Jordan Peterson & Slavoj Žižek – Happiness: Capitalism Vs. Marxism – HQ Video & Audio + English CC

Jordan Peterson & Slavoj Žižek – Happiness: Capitalism Vs. Marxism – HQ Video & Audio + English CC


Announcer: 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, Doctor Steven Blackwood. Dr. Blackwood: Thank you. A warm
welcome to all of you this evening, both those in the theatre here in Toronto and those following
online. It is not every often that you see a country’s largest theatre 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 Zizek and Dr. Jordan Peterson. Dr. Blackwood: 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, access
through evidence, and argument. These two towering figures have different disciplines
and domains share more than a commitment to thinking itself. They are both highly attuned
to ideologies and the mechanism 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 we will see tonight not only deep differences but also surprising agreement
on deep questions. Dr. Slavoj Zizek is a philosopher. He has not one but two doctoral degrees, one
in philosophy from the University of Ljubljana and a second in psychoanalysis from
…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 Burbek 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. Dr. Jordan Peterson is an academic
and clinical psychologist. His doctorate was awarded by McGill University
and he was subsequently .. we got some McGill graduates out here… he was subsequently
professor of psychology at Harvard University and the the University of Toronto where he
is today. The author of two book sand 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, Dostoyevsky, 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. Both Zizek 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. Zizek. Each will then have in the same order, ten 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. Jordan Peterson: 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 Leafs
playoff games… so I don’t know what to make of that. Alright, so how did I prepare for this? Um,
I went, I familiarized myself to the degree that it was possible with Slavoj Zizek’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 returned to what I regarded as the original cause of all the trouble let’s say which was
the Communist Manifesto and what I attempted to do (laughter) because that’s Marx and we’re
here to talk about Marxism let’s say and what I tried to do was read it and to read something
you don’t just all of 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 that the
level of paragraph is this true are there counter arguments 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 and I read it when I was 18 it was a long
time ago right that’s 40 years ago but I’ve rarely read a track that made as many errors
per sentence conceptual errors per sentence as the Communist Manifesto it was quite a
miraculous reread it and it was interesting to think about it psychologically. 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 the 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 and 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 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 a thought appears and then they just they just accept it as true
they don’t know 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 to 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 manifesto was to separate the wheat from the chaff and I’m afraid I found some
wheat yes but mostly chaff and I’m going to explain why hopefully in relatively short
order… So I’m going to outline ten of the fundamental
axioms of the Communist Manifesto and so these are truths that are basically held as self-evident
by the authors and 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 and it’s a long time ago when
we have learned a fair bit from since then about human nature, about society, about politics,
about economics. There’s lots of mysteries left to be unsolved but left to be solved
but we are slightly wiser I presume then 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: history
is to be viewed primarily as an economic class struggle. Alright so so let’s think about
that for a minute. First of all is there 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 the drive people other than economic competition like
economic cooperation for example. And so that’s a problem. The other problem is that it’s
actually not a 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 now
that is implicit in some sense in Marx. Marx is thinking because of course Marx believed
that in a capitalist society 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 is it so much the fact of so there’s the 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 competition among human beings there’s evidence for that that
goes back at least to the Paleolithic times and so that’s the next problem is that well
the 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 got to 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 dispossessed
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 that is a fundamental existential problem
but the other thing that Marx didn’t seem to take into account is that there there are
far more reasons that human beings struggle then 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 Marx’s Marxism in general it’s as if
nature doesn’t the primary conflict as far as I’m concerned or a primary conflict that
human beings engage in is this struggle for life in a cruel and harsh natural world and
it’s as if it’s as if that doesn’t exist at the Marxist domain if human beings have a
problem it’s because there’s a class struggle that’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 as to well upon occasion exacerbated and so there’s also very
little understanding in the Communist Manifesto that any of the likes a hierarchical organizations
that human beings have put together I 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 dispossessed 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 that biological anthropological
data on that or crystal clear you don’t rise to a position of authority that’s reliable
in human society primarily by exploiting other people it’s a very unstable means of obtaining
power so so that’s a problem (laughter) Well the people that laugh might do it that
way (more laughter) Okay now the other another problem that comes
up right away is that Marx also assumes that you can think about history as a binary class
struggle with clear divisions between say the proletariat and the bourgeois
and that’s actually a problem because it’s not so easy to make a firm division between
whose exploiter and who’s exploitee let’s say because it’s not obvious like in the case
of small shareholders let’s say whether or not they happen to be part of the oppressed
or part of the oppressor this actually turned out to be a big problem in the Russian Revolution
and my big problem I mean tremendously big problem because it turned out that you could
fragment people into multiple identities and that’s a fairly easy thing to do and you could
usually find some axis along which they were part of the oppressor class it might have
been a consequence of their education or it might be a consequence of their of their of
their of the wealth that they strived to accumulate during their life or it might have been a
consequence of the fact that they had parents or grandparents who were educated to rich
or that they remember of the priesthood or that they were socialists or any ways that
the listing of how it was possible for you to be Bruce wah instead of proletariat grew
immensely and that was one of the reasons that the Red Terror claimed all the victims
that had claimed and so that was a huge problem it was probably most exemplified by the demolition
of the kulaks who were basically peasants asn’t farmers although effective ones in the
soviet union who had managed to raise themselves out of serfdom over a period of about 40 years
and to gather some some degree of material security about them and about 1.8 million
of them were exiled about 400,000 were killed and the net consequence of that removal of
