Jordan Peterson vs Slavoj Zizek: Full Debate and Breakdown

After much back and forth on social media, Clinical Psychologist Jordan Peterson and Slovenian Socialist Philosopher Slavoj Zizek finally took the stage together. In what was billed as the “Debate of the Century”, perhaps due to the iconic status of the two public intellectuals that also happen to be diametrically opposed to each other. While there was plenty of attacks on both sides, the two were able to find agreement on many aspects of their ideological positions. Perhaps most surprising of all, was the agreement that “some type of capitalism” is the correct societal answer to economic systems. 

  • Location: Sony Centre, Toronto
  • Date: April 19, 2019
  • Combatants: Jordan Peterson vs. Slavoj Zizek
  • Audience: 3,000 (sold out)
  • Subjects: Capitalism, Communism, Marxism, Political Correctness, Identity Politics

In Anthony Greenwald’s spellbinding 1980 paper The Totalitarian Ego, Anthony Greenwald describes how the human brain so often acts as a type of Orwellian totalitarian figure. The mind conveniently forgets  information that runs counter to one’s worldview and is all too willing to conflate pieces of information in return for efficiency in cognitive storage. That was a fancy way of saying that such mental processes seemed all too apparent on the April day when Jordan Peterson went up against Slavoj Zizek.

It wasn’t just that Jordan appeared unprepared, it’s that he seemed to be conflating certain aspects of Left wing ideas in order justify a grander narrative. Let’s get to the breakdown.

Slavoj Zizek’s Best Point

While it was mostly a stereotypica poorly focused Zizek that came to the stage in Toronto, Zizek nonetheless launched a pretty compelling attack on one particular aspect of Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life. One of Jordan’s most famous chapters states that one should set their room in order before they attempt to change the world. The Slovenian counters with the correct point: what if the reason that your room is out of order is because of the world outside?

In other words, it would seem ridiculous if one were in Nazi Germany or North Korea now and blame themselves for why their life is a mess. For Zizek, this is the very nature of totalitarian systems which rely on a message of Internalism to convince people to continue to work: “if you’re not happy, it’s because there’s something wrong with how you’re thinking about the world.”

Jordan Peterson’s Best Point

Despite his missteps over major issues (such as Marxism or the labor value theory), Jordan was at least focused and on point in his opening monologue. While it may be a cliche point, but Dr. Peterson was able to make a sound statistical and economic point for capitalism as the best of available options. Ultimately closing out his argument by utilizing the oft cited Churchill quote that “Capitalism is the worst economic system, except for all the others.”

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