Marxism: Zizek/Peterson: Official Video



Good evening and welcome to the Sony Center for Performing Arts. Please note: during tonight's presentation, video, audio, and flash photography is prohibited and we have a strict zero tolerance policy for any heckling or disruptions And now, please welcome your host and moderator, President of Ralston College Dr. Stephen Blackwood. Thank you. A warm welcome to all of you here this evening, both those here in the theater in Toronto and those following online. You know, it's not very often that you see a country's largest theater packed for an intellectual debate. But that's what we're all here for tonight. Please join me Please join me in welcoming to the stage Dr. Slavoj Žižek and Dr. Jordan Peterson. Just a few words of introduction. There can be few things I think now more urgent and necessary in an age of reactionary, partisan allegiance and degraded civil discourse, than real thinking about hard questions. The very premise of tonight's event is that we all participate in the life of thought, not merely opinion or prejudice but the realm of truth, accessed through evidence and argument. But these two towering figures of different disciplines and domains share more than a commitment to thinking itself. They are both highly tuned to ideology and the mechanisms of power. And yet, they are not principally political thinkers. They are both concerned with more fundamental matters: meaning, truth, freedom. So it seems to me likely that we will see tonight not only deep differences, but also surprising agreement on deep questions. Dr. Slavoj Žižek is a philosopher. He has not one but two doctoral degrees, one in philosophy, one in philosophy from the University of Ljubljana, and a second in psychoanalysis from University — [crowd cheering] Let's hear it for psychoanalysis! From the University of Paris VIII. He is now a professor at the Institute of Sociology and Philosophy at the University of Ljubljana and the director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities at the University of London. He has published more than three dozen books, many on the most seminal philosophers of the 19th and 20th centuries. He is a dazzling theorist with extraordinary range, a global figure for decades, he turns again and again with dialectical power to radical questions of emancipation, subjectivity, and art. [crowd cheering] [crowd laughing] Dr. Jordan Peterson is an academic and clinical — [crowd cheering] an academic and clinical psychologist. His doctorate was awarded by McGill University and he was subsequently [crowd cheering] [laughter] We've got some McGill graduates out here. He was subsequently professor of psychology at Harvard University and then the University of Toronto where he is today. [cheering] The author of two books and well over a hundred academic articles, Dr. Peterson's intellectual roots likewise lie in the 19th and early 20th centuries, where his reading of Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, and above all Carl Jung inform his interpretation of ancient myths, of 20th century totalitarianism, and especially his endeavor to counter contemporary nihilism. His "12 Rules for Life" is a global bestseller, and his lectures and podcasts are followed by millions around the world. [cheering and applause] Both Dr. Žižek and Peterson transcend their titles, their disciplines, and the academy. Just as this debate, we hope, will transcend purely economic questions by situating those in the frame of happiness — of human flourishing itself. We're in for quite a night. A quick word about format: each of our debaters will have 30 minutes to make a substantial opening statement, to lay out an argument. Dr. Peterson first followed by Dr. Žižek. Each will then have, in the same order, 10 minutes to reply. I will then moderate 45 minutes or so of questions, many of which will come from you, the audience, both here in Toronto and online. With that, let's get underway. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Jordan Peterson for the first opening statement. [applause] Well, thank you for that insanely enthusiastic welcome, for the entire event and also for being here. I have to tell you first that this event, and I suppose my life in some sense, hit a new milestone that I was just made aware of by a stagehand today backstage who informed me that last week, the tickets for this event were being scalped online at a higher price than the tickets for the Leaf's playoff games. [cheering] [Peterson laughing] So I dunno what to make of that. Alright. So. How did I prepare for this? Uhm. I went — I familiarized myself to the degree that it was possible with Slavoj Žižek's work, and that wasn't that possible because he has a lot of work and he's a very original thinker and this debate was put together in relatively short order. And what I did instead was return to what I regarded as the original cause of all the trouble, let's say, which was the Communist Manifesto, [audience laughing] — and what I attempted to do — because that's Marx, and we're here to talk about Marxism, let's say, and, umm… What I tried to do was read it, and to read something you don't just follow the words and follow the meaning, but you take apart the sentences and you ask yourself, at this level of phrase and at the level of sentence and at the level of paragraph, "Is this true? Are there counterarguments that can be put forward that are credible?" "Is this solid thinking?" And I have to tell you, and I'm not trying to be flippant here, that I have rarely read a tract — now I read it when I was 18, it was a long time ago. That's 40 years ago. I've rarely read a tract that made as many errors per sentence — conceptual errors per sentence as the Communist Manifesto. It was quite a miraculous re-read. And it was interesting to think about it psychologically as well because I've read student papers that were of the same ilk, in some sense, although I'm not suggesting that they were of the same level of glittering literary brilliance and polemic quality. And I also understand that the Communist Manifesto was a call for revolution and not a standard logical argument. But that notwithstanding, I have some things to say about that author's psychologically. The first thing is that it doesn't seem to me that either Marx or Engels grappled with one fundamental — with this particular fundamental truth which is that almost all ideas are wrong. And so, if you — It doesn't matter if they're your ideas or someone else's ideas, they're probably wrong, and even if they strike you with the force of brilliance your job is to assume, first of all, that they're probably wrong, and then to assault them with everything you have in your arsenal and see if they can survive. And what struck me about the Communist Manifesto was, it was akin to something Jung said about typical thinking, and this was the thinking of people who weren't trained to think. He said that the typical thinker has a thought, it appears to them like an object might appear in a room, the thought appears, and then they just accept it as true. They don't go the second step, which is to think about the thinking. And that's the real essence of critical thinking, and so that's what you try and teach people in university, is to read a text and to think about it critically — not to destroy the utility of the text, but to separate the wheat from the chaff. And so what I tried to do when I was reading the Communist Manifest was to separate the wheat from the chaff. And I'm afraid I've found some wheat, yes, but mostly chaff. And I'm going to explain why, umm, hopefully, uhh, in relatively short order. So I'm going to outline 10 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 and tell you why I think they're unreliable. Now, we should remember that this tract was actually written 170 years ago — that's a long time ago! And we have learned a fair bit since then about human nature, about society, about politics, about economics. There's lots of mysteries left to be solved, but we are slightly wiser, I presume, than we were at one point and so you can forgive the authors to some degree for what they didn't know but that doesn't matter given that the essence of this doctrine is still held as sacrosanct by a large proportion of academics. Probably. Are among the most — what would you call? — guilty of that particular sin. So, here's proposition number one: 1. 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 and those have to be taken into account. Especially that drive people other than economic competition, like economic cooperation, for example. And so, that's a problem. The other problem is that it's not nearly a pessimistic enough description of the actual problem because history history, this is to give the devil his due, 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 and so, and that is implicit in some sense in Marxist thinking because, of course, Marx believed that in a capitalist society capital would accumulate in the hands of fewer and fewer people. And that actually is in keeping with the nature of hierarchical organizations. Now, the problem with that isn't so much the fact of 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 constructions. And the idea that there's hierarchical cometeition among human beings, there's evidence for that that goes back at least to the Paleolithic times. And so that's the next problem, it's that, well, 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. 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? And now, it's also, you've gotta understand that this is a deeper problem for people on the left, not just for people on the right. It is the case that hierarchical structures dispossess those people who are at the bottom those creatures who are at the bottom, speaking, say of animals. — but those people who are at the bottom, and that is a fundamental existential problem. But the other thing that Marx didn't seem to take into account is that there are far more reasons that human beings struggle than their economic class struggle even if you build the hierarchical idea into that, which is a more comprehensive way of thinking about it. Human beings struggle with themselves, with the malevolence that's inside themselves, with the evil that they're capable of doing, with the spiritual and psychological warfare that goes on within them, and we're also actually always at odds with nature, and this never seems to show up in Marx. And it doesn't show up in Marxism in general. It's as if nature doesn't exist. The primary conflict, as far as I'm concerned, or a primary conflict that human beings engage in is the struggle for life in a cruel and harsh natural world. And it's as if that doesn't exist in the Marxist domain. "If human beings have a problem it's because there's a class struggle, it's essentially economic" it's like, no! Human beings have problems because we come into the life starving and lonesome and we have to solve that problem continually, and we make our social arrangements, at least in part, to ameliorate that. As well as to, well, upon occasion exacerbate it. And 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, we have to organize ourselves in some manner, and you have to give the devil his due, and so 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 and it's finally the case that human hierarchies are not fundamentally predicated on power. And I would say the 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, so — [audience jeering] so that's a problem. Well, the people who laugh might do it that way. [laughter, applause]

