he's talking about is explicitly organized around the observation of economic stratification and the problems therein, as a result of that organization. But rather than simply acquiesce to the simple thesis of the book itself he goes off on this quick non sequitur that just muddies the waters, implying that the thesis itself overstates its relevance. It is true that-... [JP] ...there are many other motivations that drive human beings than economics but- [PJ] Economics is literally the foundation of survival! Without viable economic integrity, you die. It is the starting point of human well-being. And to quickly muddy it up with this subjective nuance garbage is just silly. [JP] The idea that one of the driving forces between history is hierarchical struggle, is absolutely true. But the idea that that's actually history is not true because it's deeper than history; it's biology itself because organisms of all sorts organize themselves into hierarchies. And one of the problems with hierarchies is that they tend to arrange themselves into a winner-take-all situation. [PJ] And here we have the cliché biological determinism of hierarchy, something that has been long criticized by behavioral biologists and anthropologists as an over-generalization. But before I address this, Peterson then goes on to say that the problem is hence "deeper" than social organization because hierarchy is inevitable and will prevail regardless. And the truly startling thing about this is that he's completely ignoring everything structural put forward by Marx and others. The criticism of hierarchy is not the criticism of hierarchy in and of itself, in whatever form it may take. It is the criticism of hierarchy that is mechanistically output by the very structure of market capitalism. It's about the dynamics that occur between those with capital and those without, labor and owners, and hence the class relationships and economic quality of life relationships that result consequentially, because of the structure. As far as biologically determined hierarchy in human society it's an extremely broad idea which could be talked about later if need be, but that's not what Marx was talking about. Not to mention there's no vagueness here. Just look around you at what people are complaining about today. Massive inequality between people with immense amounts of growing capital and then a working class with stagnating wages and all the general cost efficiency oppressive forces that are inherent to the logic of the system. [JP] So there's accuracy in the accusation that that is a eternal form of motivation for struggle. But it's an underestimation of the seriousness of the problem because it attributes it to the structure of human societies rather than the deeper reality of the existence of hierarchical structures per se, which as they also characterize the animal kingdom to a large degree, are clearly not only human construction. [PJ] Just to reiterate, Marxist perspective has to do with the structure of the system and how it produces socioeconomic stratification as a consequential result of the mechanics of the system, not some type of vague biological drive. And to give an analogy of what he's actually saying because he's trivializing the degrees of hierarchy that can exist regardless of how caustic they are, is that you could say there's an equivalency between a person in a cubicle working that can go home at night to a shackled slave centuries ago just because humans have some type of hierarchical need to oppress and therefore it doesn't matter which happens. [JP] And the idea that there's hierarchical competition among human beings, there's evidence for that; it goes back at least to the Paleolithic times. [PJ] Woh woh woh, hold on there champ! This is the most categorically incorrect statement made thus far. Human hierarchy going back to the Paleolithic era 3 million years ago? Stunningly passive statement to conclude upon, since it's been firmly established, corroborated over and over again, that before the Neolithic Revolution 12,000 years ago human society lived in hunter-gatherer lifestyles with no social hierarchy: primitive egalitarian groups. I'm not observing some sophistication of this early period, the pre-Neolithic culture. It is simply the recognition that they did NOT have socioeconomic stratification. No class hierarchy and this has been proven by the numerous hunter-gatherer societies that have remained over the past few centuries that have been interviewed. Many of them didn't have a concept of economic hierarchy. Why? Because their means of production didn't produce it. Now I'm not going to spend much time giving examples of this because it's so commonly accepted and I'm stunned Peterson actually goes out in public and says these things. But it wasn't until the introduction of surplus upon the discovery of Agriculture, that the tendency for social stratification began forming and increasingly so by the structures that were being created through labor specialization, surplus hoarding and so on. Likewise if he's gonna play this bland evolutionary analog game such he's done before with his silly lobster shit, the two closest primate species to the human being are chimpanzees and bonobos. Both of them have social hierarchy, however they're very different. Those organized hierarchies show very different types of character because of the environments the two live in. Chimpanzees have a very rigid male-driven hierarchy. Bonobos have a very loose low-conflict female driven hierarchy. Now I'm not arguing hierarchy doesn't exist, but it's very malleable. There's a great plasticity in the primate species. How hierarchies manifest ultimately is contingent upon the environment and how society organizes itself. And there is no evidence that humans have to persist with the deeply imbalanced capitalist-driven hierarchy as some law of nature since 90% of human history has recorded no money markets or hierarchy. It's not built-in to our genetics in some deeply immutable impulsive way where people just drive towards