Marxism: Zizek/Peterson:  Official Video

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]

100 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Well this was a good debate. I'm glad neither participant chose to play the role that everyone would've wanted them to. I'm still stuck on the concept of creating a game that everyone wants to play. Who makes the game? The truth is not everyone is capable of being a game master. Even if one is able to come up with a better game that doesn't change the fact that until it's validated and accepted by at least a small group the game is completely irrelevant. The other issue is that if it does become relevant and accepted how would you then proceed to dissociate yourself from the game so that it doesn't encompass your entire identity? And how would one juggle between this game and the game of survival in which we are all irreversibly locked in?

    In essence I think capitalism is the best game we've been able to come up with so far since it's realistically speaking the only one that produces wealth. I think that one of the flaws of capitalism is that it eventually doesn't produce wealth fast enough in a way that would live up to everyone's expectations. As wealth increases so do expectations and while wealth increases gradually expectations increase exponentially until everyone loses faith and the whole system crashes horribly only to be reborn again and again. Makes me wonder if there's any interplay or overlap between economic and moral recessions. While I'm unsure of the economy I do believe we're rather close to a moral crisis, which I believe is part of what drives this whole SJW nonsense.

  2. I feel good hearing Zizak talk. He's got such a firm grip on raw stark reality. I prefer an ugly truth to a beautiful lie. Ugly truths are just more comforting and make me sleep better at night.

  3. Whenever I watch these lectures, discussions or debates I end up irritated when it inevitably ends all too soon. I don’t believe there will ever be enough time to platform Jordan without cutting him short. The problems the world faces are endless, and so is the wisdom that we require to combat it.

  4. Happiness, motivation and all that jazz … & …

  5. IMHO Peterson lost this battle because instead of trying to stumble upon the truth in the argument he went for establishing himself as a philosopher of the same caliber as Zizek. He is not, and because of this we all lost an opportunity to hear different approaches to the intellectual conversation.

  6. Slavo has some really great ideas on the issue of useing racial comedy to draw people to gather.

  7. I came here out of curiosity because someone told me that 'Jordan Peterson got destroyed debating a Marxist', and got what I was expecting, instead; two knowledgeable, intelligent people honourably challenging each other's knowledge and intelligence. That was three hours well spent. Thank you.

  8. Dr. Zizek don’t forget that China for decades has stolen USA intellectual property and manipulation of currency.

    Not such a miracle!!!

  9. The Communist Manifesto was a revolution document, not psychology document. So a psychologist critiques a political document from a psychological angle and then claims it is flawed. The pot calling the kettle black?

  10. The perspective that religion is the root of evils, by whatever measure, is scapegoating. Religion is not something separate from us that we can separate out and we'll just be better. Any evil claimed to be religion, is more easily put at the feet of human nature.

  11. It’s very frustrating to hear Peterson constantly say “Marx never addressed this.” Peterson admitted to having only read the manifesto, and then also admitted that he was aware that the manifesto was effectively only propaganda tied to its time. Once the debate gets going, it’s enjoyable, but Peterson’s total lack of knowledge on the content is pretty aggravating when it’s something he constantly rails against

    EDIT: It’s gentuinely mega triggering when Peterson says he doesn’t believe that Marx didn’t actually believe in equality of outcomes at around the 2 hour mark. Why couldn’t he just read the very, very short Critique of the Gotha Program? Y’know, one of the exceedingly few pieces where he wrote about something other than just an analysis of capitalism and historical materialism. I don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t like the debate, though. The conversation about religion was awesome—especially Žižek’s perspective which I haven’t ever really thought about before and Peterson’s responses to it.

  12. Poor Zizek, lol. I'd take him over Peterson any day of the week. On a whole other level. I cant believe they got these two together. lol. wow. The (Zizek) and its ego (peterson). Jung thought his bookcase was communicating with him. He was brilliant and did a lot of fascinating work, on symbolism, and creams and coining the collective unconscious, but is that philosophy? anyway, ill shut-up and watch.

  13. C'mon, this is not serious. Have to turn it off at 39 min. Peterson seems to be quite a nice guy but he is NOT an economist and he is NOT a historian. To me his arguments sounds watery and weak here, no solid ground, not a real talk, just some rumbling around.

  14. So, as long as we have something to blamr as in a higher being, power, religion to blame, everything is permitted

  15. Zizek is the first marxist who made me think a lot and not cringe while he speaks. He also made Peterson expose some views I haven't seen before. I'll watch it again many times.

  16. For the love of whatever… why can’t these organizers equalize sound properly??? It’s like they are talking 1mile away! My headphones are at max and I can barely hear it!!! ?

