Tag Archives: Jordan Peterson

Politics and Prophecy: Jordan Peterson’s Antidote to Modernity

One person’s prophet has always been another’s crackpot. Nowhere is this more obvious currently than with psychology professor turned public intellectual Jordan B. Peterson. Peterson has attained a large following online and is esteemed by centrist members of the American media. Yet few intellectuals are currently so reviled by younger leftists. This article argues for some conceptual and cultural-historical clarification of Peterson’s work. I suggest that Peterson and some (not all) of his leftist critics are actually on the same side of an effort to preserve the open-access order (the basic political-economic organization of the Western democracies). However, they focus on different problems endemic to such orders. While his critics focus on power imbalances and material inequalities, Peterson is a manifestation of the need to manage spiritual crisis while at the same time maintaining relative openness of access to political and economic institutions. Recurrent spiritual crisis, I argue, inheres in open-access orders. Because these orders depend on impersonality and value relativism, they provide no spiritual grounding for individuals. In open-access societies, spiritual crises get temporarily resolved by the development of ‘secular theodicies,’ modes of making sense of suffering in a world in which God is dead. Peterson is a purveyor of a secular theodicy, the contours and context of which are shown through consideration of Peterson’s writings and online videos.

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