hierarchy and status regardless of the environment around them. [JP] And so that's the next problem is that this ancient problem of hierarchical structure is clearly not attributable to capitalism because it existed long in human history before capitalism existed and then it predated human history itself. [PJ] And people wonder why I'm baffled by how this guy has any audience or following whatsoever. [JP] So, the question then arises, why would you necessarily at least implicitly link the class struggle with capitalism given that it's a far deeper problem? [PJ] Because it's definitely not implicitly linked. The structure of the system of market economics produces mathematically the result of the class structure; it can be analyzed and formalized. Has zero to do with biological circumstances in the structure that exists. So there's also very little understanding in the Communist Manifesto that any of the hierarchical organizations that human beings have put together might have a positive element, and that's an absolute catastrophe because hierarchical structures are actually necessary to solve complicated social problems. [PJ] Firstly as Peterson himself will point out in a moment, Marx acknowledges that capitalism is extremely efficient in outputting goods so there's acknowledgment that the system works in its hierarchy on that level. The main problem of the hierarchy is the distribution. That's why inequality is such a problem, that's why global poverty has existed for so long. Distribution is the problem: the way money is allocated, the way profit is obtained, the imbalance of it all. No one's ever argued that the system of hierarchy within capitalism hasn't been beneficial. Now that aside, to say that hierarchy is the only form of collaborative infrastructure that can produce something is deeply short-sighted, and I would like to open that up to the entire open source community and all the people that work through parallel lateral systems out there, working to develop new models which actually ARE more efficient when they are implemented. But obviously they're not implemented that often because of the dominance of the system. And you can even look at the efficiency of collectives, corporate collectives where there is a so-called socialist Board of Directors and everyone shares the profits equally or almost equally throughout the entire company. And they are also deeply efficient without the same kind of hierarchy. And in the end no one's arguing that hierarchy itself is somehow just awful. There are different kinds of hierarchy with different kinds of outcomes. So Jordan's generalizations don't help anything, they just become establishment-preserving once again. [JP] It is the case that hierarchies dispossess people, and that's a big problem. That's the fundamental problem of inequality, but it's also the case that hierarchies happen to be a very efficient way of distributing resources. [PJ] Again, distributing resources amongst the business class and the wealthy, yes. Distributing resources to the people that are in need, but don't have the money to GET those resources, no. [JP] And it's finally the case that human hierarchies are not fundamentally predicated on power. [PJ] OK, everybody strap in! you ready for this? [JP] And I would say that biological anthropological data on that are crystal clear. You don't rise to a position of authority that's reliable in a human society primarily by exploiting other people. It's a very unstable means of obtaining power. [PJ] I had to listen to that statement quite a few times to really absorb the detachment one has to have from reality to actually state it. "You don't rise to a position of authority that's reliable in human society primarily by exploiting other people. It's a very unstable means of obtaining power." There are two kinds of positions of authority we recognize in society today which fits the context of this whole conversation. First of all the economic power, hence the head of a corporation, or by extension political power which generally involves economics as most recognized, as Marx did - presidents and congressmen and people like that. Well, if you know what exploitation means in a Marxist distinction, it's not a negative act against somebody; exploitation is a system function. It's related to surplus value which means that when an owner employs a laborer, the laborer produces something, works a number of hours, there's a value to those hours, and then the owner sells it at a larger profit, and he takes the difference, hence the term "profit." Profit is the manifest surplus value of the exploited laborer, meaning the laborer that isn't recorded in the wages of the person. So firstly I can only assume that he doesn't even understand what Marxist exploitation even is and he instead sees it as some type of greedy kind of behavior which he clearly doesn't see profit that way as he talks about later. So by very definition, CEOs and all of these people work up the ranks of their value. They get more and more money, they have more capital, they invest more and more, they buy more companies, and they do that invariably by exploiting labor to some degree or another. And just for fun we'll extend this to the political context, I'll restate his proposition: "You don't rise to a position of authority that's reliable in human society primarily by exploiting other people. It's a very unstable means of obtaining power." Well I'm just gonna show the picture of this individual for a couple of seconds. Not only is he a poster child of the capitalist class with outrageous degrees of criminal corruption through literal exploitation to advance his bottom line, his political process to get elected was fantastically exploitative on so many cultural levels I don't even know what to say. Unfortunately the complete stupidity of this statement did not go unrecognized by the audience. [JP] ... society, primarily by exploiting other people. It's a very unstable means of obtaining power. [Audience laughter] So that's a problem. Marx also assumes that