26 thoughts on “Marxism: Zizek/Peterson: Official Video

  • i dont need a jew to tell me how the world is..the accent only of this international hyena..fuck them..

  • Zizek looks like a drunkard: fat, unshaved, unstylish cheap clothes, uncombed hair, sounds aswell horrible <- true representation of marxism. I dont want to be like this Zizek….compare speech of Zizek and Peterson. Jordans thoughts are well structured and clear while Zizek's is just jumps all over the yonder – from China to homosexuals. This debate is laughable.

  • Mr. Peterson I know that there is a really small chance you would read this but here it goes. I am a big fan of your work and i believe that you are one of the few remaining bastions of free rational thinking. However, i must admit that Mr. Zizek made some really strong points. His idea of happiness is derived from the Stoics philosophy and time after time this proves to be the ultimate truth regarding the happiness of the individual. Seneka was actually fascinated with Epicurus and it was his communes which were regarded as the schools for happiness. They were the closest thing to Communism that ever existed.

  • Why is the audio so quiet? I watched this live when it happened, and I do not at all remember the audio being this low

  • From what I've heard here, one would think Zizek is substantially to the right of the modern American Democratic party…?
    Also, I think Zizek might be a muppet. If not, he's the most physically animated human I've ever seen.

  • I almost feel like there was a miscommunication on what the debate was about. Either way, always love JB’s ideas. I think more of a conversation format would have been better.

  • With all due respect I don't think Zizek is a great debater, at least compared to Peterson, and his ideas and arguments were not very organised imo which made the debate go all over the place. 

    Also, Peterson's hand movements look like he's playing a piano, why? lol. Overall loved the debate deffo learned a lot and really got me thinking. Thank you.

  • JBP doesn't know what he's talking about and anyone who disagrees probably doesn't know what they're talking about. Such a charlatan
    Edit: omg he's so cringe

  • Peterson lacks of knowledge , he refer to things that i can also think and speak about. But i would never be able to think anything of what Zizek says.Although Peterson can get what Zizek says and deeply analyze it and gets inner meanings.Besides the extremely difference of their political views , i would say that this wasn't that much a debate but more the one was filling the other.

  • 1. It was a debate 2. Peterson said nothing outside of laying a weak foundation for an argument he never made

  • Watch academics remind you of why socialism and communism has never been a good idea… China… a success only if you look at how capitalist their economy is and ignore how bad off and oppressed their working class is (the great firewall of china knows everything you do online and all your neighbors inform on you offline!

  • This is not debate at all. 😂 These two men are not into same sports. It's forced talk by expectation of young people who fancy both of them on the Internet in persue for answers.

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