their private property because of their bourgeois status was arguably the death of 6 million
Ukrainians in the famines of the 1930s and so the binary class struggle idea that was
a bad idea that was a very very bad idea it’s also bad in this way and that this is sleight
of hand that Marx pulls office you have a binary class division proletariat and bourgeoisie
and you have an implicit idea that all of the good is on the side of the proletariat
and all of the evil is on the side of the bourgeoisie and that’s classic group identity
thinking you know it’s one of the reasons I don’t like identity politics is because
once you divide people into groups and hit them against one another it’s very easy to
assume that all the evil in the world can be attributed to one group of hypothetical
oppressors and all the good to the other and that well that’s that’s that’s naive that’s
not even beyond comprehension because it’s absolutely foolish to make the presumption
that you can identify someone’s moral worth with their economic standing so and that actually
turned out to be a real problem as well because Marx also came up with this idea which is
a crazy idea as far as I can tell of the that’s a technical term crazy idea of the dictatorship
of the proletariat and that’s the next idea that I really stumbled across it was like
okay so what’s the problem well the problem is the capitalists own everything they own
all the means of production and they’re oppressing everyone that would be all the workers and
there’s going to be a race to the bottom of wages for the workers as the capitalists strive
to extract more and more value from the labor of the proletariat by competing with other
capitalists should drive wages down word which by the way didn’t happen partly because wages
wage earners can become scarce and that actually drives the market value upward but in fact
that that you assume a priori that all the evil can be attributed to the capitalists
and all the good and all the good could be attributed to the proletariat and that you
could hypothesize that a dictatorship of the proletariat could come about and that was
the the first stage in the Communist revolution and remember this is a call for revolution
and not just revolution but bloody violent revolution and the overthrow of all over of
all existent social structures anyways the the the problem with that you
see is that because all the evil isn’t divided so easily up into oppressor and oppressed
that when you do establish a dictator of the proletariat to the degree that you can do
that which you actually can’t because it’s technically impossible and an absurd thing
to consider to begin with not least because of the problem of centralization and you have
to hypothesize that you can take away all the property of the capitalists you can replace
the capitalist class with a minority of proletariat’s how they’re going to be chosen isn’t exactly
clear in the communist manifesto that none of the people who are from the proletariat
class are going to be corrupted by that sudden access to power because they’re well by definition
good so so then you have the good people who are running the world and you also have them
centralized so that they can make decision decisions that are insanely complicated to
make in fact impossibly complicated to make and so that’s a failure conceptually on both
dimensions because first of all all the proletariat aren’t going to be good and when you give
put people in the same position as the evil capitalists especially if you believe that
social pressure is one of the determining factors of human character which the Marxist
certainly believed then why wouldn’t you assume that the proletariat would immediately become
as or more corrupt than the capitalist which is of course I would say exactly what happened
every time this experiment was run and then the next problem is well what makes you think
that you can take some system as complicated as like capitalist free-market society and
centralize that and put decision-making power in the hands of a few people the mechanisms
by without specifying the mechanisms by which you’re going to choose them like what makes
you think they’re gonna have the wisdom or the ability to do what the capitalists were
doing unless you assume as Marx did that all of the evil was with the capitalists and all
the good was with the proletariat and that nothing that capitalists did constituted valid
labor which is another thing that Marx assumed which is palpably absurd because people who
are like maybe if you’re a dissolute aristocrat from 1830 and or earlier then you run a futile
estate and all you do is spend your time gambling and and and chasing prostitutes well then
the your labor value is zero but if you’re if you’re running a business and and it’s
a successful business first of all you’re a bloody fool to exploit your workers because
even if you’re greedy as sin because you’re not going to extract the maximum amount of
labour out of them by doing that and the notion that you’re adding no productive value as
a manager rather than a capitalist is it’s absolutely absurd all it does is indicate
that you either know nothing whatsoever about how an actual business works or you refuse
to know anything about how an actual business works so that’s
that’s also and that’s also a big problem so then the next problem is the criticism
of profit it’s like well what’s wrong with profit exactly what’s the problem with profit
well the idea from the Marxist perspective was that profit was theft no but profit well
it can be theft because crooked people can run companies and so sometimes profit is theft
but that certainly doesn’t mean that it’s always threat theft what it means in part
at least if the capitalist is adding value to the corporation then there’s some utility
and some fairness in him or her extracting the value of their abstract labor their thought
their abstract abilities their ability to manage the company than to engage in proper
competition and product development and efficiency and the proper treatment of the workers and
all of that and then if they can create a profit well then they have a little bit of
security for times that aren’t so good and that seems absolutely bloody necessary as
far as I’m concerned and then the next thing is well how can you grow if you don’t have
a profit and if you have an enterprise that’s valuable and worthwhile and some enterprises
are valuable and worthwhile then it seems to me that a little bit of profit to help
you grow seems to be the right approach and so and then the other issue with profit and
you know this if you’ve ever run a business is it it’s really useful constraint you know
like it’s not enough to have a good idea it’s not a good enough to have a good idea and
the sales and marketing plant and then to implement that and all of that that’s bloody
difficult like it’s not even easy to have a good idea and it’s not easy to come up with
a good sales and marketing plan and it’s not easy to find customers and satisfy them and
so if you allow profit to to constitute a limitation on what it is that you might reasonably
attempt it provides a good constraint on on wasted labour and so most of the things that
I’ve done in my life even psychologically that were designed to help people psychological
health I tried to run on a for-profit basis and the reason for what that was apart from
the fact that I’ve noted first making a profit partly so my enterprises can grow it was also
so that the reforms of stupidity that I couldn’t engage in because I would be punished by the
market enough to eradicate the enterprise and so ok and then so the next the next issue
this is a weird one so Marx and Engels also assume that this dictatorship of the proletariat
which involves absurd centralization the overwhelming probability of corruption and impossible computation
as the proletariat now try to rationally compute the manner in which an entire market economy
could run which cannot be done because it’s far too complicated for anybody to think through
the next theory is that somehow the proletariat dictatorship would become magically hyper
productive and there’s actually no theory at all about how that’s going to happen and