  17. When listening to people's reactions to the discussions and arguments really makes me question what kind of idiots came to see this event live.. wtf is funny with all of this, why are people clapping after somebody makes an argument, makes the whole thing feel like this is a fucking reality show more than extremely interesting and enticing arguments, that are hardly easy to understand in a deep way…

  18. Capitalism stifles creativity ? Buhahahahahahahahahaha ! Right. Stop projecting you drooling, slobbering prof. and work with a speech therapist for Gods sake. Now at least we know the name of Pavlov's mutt.

  19. Bottom line. marxism has never succeeded and capitalism has never failed. The end. Time to shelve this moronic ideology for once and for all. The experiments have cost at least 100 million innocent lives.

  20. Tweo of the most intellectual people of our time, so interesting to watch. And even though they claim to be so far appart, they are so much closer to each other than it might seem. Sorry for my poor english.

  21. Essential conversation for today. Brilliant discourse by brilliant and deep thinkers -kt

  22. After the Zizek introduction @12:28 …but thats how he comes dressed to an event like this, really? Hell, Id dress like Peterson just to catch my flight. I already disagree with Zizek.

  23. Zizek quickly glossed over that capitalist trade policies in China allied to authoritarian government in itself leading to massive worker exploitation resulted in what we are supposed to accept as happiness for the majority. That can't be true if Marx is to be believed. Free market policies can't succeed unless workers are properly treated and adequately rewarded. The Free market countries and economies are constantly subjected to strikes and worker actions and yet in socialist countries that sort of action is not permitted, so workers merely keep busy instead of producing.

  24. Pobreza actual en el mundo Capitalista: 67,5%
    Los Muertos del Capitalismo:

  25. 1:12:20 Eh? No. There is not more forest today in Germany than in the past. Humans overpopulate and urbanization cuts into nature.

  26. Two great minds who are definitely worth listening to, but why should Marxism be an issue in this conversation.

  27. Peterson opening with the communist manifesto as his only critique was like me look at the blurb of a book and declaring everything within dogshit. Never seen such unpreparedness.

  28. LOL Peterson thinks Marx didn’t know that wages increase when labor becomes “scarce”. Why this guy even talks about Marx continues to amaze me…

  29. Zizek doesn't really seem to stand for anything. He's kind of the perfect postmodernist. A bunch of nonsensical statements, acknowledgement of the benefits of free markets but… Still hates them anyway. Ok

  30. The beauty of this debate is not that anyone presented a convincing argument. Its their agreement that the issues we face as a world today are much more complex than simple economic models can address. And they both were aware of the shortcomings of their own positions. If only we could have more discussions like this. We could begin fixing the issues everyone is aware of, instead trying to defend a specific camp to protect personal interests.

  31. Loved the debate, but I think both went too far when Peterson farted on Zizek's face and then they said the N-Word like 1000 times

  32. I liked what Zizek said about falling in love. I never really thought about the use of the word "falling" when describing the beginning of love but it really is a perfect way of expressing it.

  33. Refreshing debate, it felt like a intelligent discussion where understanding was the core value, not creating a divide.

  34. Peterson: "Let's breed a billion more people, so that there will be more geniuses that will solve overpopulation". Zizek: <skipped his blabbering>

  35. The reports of the rapes, drain on economy, and non-assimilation of refugees is just a story? A sad story, yes. All of the philosophizing in the world is no substitute for kicking their asses out of our countries.


  37. Marx rapes the West while Zezek holds his balls to keep them out of the dust. Then he faces the audience, saying, "But he has dust on his balls!"

  38. It blows my mind that people can still argue in favor of communism and socialism. I would as soon expect them to argue in favor of smallpox and the plague.

  39. This is a fascinating discussion. Slavoj and Jordan are from different disciplines and perspectives, but can nevertheless find many points of connections on these big issues. I've watched this a few times with increased enjoyment each time.

  40. I think JBP would benefit from reading some Jacques Ellul and Christopher Lasch, and some Marx beyond the Communist Manifesto.

  41. Oh my fucking god???
    Sorry for a silly comment like this but, look at the public, right in the middle at 1:45
    I'm dying ?