you can think about history as a binary class struggle with clear divisions between say the proletariat, and the bourgeoisie. [PJ] And then he proceeds to set up effectively a straw man saying that the Communist Manifesto doesn't differentiate clear enough between the proletariat or the bourgeoisie and they are somehow defined as categorical groups and that's that, almost like they're different races. That might sound really extreme but if you listen to what he says this is how he pitches it. He even goes on later to say that one group is considered evil and the other is considered good. Once again he's avoiding the structural relationship and he's reducing it all down to a psychological relationship or the assumption of such, as if you are a psychological being as the bourgeoisie and a psychological being as the proletariat but that's not how this works. The psychology is determined from the system, from the structure that people inhabit. If you're a capitalist you have a certain incentive structure and you are going to gravitate towards certain behaviors because of that incentive and power. Same goes for the laborers or the proletariat. They experience their oppression, they have a general outrage, they have certain patterns of incentives that create a different kind of psychological atmosphere. [JP] And that's actually a problem because it's not so easy to make a firm division between who's exploiter and who's exploitee let's say. [PJ] Again he must not understand what exploitation means in the Marxist context. Yes, you absolutely can understand who's exploiting and who isn't, who's the owner, who's the laborer, who's the submissive force, and who's the dominant force. [JP] Because it's not obvious like in the case of small shareholders let's say, whether or not they happen to be part of the oppressed or part of the oppressor. [PJ] Very bizarre hair splitting here and the reason he's doing it is so we can set up a story about the violence of the system or claim the violence of the system, based on the idea that there's no way to differentiate between who the "exploiters" and who the "exploitees" are, who the working class is effectively isn't who the ownership class is, and he goes on to tell this story. [JP] This actually turned out to be a big problem, in the Russian Revolution and by big problem I mean tremendously big problem. Because it turned out that you could fragment people into multiple identities and that's a fairly easy thing to do. And you could usually find some axis along which they were part of the oppressor class. Anyways the listing of how it was possible for you to be bourgeois instead of proletariat grew immensely, and that was one of the reasons that the Red Terror claimed all the victims that it claimed. [PJ] He then goes to describe the circumstance with the Kulacks which were peasant farmers that owned their own land, in Russia, and eventually the state came in and made them distribute it in a socialist way amongst other people and it resulted in their exile, which had chain reactions which were negative. [JP] And about 1.8 million of them were exiled. About 400,000 were killed, and the net consequence of that, removal of their private property because of their bourgeois status, was arguably the death of 6 million Ukrainians in the famines of the 1930s. And so the binary class struggle idea- that was a bad idea. [PJ] Okay so you have a group of private owners that have their private property taken. Obviously we don't agree with that today but that's completely beside the point, that's unfortunately what they did in the government at that time. How does that relate to this binary exploiter-exploitee thing? They were private property owners, and that was the issue. So the means of production was taken from them, sadly that's what happened, but there's no gray area in that as if the vagueness between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie somehow created and manifested this? It makes no sense at all what he's arguing; I don't understand how he came up with that. And in regard to his climax point with the death of millions of Ukrainians as a result of all this, assuming that it's systemically true - I'm not even sure - what we're really talking about is state authoritarian power abusing its power and killing people. That doesn't necessarily imply Marxism, socialism or communism. And it's really unfortunate to hear this constant nonsense that comes out. There's a book that was written called 'The Black Book of Communism,' it claims 100 million people were killed by communism in a century, a very dubious number. It also ignores so many other atrocities and genocides that happened because of power in general. And it's just a kind of manipulative strategy to get people to hate anything other than capitalism by saying "well, if you do anything other than capitalism you're gonna be killed by Authority." [JP] It's also bad in this way and this is a real sleight of hand that Marx pulls off is: You have a binary class division, proletariat and bourgeoisie, and you have an implicit idea that all of the good is on the side of the proletariat and all of the evil is on the side of the bourgeoisie. [PJ] Again, nowhere in the writings of historical or contemporary socialism as it were, is their explicit value judgments made where it's predetermined that bad people make it to the top of the hierarchy or the top of a corporation and so on, and good people are always gonna be the underdogs. There are transfers of psychology that do happen and that's been done through various university studies as people get more wealth and power they do become a little bit more corrupt, that's true, but it's a structural relationship. So the fact that he sets this up too is just deeply frustrating and he goes on and on about this crap as well. [JP] And that's classic group identity thinking. One of the reasons I don't like politics is because once you divide people into groups and pit them against one another it's very easy to assume that all the evil in the world can be