so I had to infer the theory and the theory seems to be that once you eradicate the bourgeois
because they’re evil and you get rid of their private property and you you you you eradicate
the profit motive and all of a sudden magically the small percentage of the proletariat who
now run the society determine how they can make their productive enterprises productive
enough so they become hyper productive now and they need to become hyper productive for
the last error to be logically coherent in relationship to the Marxist theory which is
that at some point the proletariat the dictatorship of the proletariat will become so hyperproductive
that there’ll be enough material goods for everyone across all dimensions and when that
happens then what people will do is spontaneously engage in meaningful creative labor which
is what they had been alienated from in the capitalist horrorshow and a utopia will be
magically assured in but there’s no indication about how that hyper productivity is going
to come about and there’s also no understanding that well that isn’t the Utopia that is going
to suit everyone because there are great differences between people when some people are going
to find what they want in love and some are going to find it in social being and some
are going to find it in conflict and competition and some are going to find it in creativity
as Marx pointed out but the notion that that that will necessarily be the end goal for
the utopian state is preposterous and then there’s the Dostoyevskian observation too which
is one not to be taken lightly which is what sort of shallow conception of people do you
have that makes you think that if you gave people enough bread and cake and the Dostoyevskian terms and nothing to do but busy themselves ..except busy themselves with the continued
continuity of the species that they would also all of a sudden become peaceful and heavenly
Dostoyevsky’s idea was that you know we were built for trouble and if we were ever handed
everything we were we needed on a silver platter the first thing we would do is engage in some
form of creative destruction just so something unexpected could happen just so we could have
the adventure of our lives and I think there’s something well there’s something to be said
for that so and then the last error let’s say although by no means the last was this
and this is one of the strangest parts of the Communist Manifesto was marks it agree
admits and angles admit repeatedly in the Communist Manifesto that there has never been
a system of production in the history of the world that was as effective at producing material
commodities in excess and capitalism like that’s that’s extensively documented in the
Communist Manifesto and so if your proposition is look we got to get as much material security
for everyone as we as possible as fast as we can and capitalism already seems to be
doing that at a rate that’s unparalleled in human history when the logical thing be just
to let the damn system play itself out I mean unless you’re assuming that the evil capitalists
are just going to take all of the flat-screen televisions and put them in one big room and
not let anyone else have one the logical assumption is that while you’re already on a road that’s
supposed to produce the proper material productivity and so well that’s ten reasons as far as I
can tell that and so what I saw in that the Communist Manifesto is is like seriously flawed
in in virtually every way it could possibly be flawed and also all in and in and evidence
that Marx was a kind of narcissistic thinker who could think he was he was very intelligent
person and so his Engels but what he thought what he thought when he thought was that what
he thought was correct and he never went a second stage which is wait a second how could
all of this go terribly wrong and if you’re a thinker especially a sociological thinker
especially a thinker on the broad scale a social scientist for example one of your moral
obligations is to think you know you might be wrong about one of your fundamental axioms
or two or three or ten and as a consequence you have the moral obligation to walk through
the damn system and think well what if I’m completely wrong here and things invert and
go exactly the wrong way like I can I just can’t understand how anybody could come up
with an idea like the dictatorship of the proletariat especially after advocating its
implementation for with violent means which is a direct part of the Communist Manifesto
and actually think if they were thinking if they knew anything about human beings and
the proclivity for malevolence that’s part and parcel of the individual human being that
that could do anything but lead to a special form of Hell which is precisely what did happen
and so I’m going to close because I have three minutes with with a bit of evidence as well
that Marx also thought that what would happen inevitably as a consequence of capitalism
is that rich would get richer and the poor would get poorer so there would be inequality
the first thing I’d like to say is we do not know how to set up a human system of economics
without inequality no one has ever managed it including the Communists and the form of
inequality changed and it’s not obvious by any stretch of imagination that the free market
economies of the West have more inequality than the less free economies in the rest of
the world and the one thing you can say about capitalism is that although it produces inequality
which it absolutely does it also produces wealth and all the other systems don’t they
just produce inequality (Applause) So here’s here’s a few stats here’s a few
free-market staffs okay from 1800 to 2017 income growth adjusted for inflation grew
by 40 times but for production workers in 16 times for unskilled labor well GDP fact
GDP rose by a factor of about 0.5 from 180 to 1800 so from 180 to 1880 it was like nothing
flat and then all of a sudden in the last two hundred and seventeen years there’s been
this unbelievably upward movement of wealth and it doesn’t only characterize the tiny
percentage of people at the top who admittedly do have most of the wealth the question is
not only though what’s the inequality the question is well what’s happening to the absolutely
poor at the bottom and answer that is they’re getting richer faster now than they ever have
in the history of the world and we’re eradicating poverty in countries that have adopted moderates
free-market policies at a rate that’s unparalleled so here’s an example UN millennia one of the
UN Millennium Goals was to reduce the rate of absolute poverty in the world by 50 percent
between 2000 and 2015 and they define that as a dollar 90 a day pretty low you know but
you have to start somewhere um we beat we hit that at 2012 three years ahead of schedule
and you might be cynical about that and say well it’s kind of an arbitrary number but
the curves are exactly the same at three dollars and eighty three dollars and 80 cents a day
and seven dollars and sixty cents a day not as many people have hit that but the rate
of increase towards that is the same the bloody UN thinks that we’ll be out of poverty defined
by a dollar ninety a day by the year 2030 it’s unparalleled and so so the sort of rich
may be getting richer but the poor are getting richer too and that’s that’s not deal look
I’ll leave it at that because I’m out of time but one of the I’ll leave it with this
the poor are not getting poor under capitalism the poor are getting richer under capitalism
by a large margin and I’ll leave you with one statistic which is that now in in Africa
the child mortality rate in Africa now is the same as the child mortality rate was in
Europe in 1952 and so that’s happened within the span of one lifetime and so if you’re
for the poor if you’re for the poor if you’re actually concerned that the poorest people
in the world rise above their starvation levels and the all the evidence suggests that the
best way to do that is to implement something approximating a free-market economy and so
thank you very much Zizek: I have a chair? I can sit there? (Applause) It will help me a lot Dr. Blackwood: Thank you Dr. Peterson….
