As you know, I’ve been getting into Jordan Peterson lately, through his Bible lectures. I know he’s loathed by many people. Those on the Left who consider him some sort of alt-right figure are absurdly wrong. But I have friends who aren’t that, but who don’t like him. I haven’t yet come across anything in Peterson’s words that I don’t care for, but this Mere Orthodoxy essay by Daniel De Carlo gives me a good idea of what conservative friends of mine don’t like about him. Excerpt:
Peterson, though he also frequently hits many of the same talking points as, say, Ross Douthat and Charles Murray, goes a step further and takes a firm stand, not just against the decline of marriage, but against the very idea of romance itself:
Romance is a young person’s game, and the reason for that is, obviously, the precursor to having children…The purpose of romance isn’t lifetime happiness. First of all that’s insane, because you’re just not going to find a person that’s going to make you happy…The purpose of romance is to set up the preconditions for having children and doing it properly.
To many conservative sensibilities Peterson’s advice may seem like common sense, even an appropriate response to what has been perceived as a drift away from the “traditional values” of the stoic mid-century suburban lifestyle practiced by the Greatest Generation and toward the self-absorbed narcissism of the Baby Boomers during the latters’ half-century quest for self-actualization.
The problem with this analysis is that, for all their many flaws, the Boomers were generally quite fond of marriage (to the point that they frequently did it multiple times throughout their lives). The Boomers, whatever else they were, were romantics; they frequently did not let being married to others get in the way of their romances.
Millennials, on the other hand, increasingly don’t marry at all. Ever. But not, contra Peterson, because they are wild eyed dreamers looking for their soul mates. Rather, because many of them have already internalized the very therapeutic, utilitarian, and neoliberal values that Peterson himself preaches.
An ethos which Peterson eagerly applies to the romantic interactions of humans who operate in what he has called, fittingly, the “sexual marketplace.” As Peterson states, “women date across and up hierarchies, while men date across and down them.” Peterson argues that sexual hierarchies not only do exist, but should exist.
Reductionist and morally grotesque as Peterson’s “lobstertarian” vision of human interpersonal relationships is, it is not, contra the bloviations of his fans, in any way “counter-cultural.” Rather, in the context of our contemporary social hellscape of Tinder, meticulously manicured LinkedIn profiles, and personal brands which have been carefully designed to maximize the “human capital” (and thus, the “exchange value”) of their users, nothing could be more socially and economically orthodox.
Again, I’m largely unfamiliar with Peterson’s teachings on relations between men and women. You readers who are, tell me: is De Carlo’s essay fair and accurate?