attributed to one group, the hypothetical oppressors, and all the good to the other. It's absolutely foolish to make the presumption that you can identify someone's moral worth with their economic standing. [PJ] Again Marx never argued anything like that. [JP] Marx also came up with this idea, which is a crazy idea as far as I can tell, (that's a technical term, crazy idea) of the dictatorship of the proletariat! [PJ] And then he goes off on the "dictatorship of the proletariat" loving that play on words, which is exactly what it is. When Marx heard this phrase he employed it as an antithetical position to the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, which was considered a kind of transition stage in the evolution of the socialist goal, where basically the state apparatus still needed to be utilized, as they tried to work away from it. Again you can argue the efficacy of any of these approaches but that's completely beside the point because Peterson is making it seem like it's a parallel exactly to the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie when the dictatorship of the proletariat was more of a play on words once again that basically said we're going to create a "Council," a Democratic Council of the people in large form, and have a democratic process rather than a singular dictatorship of individual people or just a few people. That was the idea, and you won't see that explained by Peterson whatsoever. [JP] And that's the next idea that I really stumbled across- it was like okay, so what's the problem? The problem is the capitalists own everything. They own all the means of production and they're oppressing everyone, and that would be all the workers. The fact that, that you assumed a priori that all the evil can be attributed to the capitalists (the bourgeoisie), and all the good could be attributed to the proletariat meant that you could hypothesize that a dictatorship of the proletariat could come about and ... the problem with that you see is that... because all the evil isn't divided so easily up into oppressor and oppressed that all the proletariat aren't going to be good and when you put people in the same position as the evil capitalists, especially if you believe that social pressure is one of the determining factors of human character which the Marxists certainly believed, then why wouldn't you assume that the proletariat would immediately become as or more corrupt than the capitalist? [PJ] Okay, first he's continuing this contrived good-versus-evil framing as if it has relevance. Obviously, structures determine incentives and behavior. It's nothing new or profound, it's a basic sociological observation. Owners have different incentives than workers, in fact they are at odds; that's why unions exist. Even though they might seek gain of course, to maximize their gain, that's shared, but they come from completely different positions. Second, he makes a completely vague assumption about the proletariat being put in the position of the bourgeoisie and they must become corrupted if they make it to the top of that hierarchy as if everything is equal. Once again this completely avoids the structural change that underscores the entire socialist idea. It would be different if the proletariat simply wiped out the bourgeoisie and took their position, yeah - they would be absolutely corrupted in exactly the same way because they exist in the same structure. But that's not what the pitch is. That's not what the entire point of all of this energy that was spent in the socialist development was about. It's about changing the structure. And again he seems to be misinterpreting the full definition of the quote "dictatorship of the proletariat" which was a transition team if you will, a large group of people that were supposed to be generated that made democratic decisions about how to organize things, using the state institution as they worked to transition to more efficient socialist means. Now again I'm not sitting here supporting these theories, I'm simply telling you what the Communist Manifesto and Marx actually meant. Overall he seems to imply that hierarchy and power somehow will create a kind of corruption regardless, due to biology. That's what I draw from this. So the proletariat makes it to a position of power replacing the bourgeoisie, they are going to corrupt regardless. This seems to be what he's saying; I could be wrong but that's the only real logical conclusion based on his argument. [JP] The next problem is - well, what makes you think that you can take some system as complicated as like capitalist free-market society, and centralize that, and put decision-making power in the hands of a few people, without specifying the mechanisms by which you're going to choose them like, what makes you think they're gonna have the wisdom or the ability to do what the capitalists were doing unless you assume as Marx did that all of the evil was with the capitalists and all the good was with the proletariats and that nothing that capitalists did constituted valid labor? [PJ] So he appears to be alluding here to the complexity of an economy and how it's very very difficult for people to sit in a boardroom and decide how to distribute things while markets of course are extremely dynamic with the price mechanism and so on, something Ludwig von Mises and economists put out years ago in criticism of socialism: that it was impossible for man to sit back and regulate this manually, which was a fair criticism, something that isn't applicable today with technology and networking. He merges this brief notion with the idea that capitalists being deemed worthless in terms of labor is unfounded, and of course that's obviously true in terms of vision or innovation. The ownership class - the ownership individuals - do start things and there's value to that at abstraction. But he takes it too far once again. [JP] ...Which is another thing that Marx assumed: which is palpably absurd, because people who are- like maybe if you're a dissolute aristocrat from 1830, or earlier, and