Dr. Zizek… Zizek: Thank you (Applause) Zizek: Okay first a brief introductory remark. I cannot but
notice the irony of how Peterson and I, the participants in this duel of the century,
are both marginalised by the official academic community. I am supposed to defend here the
left, liberal line against neo-conservatives. Really? Most of the attacks on me are now
precisely from left liberals. Just remember the outcry against my critique of LGBT+ ideology,
and I’m sure that if the leading figures were to be asked if I were fit to stand for
them, they would turn in their graves even if they are still alive. (applause) So let me begin by bringing together the three
notions from the title: Happiness, Communism, Capitalism in one exemplary case: China today.
China in the last decades is arguably the greatest economic success story in human history.
Hundreds of millions raised from poverty into middle class existence. How did China achieve
it? The 20th century left was defined by its opposition to the two fundamental tendencies
of modernity: the reign of capital with its aggressive market competition, the authoritarian
bureaucratic state power. Today’s China combines these two features in its extreme
form: strong, totalitarian state, wild capitalist dynamics. And it’s important
to note they do it on behalf of happiness of the majority of people. They don’t mention communism
to legitimise their rule, they prefer the old Confucian notion of a harmonious society.
But, are the Chinese any happier for all that? Although even the Dali Llama justifies Tibetan
Buddhism in Western terms in the full suite of happiness and the avoidance of pain, happiness
as a goal of our life is a very problematic notion. If we’ve learned anything from psychoanalysis,
it is that we humans are very creative in sabotaging our pursuit of happiness. Happiness
is a confused notion, basically it relies on the subject’s inability or unreadiness
to fully confront the consequences of his/her/their desire. In our daily lives, we pretend to
desire things which we do not really desire, so that ultimately the worst thing that can
happen is to get what we officially desire. So, I agree that human life of freedom and
dignity does not consist just in searching for happiness, no matter how much we spiritualise
it, or in the effort to actualise our inner potentials. We have to find some meaningful
cause beyond the mere struggle for pleasurable survival. However, I would like to add here
a couple of qualifications. First, since we live in a modern era, we cannot
simply refer to an unquestionable authority to confer a mission or task on us. Modernity
means that yes, we should carry the burden, but the main burden is freedom itself. We
are responsible for our burdens. Not only are we not allowed cheap excuses for not doing
our duty, duty itself should not serve as an excuse. We are never just instruments of
some higher cause. Once traditional authority loses its substantial power, it is not possible
to return to it. All such returns are today a post-modern fake. Does Donald Trump stand
for traditional values? No, his conservatism is a post-modern performance, a gigantic ego
trip. In this sense of playing with traditional values of mixing references to them with open
obscenities, Trump is the ultimate post-modern president. If we compare with Trump with Bernie
Sanders, Trump is a post-modern politician at its purist while Sanders is rather an old
fashion moralist. Conservative thinkers claim that the origin of our crisis is the loss
of our reliance on some transcendent divinity. If we are left to ourselves, if everything
is historically conditioned and relative, then there is nothing preventing us from indulging
in our lowest tendencies. But is this really the lesson to be learned from mob killing,
looting and burning on behalf of religion? It is often claimed that true or not that
religion makes some otherwise bad people do good things. From today’s experience, I think we
should rather speak to Steve Weinberg’s claim that while without religion good people
would have been doing good things and bad people bad things, only something like religion can make
good people do bad things. More than a century ago in his Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky
warned against the dangers of godless moral nihilism… if god doesn’t exist, then everything
is permitted. The French philosopher André Glucksmann applied Dostoyevsky’s critique
of godless nihilism to September 11 and the title of his book, ‘Dostoyevsky in Manhattan’
suggests that he couldn’t have been more wrong. The lesson of today’s terrorism is
that if there is a god then everything, even blowing up hundreds of innocent bystanders,
is permitted to those who claim to act directly on behalf of god. The same goes also from
godless, Stalinest Communists…they are the ultimate proof of it. Everything was permitted
to them, since they perceived themselves as direct instrument of their divinity… of historical
necessity, as progress towards communism. That’s the big problem of ideologies: how
to make good, decent people do horrible things. Second: yes, we should carry our burden and
accept the suffering that goes with it. But, a danger lurks here, that of a subtle reversal:
don’t fall in love, that’s my position, with your suffering. Never presume that your
suffering is in itself proof of your authenticity. A renunciation of pleasure can easily turn
in pleasure of renunciation itself. For example, an example not from neo-conservatives. White,
left liberals love to denigrate their own culture and blame Euro-centrism for our evils.
