Question on a public intellectual with unsavoury views on Marxism

Hey Dr Wolff! Thanks so much for everything you are doing! I was curious if you have ever come accross the name Jordan Peterson. He is a public intellectual in Canada, who has gained a lot of popularity in the last few years, mainly because he takes an anti-PC stance, and that seems to resonate with a lot of people these days. But my question is pertaining to his views on Marx, which are pretty outrageous. I will post something from Wikipedia below, but Im curious If you would ever consider debating him. I have put projects together, so could potentially look into doing this. I love reading Marx, and love what you are doing, and most of all, don't appreciate a great thinker like Marx being misrepresented to the general public, especially in a time where more people could stand to check out Das Kapital. Peterson recently raised above 160k from fans, who are supporting the videos he puts out on YouTube. Anyhow, his Wikipedia Marxism excerpt below "I have been studying authoritarianism on the right and the left for 35 years. I wrote a book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, on the topic, which explores how ideologies hijack language and belief. As a result of my studies, I have come to believe that Marxism is a murderous ideology. I believe its practitioners in modern universities should be ashamed of themselves for continuing to promote such vicious, untenable and anti-human ideas, and for indoctrinating their students with these beliefs. I am therefore not going to mouth Marxist words. That would make me a puppet of the radical left, and that is not going to happen. Period.[20

Official response from submitted

This statement requires a good deal of ignorance. First of all, there is no "Marxism" or "Marxist" in the singular. Marxism is a set of ideas and theories and also of practices by political parties and by governments. Since Marx lived and wrote, his ideas have influenced thinkers in every country on ever continent for about 150 years. Across that space and time, many different interpretations have grown up as people in different societies, cultures, histories make their different senses of what Marx wrote. It is a testimony to the power and relevance of Marx's thought that so much grew out of it, that his work spoke to so many people in such diverse situations. Any reasonable assessment of "Marxism" would have to show a differentiation among all its different expressions and interpretations. Speaking in the singular about a single Marx, as your quote of Peterson does, reveals an immense lack of understanding of what is being denounced. So the denunciation comes off as a kind of sad reversion to the worst of Cold War rhetoric now sadly behind the times of a period when questioning of capitalism (Marx's task and work) is rising quickly everywhere. Do you think there is much point in debating someone who does that?

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  • Issah Contractor
    commented 2017-07-09 18:23:42 -0400
    Thank you for the reply Dr Wolff. Always a pleasure to read, or listen to your views. I suppose my motivation for suggesting a debate, would not be to change his mind, but to open the minds of people that identify with his ideas, to your clear, progressive, timely and relevant perspective, that utilizes Marx’s writings, to explain and improve the current state of affairs. This article below states that he is raising 50k through public funding, and is shooting for 100k a month, in order to start a university course for the humanities. And I feel, everyone of those people that identify with his ideas, could really benefit from hearing you. Now, how impactful his opinions are on a global scale are probably negligible. And therefore, you probably have bigger fish to fry. But If ever you saw a point to doing something like this, I could look into organizing it. Cheers and thanks for the reply. The article I mentioned above………….
  • Richard Wolff
    responded with submitted 2017-07-09 16:51:36 -0400
  • Issah Contractor
    published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2017-07-07 20:56:35 -0400