you run a feudal estate and all you do is spend your time gambling and chasing prostitutes, well then your labor value is zero but if you're running a business, and it's a successful business, first of all you're a bloody fool to exploit your workers because - even if you're greedy as sin - because you're not going to extract the maximum amount of labor out of them by doing that. [PJ] Again he clearly has no idea what Marxist exploitation even is. And the argument against the ownership class, the leisure class as Thorstein Veblen would call it, is that yes: when the machine is finally set in motion, the capitalist individual, the founder, he or she did work initially, but they don't do really anything after it's set in motion. Look at Jeff Bezos. Yeah sure, he's a visionary. But the machine he's created, he doesn't ever have to do anything ever again. But yet he will make stupid amounts of money every second because of what he set in motion. [JP] And the notion that you're adding no productive value as a manager rather than a capitalist, it's absolutely absurd; all it does is indicate that you either know nothing whatsoever about how an actu al business works or you refuse to know anything about how an actual business works. [PJ] I hate to be the broken record here but once again he is completely ignoring the structural relationships as observed by Marxism and as are fundamentally obvious sociologically because of the structure of business. Now if you want to talk about the quaintness of a small mom-and-pop shop and the fact that there is an owner, and they do their best to manage things and they want to improve things and take care of their employees, that's fine. That is not what happens when it comes to massive institutions and huge industries that have boards of directors that make stupid amounts of money. They have been lucky to be a part of the development of an institution. If the institution becomes popular and it works, they benefit gravely disproportionately. And that does have a moral ramification that was correctly observed by Marxist philosophy. And the fact that Peterson can't see any of that, doing this hyper-reductionism down to this idea of the capitalist manager again shows how utterly detached from reality he really is. [JP] Then the next problem is the criticism of profit. It's like, well- what's wrong with profit exactly? What's the problem with profit? Well, the idea from the Marxist perspective was that profit was theft. [PJ] So did Peterson get the Cliff Notes version of the Communist Manifesto or something? Because it's really bizarre how he jumps to this sort of moral argument about profit and how, as he continues, how obviously there's a contribution of the capitalist or the innovator and they deserve something. He goes on to say that they need more money to invest in other things eventually, equivocating effectively profit with income in general as if they're different, which in fact they are not in the way he describes it, because he's ignoring the fact that profit is derived from surplus value of labor. The Marxist concept of profit is related to surplus value, which I've already explained before. Now it's absolutely fair to argue that even though labor and resources cost a certain amount and the owner is going to sell it at a higher amount generating a margin of profit, there is still a lingering sense of contribution by the capitalist through innovation or organization or the purchase of capital machinery and so on, to make things happen. And that is a completely valid argument. However, that's not what he's doing. He's detaching the reality from the Marxist perspective and just pontificating about the role of profit in general, which really doesn't achieve any particular end. [JP] If the capitalist is adding value to the corporation then there's some utility and some fairness in him or her extracting the value of their abstract labor, their thought, their abstract abilities, their ability to manage the company... And then the other issue with profit and you know this if you've ever run a business, it's really useful constraint. Like, it's not enough to have a good idea. It's not a good enough to have a good idea and a sales and marketing plan, and then to implement it. It provides a good constraint on wasted labor. And so most of the things that I've done in my life, even psychologically, that were designed to help people's psychological health, I tried to run on a for-profit basis. And the reason for what that was, apart from the fact that I'm not adverse to making a profit partly so my enterprises can grow, it was also so that the reforms of stupidity that I couldn't engage in because I would be punished by the market enough to eradicate the enterprise. [PJ] What a bizarre man! Okay. He's saying that profit, if you don't make it, if it's not profitable and there isn't someone willing to pay you a profit, then it's not worth doing. And that might be true on his therapeutic business level. But let's think about all the things that don't generate a profit. Such as, oh I don't know- solving homelessness, or all of the things that don't have a return because either the people don't have money or what needs to be solved doesn't generate revenue by the process of solving it. This is an aside to the Marxist revelation of the exploitation of profit which is a perfectly viable concept. But Peterson is off in his own weird fantasyland as usual with all of this stuff. [JP] So, Marx and Engels also assume that this dictatorship of the proletariat which involves absurd centralization, the overwhelming probability of corruption and impossible computation as the proletariat now try to rationally compute the manner in which an entire market economy could run, which cannot be done because it's far too complicated for anybody to think through... [PJ] And the ultimate summation argument where you pretend that everything you've talked about has already been proven so you can summarize it all as if it's all official and declaratory. So you have the "dictatorship