But, it is instantly clear how this self-denigration brings a profit of its own. Through this renouncing
of their particular roots, multi-cultural liberals reserve for themselves the universal
position: gracefully soliciting others to assert their particular identity. White, multiculturalism
liberals embody the lie of identity politics. Next point: Jacques Lacan wrote something
paradoxical but deeply true, that even if what a jealous husband claims his wife (that
she sleeps with other men) is all true, his jealousy is nonetheless pathological. The
pathological element is the husband’s need for jealousy as the only way for him to sustain
his identity. Along the same lines, one could could say that even if most of the Nazi claims about
Jews: they exploit German’s, the seduce German girls were true, which they were not
of course, their anti-Semitism would still be a pathological phenomenon, because it ignored
the true reason why the Nazi’s needed anti-Semitism. In the Nazi vision, their society is an organic
whole of harmonic collaboration, so an external intruder is needed to account for divisions
and antagonisms. The same holds for how today, in Europe at least, the anti-immigrant populists
deal with the refugees. The cause of problems which are, I claim, imminent to today’s
global capitalism, is projected onto an external intruder. Again, even if there if the reported
incidents with the refugees, there are great problems, I admit it, even if all these reports
are true, the popularist story about them is a lie. With anti-Semitism, we are approaching
the topic of telling stories. Hitler was one of the greatest storytellers of the 20th century.
In the 1920s many Germans experienced their situation as a confused mess. They didn’t
understand what is happening to them with military defeat, economic crisis, what they
perceived as moral decay, and so on. Hitler provided a story, a plot, which was precisely
that of a Jewish plot: ‘we are in this mess because of the Jews’. That’s what I would like to insist on. We
are telling ourselves stories about ourselves in order to acquire a meaningful experience
of our lives. However, this is not enough. One of the most stupid wisdoms and they’re
mostly stupid is ‘An enemy is just a story whose story you have not heard’. Really?
Are you also ready to affirm that Hitler was our enemy because his story was not heard? The experience that we have of our lives from within, the story we tell ourselves about
ourselves, in order to account for what we are doing is, and this is what I call ideology;
fundamentally a lie. The truth lies outside in what we do. In a similar way, the alt-right
obsession with cultural Marxism expresses the rejection to confront the fact that the phenomena
they criticize is the effect of the cultural Marxist plot moral degradation, sexual promiscuity,
consumerist hedonism, and so on; are the outcomes of the imminent dynamic of capitalist societies.
I would like to refer to a classic Daniel Bell Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism
written back in 1976, where the author argues that the unbounded drive of modern capitalism
undermines the moral foundations of the original protestant ethics. And, in the new afterword,
Bell offers a bracing perspective on contemporary Western societies, revealing the crucial cultural
fault lines we face, as the 21st century is here. The turn towards culture as a key component
of capitalist reproduction and concomitant to it the commodification of cultural life
itself are I think crucial moments of capitalist expanded reproduction. So, the term Cultural Marxism, I think, plays that of the Jewish plot in anti-Semitism. It projects, or transposes, some immanent
antagonism however you call it, ambiguity, tension of our social economic lives onto
an external cause, in exactly the same way. Now, let me give you a more problematic example
in exactly the same way, liberal critics of Trump and alt-right never seriously ask how
our liberal society could give birth to Trump. In this sense, the image of Donald Trump is
also a fetish, the last thing a liberal sees before confronting actual social tensions.
Hegel’s motto: ”Evil resides in the gaze which sees evil everywhere” fully applies
here. The very liberal gaze with demonizes Trump is also… evil because it ignores how
its own failures opened up the space for Trump’s type of patriotic populism. Next point: one should stop blaming hedonist
egotism for our woes. The true opposite of egotist self-love is not altruism, a concern
for the common good, but envy, resentment, which makes me act against my own interests.
This is why as many perspicuous philosophers clearly saw, evil is profoundly spiritual,
in some sense more spiritual than goodness. This is why egalitarianism itself should never
be accepted at its face value. It can well secretly invert the standard renunciation
accomplished to benefit others. Egalitarianism often de facto means “I am ready to renounce
something so that others will also not have it”. This is I think now comes the problematic
part for some of you maybe the problem with political correctness. What appears as its
excesses its regulatory zeal is I think an impotent reaction that masks the reality of
a defeat. My hero is here a black lady, Tarana Burke …who created the #MeToo campaign more
than a decade ago. She observed in a recent critical note that in the years since the
movement began it deployed an unwavering obsession with the perpetrators. #MeToo is all too often
a genuine protest filtered through resentment. Should we then drop egalitarianism? No. Equality
can also mean, and that’s the equality I advocate, creating the space for as many as
possible individuals to develop their different potentials. It is… that’s my paradoxical claim, it is today’s capitalism that equalizes us too much and causes the loss of many talents. So what about the balance
equality and hierarchy? Did we really move too much in the direction of equality? Is
there, in today’s United States, really too much equality? I think a simple overview
of the situation points in the opposite direction. Far from pushing us too far, the Left is gradually
losing its ground already for decades. Its trademarks: universal health care, free education,
and so on, are continually diminished. Look at Bernie Sanders.. and i don’t idealize him.. program. It is just a version of what half a century ago in Europe was simply the predominant social democracy, and its
today… decried as a threat to our freedoms, to the American way of life, and so on and
so on. I can see no threat to free creativity in this program; on the contrary, I saw healthcare
and education and so on as enabling me to focus my life on important creative issues.
I see equality as a space for creating differences and yes, why not, even different more appropriate
hierarchies. Furthermore, I find it very hard to ground todays inequalities as they are
documented for example by Piketty in his book to ground todays inequalities in different
competencies. Competencies for what? In totalitarian states, competencies are determined politically.
