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]

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. God this was embarrassing for peterson. Spent his career railing against marxists, does not know what Marxism is (dialectical materialism) nor has he read anything but the communist manifesto (not theory book, a pamphlet calling for action dumbed down for illiterate workers over 100 years ago who had no education).

    Peterson cant be this dumb, he cant think Marx thought the rich were evil and the poor good. Fuck me, read about materialist conceptions of history you fucking fake Tony Robins religious Larper.

  2. The disturbed look on Dr. Peterson's face when people cheerfully at his intimation of a bloody and violent revolution. Then when the others laugh, he seems to think, "This is nothing to clap or laugh at." Because it's not.

  3. Am i the only one that wonders what marx would have changed in his manifesto if he was able to hear this debate when he was writing the manifesto? Or what his counter arguments would have been to jordan? Its an interesting idea

  4. "Don't fall in love with your suffering. Never presume that your suffering in itself is a proof of your authenticity." – Zizek

  5. I have been saying this joke for ten years "Slavoj Zizek is the only guy who read 10,000 books, not one of them about public speaking". After this I will need to stop telling that joke because Zizek was uncharacteristically clear. My favourite Zizek joke is the one about the guy who told his phycologist about the giant chicken who follows him around….

  6. People expected a debate(even Peterson clearly ) and it was advertised that way.
    What we got instead was a discussion.
    I'm glad it went this way.

    Zizek sound weird look crazy as fuck but if you go beyond that you will discover a man of wisdom with a great sense of humor. You will also discover that he is as crazy as he looks but in a good way. He reminds me of these strange swamp dwelling wizards in the stories. Ugly, stinky, rude, crazy and weird. They seem to speak nonsense all the time but at some point it will click and you'll see the wisdom, truth and knowledge hidden in their words.

    Zizek is also viciously entertaining and funny. This is what miss from a lot of discussions and debate. Having fun together, not making fun of each other to undermine the opponent ideas .

    Seriously, the only thing that annoyed me was the crowd.

  7. 1:10:29 zizek asks were does communism come in here? and looks in the paper for communism then he couldn't find it and moved on to another question.

  8. Well, Dr. Zizek does one thing in his opening here (which makes him not credible for me. At least for the moment):
    He opens with the comparison that the mentioning of the phenomenon of cultural Marxism is equated with Nazi propaganda against the Jews. Thus he implements something like "anti-Marxism", which, in his opinion, would be morally equated with anti-Semitism. It is an attempt to create a narrative (same as anti-Semitism) to burn any criticism of cultural Marxism from the outset.
    It is an attempt to compare the worthiness of the debate (capitalism vs. marxism) with the worthiness of the debate on anti-Semitism. Which IS NOT the same thing!
    So he basically opens with: Capitalism and it's negative side effects are a fact everyone can see. And that the notion of "cultural marxism" is just another propaganda story.
    I'm just saying – interesting start.

  9. Westerners can't compare their mindset with the ones of the Chinese peoples. It is simply not possible. That's why you cannot compare the western ecological system with the ecological system of China. Look how China is managing it's population. Many people live in man-sized boxes. period. they "live" there. Or shall we say, they work like slaves and in the night they are allowed to go to their own coffin-home to get some sleep? They literally live in a man-sized chicken coop.
    We have totally different standards and totally different mindsets.

  10. The level of respect Peterson has for people who defend their beliefs. He claps when Zizek is finished. That there is a good human.

  11. China is an authoritarian state that controls every facet of economic activity- from its policy of currency manipulation to the amount of kids a family can have. It’s capitalist in the sense that it uses capital and trade to grow its power and influence, but it does so by authoritarian means (as a communist state would). If the question is about “happiness,” it’s a false equivalency to compare China and most European countries or America- countries that were strongly influenced by western philosophy and Christianity. China’s culture- with its distinct character of honor, loyalty and nationalistic fervor, cultivate an environment conducive to the type of state China has. It’s 🍎’s & 🍊’s, folks.

  12. I takes some attention from the listener to sift the Zizek's "character" from the content of his views. He really tries to be a "nice and entertaining" guy, which is hard for me to buy – regardless of his views.

  13. edit, commented before video was finished
    it was a great talk that began as a dialogue, grew into a dialectic and then descended down to a debate. zizek's last remarks about jpb's rules were odd. jpb was explicit on setting one's house right, that the greatest good should be aimed for, which is what is good for one'self, one's family, and one's society/world.. yet zizek warns that even the most enlightened ideal can be a tool for evil. but here reducing self-deception and deception is core to the jpb ideal. it seems to be a conflict between pessimism and optimism, since i don't think malicious people can make use of jpb philosophy, because it's not a formula- it's a path which resembles a formula, which leads to nowhere substantively materialistic enough to benefit malicious intent. materialists interested in profit recognize this immediately and so avoid or even disdain jpb's ideas on it. zezik uses zen as the example, but that's not an apt comparison, since zen buddhism has absolutely destroyed the minds and souls of many of the people who pioneered it, until it became a formula, a "do this to get this effect" in a way which is profitable to a materialist malefactor. a nazi that needs to find a circumvention for conscience, or an ambitious monk who is capable of the contemptous acts, because he can convince himself he doesn't exist. even now, zen practiced carelessly is an extremely hazardous activity for the mind.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

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

  18. 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.

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

  20. 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.

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

    Not such a miracle!!!

  22. 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?

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

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

  28. 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.

  29. 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!!! 🤬

  30. 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…

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

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

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

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

  38. 1:12:20 Eh? No. There is not more forest today in Germany than in the past. Humans overpopulate and urbanization cuts into nature.

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

  40. 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.

  41. 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…

  42. 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

  43. 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.

  44. 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

  45. 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.

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

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

  48. 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.


  50. 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!"

  51. 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.

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