of the proletariat," a concept he clearly doesn't even understand, which will lead to "absurd centralization," will inevitably lead to corruption, and he clearly doesn't recognize once again the structural differences in what's being proposed, in theory, to change the structure; he sees a one-to-one equivocation, where the proletariat are just going to take the role of the bourgeoisie and hence perform the same "evils" as they always would. And then he goes on to talk about the economic calculation problem. Now no one can possibly comprehend the complexity of market dynamics in a roundtable group. Now that's probably true, but if you listen carefully to his disposition he would argue even today that nobody would be able to create economic calculation like the market because it's impossible, which is completely preposterous. With modern technology sensor systems, and AI, and all the networking capacities we have today, we could actually create a new market if you will without any money whatsoever and it would be 10 times more efficient. [JP] The next theory is that somehow the proletariat dictatorship would become magically hyperproductive. And there's actually no theory at all about how that's going to happen. And so I had to infer the theory and the theory seems to be that once you eradicate the bourgeoisie, because they're evil, and you get rid of their private property and you eradicate the profit motive, then all of a sudden magically the small percentage of the proletariat who now run the society determine how they can make their productive enterprises productive enough so they become hyperproductive. And they need to become hyperproductive for the last error to be logically coherent in relationship to the Marxist theory which is that at some point the proletariat, the dictatorship of the proletariat, will become so hyperproductive that there'll be enough material goods for everyone across all dimensions. [PJ] And this brings me back to my commentary at the very beginning. The vagueness of the Communist Manifesto lends itself for appropriate criticism and inappropriate criticism in the sense of drawing conclusions that seem to overshadow its basic principled theories, its observations and so on. It's not explained how any of this is supposed to occur. And rather than acknowledge the fact that it's not explained and that the text is fundamentally vague, Peterson takes it upon himself to jump on it as if it's indicative of some kind of larger ambiguity, a larger ambiguity that represents a general confusion of anyone today that attempts to criticize market capitalism. That's the implication; it might not be explicit but if you understand his work and his establishment-preserving tendencies, that is precisely what he is going for. And the fact that the Communist Manifesto is necessarily vague and was speculative in many ways gives him a jumping-off point to falsely validate his conclusions. [JP] The utopia that is going to suit everyone, because there are great differences between people. When some people are going to find what they want in love and some are going to find it in social being and some are going to find it in conflict and competition, and some are going to find it in creativity as Marx pointed out. But the notion that that will necessarily be the end goal for the utopian state is preposterous! [PJ] Okay. The fundamental premise of giving support to human beings is extremely rational in the same way that you create an infrastructure in society for people to travel around, for people to not go too far to purchase food, for people to have piping water into their homes, for people to have energy connected, heat, and so on. It might be romantic to walk a mile living in Africa just to get clean water and spend half your day doing that, [but] we prefer to have an infrastructure that supports us. The entire basic simple idea of socialism or frankly just any kind of design-oriented public health approach is that you allow people to have support on many levels so they don't have to worry about their most fundamental needs, allowing them to pursue other things. That's all the Bernie Sanders things wants to do, that's all historical Europe has ever done in the attempt to create universal health care and so on. It's about giving an actual safety net to people to make them feel secure and allow them to actually be free in stark contrast to the propaganda that any kind of socialist organization or any kind of design organization, any kind of planning - ooh! imagine that - will somehow result in totalitarianism or inefficiency. This is mythology, and this is where Peterson shines, because he has bought the line of privatization and this neurotic individualism hook line and sinker, and he goes out as an evangelist to promote the same bullshit libertarian stuff that so many others have done, and the pathetic thing is people continue to buy it at their own demise. The same people that support Peterson are the same people that look up to Trump, the same people that look down at any kind of organization of society as some kind of failure or some kind of denial of individualism and so on. [JP] Then there's the Dostoevskyan observation too which is one not to be taken lightly which is: What sort of shallow conception of people do you have that makes you think that if you gave people enough bread and cake in the Dostoevskyan terms and nothing to do except to busy themselves with continuity of the species, that they would also all of a sudden become peaceful and heavenly? Dostoevsky's idea was that, we were built for trouble! [PJ] I would have to counter that the more shallow conception of humanity is that they would need to be pressured and coerced by the system they live in to be forced into different labor roles to do things. Because if they don't have a foundational basis of their existence, they're just gonna be some kind of meandering blob sloth?! That is effectively what he's saying here and I have no idea if Dostoevsky ever said that. But it's completely preposterous to think that