But market success is also not innocent and neutral as a regulator of the social recognition
of competencies. Let me now briefly deal with in a friendly
way I claim with what became known, sorry for the irony, as the lobster topic. I’m
far from a simple social constructionism here. I deeply appreciate evolutionary talk. Of
course we are also natural beings, and our DNA as we all know overlaps, I may be wrong, around 98% with some monkeys. This means something, but nature I think, we should never
forget this, is not a stable hierarchical system but full of improvisations. It develops
like French cuisine. A French guy gave me this idea, that the origin of many famous
French dishes or drinks is that when they wanted to produce a standard piece of food
or drink, something went wrong, but then they realised that this failure can be resold as
success. They were making cheese in the usual way, but the cheese got rotten and infected, smelling
bad, and they said, “Oh my God, look, we have our own original French cheese”. Or, they were
making wine in the usual way, then something went wrong with fermentation & so they began
to produce champagne & so on & so on. I am not making just a joke here because I think it is exactly
like this, that.. and that is the lesson psychoanalysis, that our sexuality works. Sexual instincts are,
of course, biologically determined but look what we humans made out of them. They are
not limited to the mating season. They can develop into a permanent obsession sustained
by obstacles that demand to be overcome in short, into a properly metaphysical passion
that perturbs the biologically rhythm, with twists like endlessly prolonging satisfaction in courtly
love, engaging in different perversions and so on and so on. So it’s still ‘yes’,
biologically conditioned sexuality, but it is if I may use this term transfunctionalised,
it becomes a moment of a different cultural logic. And I claim the same goes for tradition.
T. S. Eliot, the great conservative, wrote, quote “what happens when a new work of art
is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the work of art which preceded it.
The past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the
past’” end of quote. What does this mean? Let me mention the change enacted by Christianity.
It’s not just that in spite of all our natural and cultural differences the same divine sparks
dwells in everyone. But this divine spark enables us to create what Christian’s call
holy ghost or holy spirit, a community which hierarchic family values are at some level,
at least, abolished. Remember Paul’s words from Galatians: There is no longer Jew or
Greek, there is no longer male and female in Christ’. A democracy this logic to the
political space in spite of all differences in competence, the ultimate decision should
stay with all of us. The wager of democracy is that we should not give all power to competent
experts. It was precisely Communists in power who, legitimate this rule, by posing as fake
experts. And, incidentally I’m far from believing in ordinary people’s wisdom. We
often need a master figure to push us out an inertia and, I’m not afraid to say, that
forces us to be free. Freedom and responsibility hurt they require an effort, and the highest
function of an authentic master is to literally to awake in us to our freedom. We are spontaneously
really free. Furthermore, I think that social power and authority cannot be directly grounded
in competence. In our human universe, power, in the sense of exerting authority, is something
much more mysterious, even irrational. Kierkegaard, my and everybody’s favourite theologist,
wrote “If a child says he will obey his father because his father is a competent and
good guy, this is an affront to father’s authority”. And he applied the same logic
to Christ himself. Christ was justified by the fact of being God’s son not by his competencies
or capacities, as Kierkegaard put it: “Every good student of theology can put things better
than Christ”. If there is no such authority in nature, lobster’s may have hierarchy,
undoubtedly, but the main guy among them does not have authority in this sense. Again, the
wager of democracy is that and that’s the subtle thing not against competence and so
on, but that political power and competence or expertise should be kept apart. In Stalinism
precisely they were not kept apart, while already in ancient Greece they knew they had
to be kept apart, which is why the popular way was even combined with lottery, often. So where does Communism, just to conclude,
where does Communism enter here? Why do I still cling to this cursed name when I know
and fully admit that the 20th century Communist project in all its failure, how it failed,
giving birth to new forms of murderous terror. Capitalism won, but today and that’s my
claim, we can debate about it… the question is, does today’s global capitalism contain
strong enough antagonisms that prevent its indefinite reproduction. I think there are
such antagonisms. The threat of ecological catastrophe, the consequence of new techno-scientific
developments, especially in biogenetics, and new forms of apartheid. All these antagonisms
concern what Marx called commons the shared substance of our social being. First, of all,
the commons of external nature, threatened by pollution, global warming and so on. Now,
let me be precise here I’m well aware uncertain analysis and projections are in this domain.
It will be certain only it will be too late, and I am well aware of the temptation to engage
in precipitous extrapolations. When I was younger to give you a critical example there
was in Germany an obsession with ‘Waldsterben’ the dying of forests with predictions that in a couple
of decades Europe would be without forests. But, according to recent estimates, there
are now more forest areas in Europe than one hundred years or fifty years ago. But there
is nonetheless, I claim, the prospects of a catastrophe here. Scientific data seem, to me at least,
abundant enough. And we should act in a large scale, collective way. And I also think this
may be critical to some of you there is a problem with capitalism here for the simple
reasons that its managers – not because of their evil nature, but that’s the logic
of capitalism… care to expand self-reproduction and environmental consequences are simply
not part of the game. This is again not a moral reproach. Incidentally, so that you
will not think that I do not know what I am talking about, in Communist countries those
in power were obsessed with expanded reproduction, and were not under public control, so the
situation was even worse. So, how to act? First by admitting we are in a deep mess.