  42. I have a profound admiration for Jordan Peterson and agree with him on many points: we are both deeply influenced by Nietzsche, Dostoevsky and the depth psychology, I also believe in personal responsibility which I consider inextricably linked with meaning, I admire his emphasis on heroic self-overcoming in the face of the tragic reality of life, which is essentially a Nietzschean theme, as are many others which Peterson presents, I love him for waging a just and much needed war against nihilism, political correctness, liberal identity politics, impulsive pleasure-seeking, self-pitying, materialistic shallowness, and other perils of our time, but having said that, is there anyone who can confidently dispute how pitifully beneath Žižek's level intellectually he really is? Žižek was actually very kind and good-hearted not to inflict a more severe public humiliation on him and expose his inadequacies more explicitly. On a surface level, it may seem Žižek barely got an upper hand or that they mostly agreed, but on a deeper level, one sees the unfolding of Žižek's ultimately victorious strategy perfectly well, which shocked Peterson in the beginning and bypassed the false binary opposition he strove to put forth. In the end, Žižek seemingly effortlessly tore down the entire conceptual structure Peterson had been building for months, his post-modern neo-marxist strawman, his flawed attempts at cultural critique and interpretation of the sources of our current mess etc. That being said, he had a respectful performance, but Žižek is no Sam Harris or Helen Lewis; he is the one of the three or four most important philosophers alive (along with Habermas and Badiou) and his more adequate opponent would be, say, Chomsky. It is sad that debate had never taken place.

  43. this should be good. Marxism should probably get a better face than Zizek for their marketing. Just saying. Him and Fatboy from NK aren't really that appealing. To understand everything, one simply needs to know – Marx basically never had a job. He also didn't pay a personal price. Which is different than Eugene V. Debs, who actually served time in prison.

  44. Whenever I watch Peterson from time to time I have to look-up some words in the dictionary (not a native English speaker)

  45. The irony: Mock religion by equating all religions to radical Islam while as tolerant liberals submit to the Islamic invasion of Europe. Liberalism is a Mental Disorder.

  46. People at top of Hierarchy have all the power the slaves have to make their own ideas good and bad to retain some power ie Christ and Christianity read Nietzsche Peterson or Foucault

  47. Let me get this straight.

    Peterson thinks its merciful that a monotheistic god let his son off the hook for the crime of flirting wirh atheism while he was being tortured.

    For god's sake….

  48. Strawman after strawman from Peterson. He projects…the proletariat dont want a dictatorship. Once again, for guys like him, equality of opportunity (not outcome) seems like oppression

  49. Haven’t watched this and I have to go soon, but Facebook leftist weirdos say Peterson was “destroyed” by Zizek.

    Anyone kind enough to fill me in?

  50. That crowd seems like a very “low resolution” crowd. Someone should have duct taped all their damn hands together….. sad

  51. Peterson – speaks extemperaniously about the achievements of the libertarian Western system reducing poverty.

    Zizek – Constantly sniffles and wipes his nose from an obvious cocaine addiction about how well China has done while ignoring the fact they killed 60 million of their own people while rounding Muslims I to cocentration camps

  52. Individualism v group mentality the individual contributes to society and without the individual there is no society. Ignoring the fact that humans are apex predators, we can live in a society upon an agreement between the individuals that are a part of the society. Someone invading the group without adhering to the rules of the group becomes an enemy. Marxism says no enemies exist because the rules that are agreed upon by the group are useless. The biggest misconception that marxists jump on is that you will act on the betterment of society and need no compensation. the group will self-destruct and 2 groups will form when one person in the group becomes complacent and stops contributing to the group or when someone adds nothing to the group.

  53. its so funny how even Peterson and Zizek are making fun of the stupidity of the audiance, and yet the people dont get it lol

    its the typical ''Student tries to frame Jordan Peterson. WATCH what happens THEN! *Total Destruction*'' Audiance.

  54. zizek had the uper hand, he had lived in a comunist country, yust like me from age 0 to age 12, he is 30 years older than me, so he has more experience than me of that regime, for me it was great, comunal, comunity striving for togethernes, always goverment triying to put in us a sence of belonging, and a destiny of our nation, after the colapse and the war and new values put upon my nation by the forces of civilized countries, that felling of being a part of a comunity has gone to dust, conections that have existed betwean people are erased, every soul now brainwashed into beliving some variation of american dream.
    dark times and newer enough suffering, and they call it democracy and freedom.

    peterson is a canadian, he can read books about comunism, treeties, and analisis, but he has no direct experience of the thing it was. it was human for humans at the time and all that wanted to destroy that sence of being and belonging where killed of or sent to schooling camps, to make them change their minds. if they did not change their opinion they where shot in the head and thrown into a dark pit, so the happynes of the many prevailed.there was yust one dog at the top and he was feeding milions of his citizens, and they where living a good life, all rebrelios actors died, because they did not understand the conections, triying to overthrow the goverment, having blind ideas that chlash with the majority mind. after the death of president tito, great powers decided, we dont need united balcans, it was a power to great to reside in the middle of europe so they send their operatives to destroy the whole thing, franjo tuđman, and slobodan miloševič, trained operatives for the task to turn people one against other, singing songs about nationalism. ushering the new age of democracy and turning people into slaves to the capitalist system, one step at a time. and now there is yust disconect, no trust in felow human, urges satisfied by murder, only dark news and no sence of belonging to nothing, only more suffering and greed.

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