people don't have a sense of personal navigation and interest, and that they have to be constantly pressured by some external force to do anything which is effectively what he's implying. Along with apparently the idea that if people were given the necessities of life they would disturb it somehow? they'd fuck it up somehow? [JP] And if we were ever handed everything we needed on a silver platter, the first thing we would do is engage in some form of creative destruction just so something unexpected could happen just so we could have the adventure of our lives! [JP] I could assure everybody listening that giving people the necessities of life as a layer of support does not disqualify total chaos, pain, suffering, all the trauma and excitement and journey and adventure that people can experience in life. What a miserable human perspective. [JP] And then the last error let's say, although by no means the last, and this is one of the strangest parts of the Communist Manifesto, is Marx admits, and Engel admits repeatedly in the Communist Manifesto that there has never been a system of production in the history of the world that was as effective at producing material commodities in excess than capitalism. The logical thing needs just to let the damn system play itself out? Unless you're assuming that the evil capitalists are just going to take all of the flat-screen televisions, and put them in one big room, and not let anyone else have one. [PJ] That's kind of funny he uses that analogy since that's exactly what's happened in the world! You have stupid amounts of inequality, vast inequity, property hoarded by a very small number of people in the form of dollars that by system function, restrict other people from having that money, billions of people in poverty. I don't even know what the statistic is anymore, 1% of the world owning half of the wealth, it's probably even more than that. I refuse to even look anymore because it gets worse every single year. But beyond that, he jumps on this thing that I mentioned before about productivity and capitalism and he just simply assumes that, "Well if we're producing a lot of stuff, forget the ecological crisis, forget the cultural consumer vanity crisis, but let's just keep producing lots of stuff regardless because we have the machinery to do it and the capitalist incentive of profit to do it, and that is going to somehow alleviate the problems of the world, and let's just keep doing that because that seems to be the trajectory." [JP] The first thing I'd like to say is we do not know how to set up a human system of economics without inequality. No one has ever managed it. [PJ] Definitively untrue; human cultures spent enormous swaths of time in egalitarian organizations. The correct question is: how do we set up an egalitarian system within a surplus-producing society, post Neolithic Revolution? Something that I've been talking about for a long time, and have written about, and it can be done. Not to mention there are still small pockets of civilization, that still live in egalitarian ways even though they're entrenched in the capitalist social order. And finally if you wish to take a scientific perspective of inequality and its attributes, rather than just imply that all inequality is equal and it doesn't matter the degree of extremes, take a look at the Gini coefficients across nations and then consider the economic practices of those nations with the lowest number. It's very clear that those nations, first world nations of course, the developed nations, that have well established social support programs that are less privatized, naturally lead to less inequality and of course they are also the happiest nations when it comes to the Happiness Index. All of this is to say that at a minimum the happiest, most equal nations are not poster childs for neoliberal free-market economics. They might still be market economies but they move to the other end of the spectrum. And my point here in rebuttal to Peterson's generalization is that it should be the interest of every nation for the sake of its public health, given how caustic socioeconomic inequality is across the board - from drug use to violence and so on, things I've talked about at great length before. And hence it's axiomatic to say "Well if these are the structural reforms that are increasing equality and effectively increasing public health and happiness, then why don't we continue moving in that direction because it makes the most sense?" [JP] And it's not obvious by any stretch of imagination that the free market economies of the West have more inequality than the less free economies in the rest of the world. And the one thing you can say about capitalism is that, although it produces inequality which it absolutely does, it also produces wealth, and all the other systems don't! They just produce inequality! [PJ] Let's listen to that exuberant stupid shit again. [JP] And the one thing you can say about capitalism is that, although it reduces inequality which it absolutely does, it also produces wealth, and all the other systems don't! They just produce inequality! [PJ] First of all, all countries on the planet are capitalist to one degree or another because they use money and markets, with extreme deviation in countries like North Korea and then a little less for places like Cuba, and then a little less for places like Venezuela and then China and so on. And as I've just talked about with the Scandinavian countries such as Denmark, which employ very strict controls of the market economy in terms of regulation and unions I should say, they're very free in many ways, but they're still very strict and they have massive social safety nets and avoid extensive neoliberal privatization, the real argument here is "what is the most successful of this spectrum?" And it's clear that Peterson doesn't even know what the word "wealth" even means. Are Denmark, Sweden and Norway and so on lacking wealth? even though they are some of the happiest countries on the planet, and they do not have the