There is no simple democratic solution here. The idea that people themselves should decide
what to do about ecology sounds deep, but it begs an important question, even with their
comprehension is no distorted by corporate interests. What qualifies them to pass a judgement
in such a delicate matter? Plus, the radical measures advocated by some ecologists can
themselves trigger new catastrophes. Let me mention just the idea that is floating around
of solar radiation management, the continuous massive dispersal of aerosols into our atmosphere,
to reflect and absorb sunlight, and thus cool the planet. Can we even imagine how the fragile
balance of our earth functions and in what unpredictable ways geo-engineering can disturb
it? In such times of urgency, when we know we have to act but don’t know how to act,
thinking is needed. Maybe we should turn around a little bit Marx’s famous Thesis Eleven, in our
new century we should say that maybe in the last century we tried all too fast to change
the world. The time has come to step back and interpret it. The second threat, the commons of internal
nature. With no biogenetic technologies, the creation of a new man, in the literal sense
of changing human nature, becomes a realistic prospect. I mean primarily so called popularly
neural-link, the direct link between our brain and digital machines, and then brains among
themselves. This I think is the true game changer. The digitalisation of our brains
opens up unheard of new possibilities of control. Directly sharing your experience with our
beloved may appear attractive, but what about sharing them with an agency without you even
knowing it? Finally, the common space of humanity itself.
We live in one and the same world which is more and more interconnected. But, nonetheless,
deeply divided. So, how to react to this? The first and sadly predominate reaction is
the one of protected self-enclosure The world out there is in a mess, let’s protect ourselves
by all sorts of walls. It seems that our countries are run relatively well, but is the mess the
so-called rogue countries find themselves in not connected to how we interact with them?
Take what is perhaps the ultimate rogue state Congo. Warlords who rule provinces there are
always dealing with Western companies, selling them minerals where would our computers be
without coltan from Congo? And what about foreign interventions in Iraq and Syria, or
by our proxies like Saudi Arabia in Yemen? Here refugees are created. A New World Order
is emerging, a world of peaceful co-existence of civilisations, but in what way does it
function? Forced marriages and homophobia is ok, just as long as they are limited to
another country which is otherwise fully included in the world market. This is how refugees
are created. The second reaction is global capitalism with a human face think about socially
responsible corporate figures like Bill Gates and George Soros. They passionately support
LGBT, they advocate charities and so on. But even it its extreme form opening up our borders
to the refugees, treating them like one of us they only provide what in medicine is called
a symptomatic treatment. The solution is not for the rich Western countries to receive
all immigrants, but somehow to try to change the situation which creates massive waves
of immigration, and we are complicit in this. Is such a change a utopia? No. The true utopia
is that we can survive without such a change. So, here I think I know it’s provocative
to call this a plea for communism, I do it a little bit to provoke things but what is
needed is nonetheless in all these fears I claim ecology, digital control, unity of the
world a capitalist market which does great things, I admit it, has to be somehow limited,
regulated and so on. Before you say, ‘it’s a utopia’, I will tell you just think about
in what way the market already functions today. I always thought that neoliberalism is a fake
term. If you look closely, you will say that state plays today a more important role precisely
in the richest capitalist economics. So, you know the market is already limited but not
in the right way, to put it naively. So, a pessimist conclusion, what will happen?
In spite of protests here and there, we will probably continue to slide towards some kind
of apocalypse, awaiting large catastrophes to awaken us. So, I don’t accept any cheap
optimism. When somebody tries to convince me, ‘in spite of all these problems, there
is a light at the end of the tunnel’, my instant reply is, ‘Yes, and it’s probably another
train coming towards us’. Thank you very much. (Applause) Zizek: Please don’t do this because I really
think that that’s why I… I hope you, Jordan agree with it that why we are here engaged in
this debate don’t take it as a cheap competition it may be that, but we are as you said in your
introduction desperately trying to confront serious problems… for example when I mentioned
China… China I didn’t mean to celebrate it that worries me terribly, “My God is this our
future?” Dr. Blackwood: Now, now, now… Zizek: Sorry, sorry, for this, sorry… Please
discount… take away this from my ten minutes Peterson: No problem, no problem… Dr. Blackwood: Dr. Peterson… 10 minutes
to you to reply Peterson: So I like to speak extemporaneously,
but Dr Zizek’s discussion was so complex that there’s no way that I can juggle my responses
spontaneously so okay… Zizek: Yeah that’s what I wanted to achieve
(laughs)… Peterson: (laughs) Yeah… achievement managed
(laughs)…I would say… so… so I heard much I heard… much of what I heard I agreed with
but we can get to that…. I’m gonna respond Zizek: Let’s skip that, pull out
the knife (laughter) Peterson: All right… well… I heard a criticism
of capitalism but no real support of Marxism and and that’s
an interesting thing because for me the terms of the argument were other three terms of
the argument let’s say there was capitalism there was Marxism and there was happiness
and I would say Dr. Zizek focused probably more on the problems of capitalism and the
problems of happiness than on the utility of Marxism and that actually comes as a surprise
to me because I presumed that much of what I would hear would be a support of something
approximating traditional or even a traditional Marxism which is why I organized the first
part of my talk as an attack against Marxism per se… okay so now Zizek points out
that there are problems of capitalism and I would like to say that I’m perfectly aware
that there are problems with capitalism I wasn’t defending capitalism actually in some
sense I was defending it in comparison to communism which is not the same thing because
as Winston Churchill said about democracy you know it’s the worst form of government
there is except for all the other forms and so you might say the same thing about capitalism
is that it’s the worst form of economic arrangement you could possibly manage except for every
other one that we’ve ever tried and and I’m dead serious about that I’m not trying to
be flippant I mean that it isn’t obvious to me speaking in more apocalyptic terms it isn’t
obvious to me that we can solve the problems that confront us you know and it’s not also
not a message that I have been purveying that unbridled capitalism per se, as an isolated
what would you say social economic structure actually constitutes the proper answer to
the problems that confront us so I haven’t made that case in any of the lectures that
I’ve anything I’ve written or any of the lectures that I’ve done because I don’t believe it
to be true. He said well what’s the problems with capitalism well the commodification of cultural