excess production of goods in the same way the United States does which by the way is one of the most miserable industrialized nations on the planet? Wealth is an abstraction; it's a perspective of affluency that's socially relative. So this whole quick little emotional diatribe by Peterson as some kind of punctuation mark on his arguments in general has zero value because he's arguing a complete invention that he's made up with respect to the way he sees the world under the assumption that free market capitalism in its highest extreme is going to be the highest production of wealth and hence the highest production of happiness and so on. [JP] Here's a few stats, here's a few free market stats, OK? From 1800 to 2017, income growth adjusted for inflation grew by 40 times for production workers and 16 times for unskilled labor. So from 1AD in 1800AD it was like nothing, flat. And then all of a sudden in the last 217 years there's been this unbelievably upward movement of wealth. And it doesn't only characterize the tiny percentage of people at the top who, admittedly, do have most of the wealth. The question is, not only though, "what's the inequality?" the question is "well what's happening to the absolutely poor at the bottom?" And the answer to that is "they're getting richer faster now than they ever have in the history of the world." [PJ] Earlier in this program Mr. Peterson said this: [JP] Almost all ideas are wrong. And it doesn't matter if they're your ideas or someone else's ideas, your job is to assume first of all that they're probably wrong and then to assault them with everything you have and see if they can survive. It was akin to something Jung said about "typical thinking" and this was the thinking of people who weren't trained to think. If a thought appears, they just accept it as true. They don't go the second step, which is to think about the thinking. [PJ] Very sage advice! very sage advice. Too bad Jordan doesn't employ it because what he does in this final conclusion, which I'm not going to play, is attribute the decrease of extreme poverty to free-market capitalism without any other level of investigation as to why this has occurred. This is a chart put forward by Gregory Clark called the Malthusian Trap. The Malthusian Trap points out that up until the 19th century incomes pretty much went nowhere. Generally miserable existence, kings, monarchs, regal authorities held great wealth while the peasants toiled away. And then you have this enormous divergence that happened upon the 19th century at the end of the chart, the great divergence as people have called it, which vastly increased incomes and hence wealth. And do you think this had to do with free market capitalism? Free market capitalism is an abstraction that we have coined in the modern era as per the theories of Adam Smith. But the framework of market economics goes back thousands of years. The concept of property and specialization of labor, ownership, means of production, and all of the fundamental attributes that are associated to capitalism as we know it today existed and molded and developed during the post Neolithic Revolution time, starting 12,000 years ago. And over the course of that time the characteristic of society was deeply unequal, miserable by today's standards. And yet market trade, ownership property, and all of that still existed to a general degree. That is what the Agricultural Revolution produced. You can argue the definition of this or that social system but there's a through line that starts from the Agricultural Revolution up until today and the general attributes have remained the same. And the massive move of increased wealth upon the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution, has nothing to do with market economics in and of itself and everything to do with the sudden discovery of advancement in efficiency-improving technology. The advancement of efficiency-improving technology which was sparked at that time in the 19th century: the Industrial Revolution. In other words the market got lucky. That rise of advanced technology was able to improve upon the networking elements of market economics, setting forward levels of efficiency and production that were once impossible, making effectively the market look good. And the fact that he doesn't recognize this as the driving force of what is in truth a very slow and arguably minor alleviation of poverty in the world, what he just talked about, goes to show that he is one confirmation-bias-seeking machine. He's not willing to take critical thought in anything, he's looking for things that will confirm what will sell his next book. And for all those out there that will continue to search for excuses to say "Well the markets are still the source of everything," "Oh, and markets had to get technology out there!" This singular fallacy causality is a tremendous blight. Human technological ingenuity and problem-solving is built into us. Long before the concept of trade and profit and competition, we invented lots of things from the wheel to mechanisms of hunting and so on. Necessity is the mother of invention, not the pursuit of fucking profit. And it's my hope people out there will take all of this to heart as what the true mechanisms of human networking and development really mean, what wealth really means, what innovation really means, what sustainability really means, and advance our currently arcane society to something that will actually work for future generations and not continue the trajectory that's going to lead towards complete destabilization. That's all for me, thank you very much.

Video Details

Duration: 52 minutes and 43 seconds
Year: 2019
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Peter Joseph
Director: Peter Joseph
Views: 22
Posted by: ltiofficial on Apr 24, 2019

Peter Joseph addresses the opening arguments put forward by Jordan B. Peterson, from Peterson's debate with Slavoj Zizek called "Happiness: Capitalism vs. Marxism" - April 19th 2019

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