life, all life… fair enough there’s something that isn’t exactly right about reducing everything
to economic competition and capitalism certainly pushes in that direction advertising culture
pushes in that direction sales and marketing culture pushes in that direction and there’s
reasons for that and I have a certain amount of admiration for the necessity of advertisers
and salesmen and marketers but that doesn’t mean that the transformation of all elements
of life into element into commodities in a capitalist sense is the best way forward I
don’t think it is the best way forward I think the evidence for that’s actually quite clear
there is by the way a relationship this is something I didn’t point out before there
is a relationship between wealth and happiness it’s quite well defined in the psychological
literature now it’s not exactly obvious whether the happiness measures are measures of happiness
or whether they’re measures of the absence of misery and my sense is as a psychometrician
who’s looked at these scales that people are more concerned with not being miserable than
they are with being happy and those are all actually separate emotional states mediated
by different psycho biological systems it’s a technical point but it’s an important one
there is a relationship between absolute level of income and self-reported lack of misery
or happiness and it’s pretty linear until you hit… I would say, something approximating
decent working-class income and so what seems to happen is that wealth makes you happy as
long as it keeps the bill collectors at bay like once you’ve got to the point where the
misery is staved off as much as it can be by the fact that you’re not absolutely
in you’re not in absolutely economically dire straits then adding more money to your life
has no relationship whatsoever to your well-being and so it’s clear that past a certain minimal
point additional material provision is not sufficient to let’s say redeem us individually
or socially and it’s certainly the case that the radical wealth production that characterizes
capitalism might produce a fatal threat to the structure of our social systems and our
broader ecosystems …who knows? I’m not absolutely convinced of that for a variety of reasons
I mean Zizek pointed out for example that there are more forests in Europe and now than
there were a hundred years ago there’s actually more forests in the entire northern hemisphere
and there were a hundred years ago and the news on the ecological front is not as dismal
as the people who put out the most dismal news would have you think and there is some
possibility that doesn’t mean that there aren’t elements of it that are dismal you know what
we’ve done to the oceans is definitely something catastrophic and we definitely have our problems
but it is possible that human ingenuity might solve that. What else? There are inequalities
generated by capitalism a proclivity towards a shallow materialism the probability of corruption
the thing about that for me is those are catastrophes that are part of the struggle for human existence
itself and not something to be laid at the feet of any given social political system
especially one that seems to be producing a fair modicum of wealth for the poorest section
of the population and raising people up to the point where you know their lives aren’t
unending an unending day-to-day struggle for mere survival
there’s some evidence for example that if you can get GDP up to about $5,000 per person
per year… well that’s GDP that people start to become concerned about environmental degradation
and start to take actions to prevent it and so there is some possibility that if we’re
lucky we can get the bottom billion or two billion people in the world or three billion
as the population grows up to the point where they’re wealthy enough so they actually start
to care enough about the environment so that we could act collectively to solve environmental
problems now you might say oh by that time we’ll be out of Earth, you know, we’ll have we’ll
have exhausted the resources that are in front of us so desperately that there’s no hope
of that but I would like to remind you of a famous bet between Julian Simon and the
biologist at at Stanford who Paul Ehrlich who willed the Population Bomb they bet err
like who thought we’re gonna be overpopulated by the year 2000 bet Simon that by the year
2000 commodity prices would have increased dramatically as a consequence of evidence
that we were running out of material resources and made a famous bet over a 25 year period
and err like paid off Simon in the year 2000 because commodity prices went down and not
up and so there is no solid evidence that the fact that our population is growing and
will peak out by the way at about 9 billion there’s no solid indication that the
consequence of that is that we are in fact running out of necessary material resources
and so it’s a danger but it’s it’s not a danger that’s proven and there is some utility and
considering that the addition of several billion more brains to the planet especially if they
were well nourished grains as the increasing they are might help us generate enough problem-solvers
so that we can stay ahead of the looming ecological catastrophe as our population balloons outwards
now we’re going to peak at 9 billion it’s not much higher than we are now and it looks
like we might be able to manage it yeah thing is that I didn’t hear an alternative really
from dr. Jack you know he admitted that the rise to success of the Chinese was in part
a consequence of deal of the allowance of market forces and he cried the authoritarian
tendencies and fair enough that’s exactly it it also seemed to me that the social justice
group identity processes that dr. Jack was decrying are to me a logical derivation from
the oppression narrative that’s a fundamental presupposition of Marxism so there I never
heard a defense of Marxism in that part of his argument as well and so for me again it’s
to ask what’s the alternative I also heard an argument for egalitarianism and but I heard
it defined as equality of opportunity not as
equality of outcome which I see as a clearly defined Marxist aim I heard an argument for
a modified social distribution of wealth but that’s already part and parcel of most modern
free-market states with a wide variation and an appropriate variation of government intervention
all of which constitute their own experiment we don’t know how much social intervention
is necessary to flatten the tendency of hierarchies to become tilted so terribly that only the
people at the top have everything and all of the people at the bottom have nothing it’s
a very difficult battle to fight against that profound tendency much deeper than the tendency
of capitalism itself and we don’t exactly know what to do about it so we run experiments
and that seems to be working perfectly reasonably as far as I can tell that’s see well I’ll
close with this capitalism in the free market well that’s the worst form of social organization
possible as I said except for all the others there is a positive relationship between economics
measured by income and happiness or psychological well-being
which might be the absence of misery I certainly do not believe and the evidence does not suggest
that material security is sufficient I do believe however that insofar as there is a
relationship between happiness and material security that the free
market system has demonstrated itself as the most efficient manner to achieve that and
that was actually the terms of the argument so that’s if it’s capitalism versus Marxism
with regards to human happiness it’s still the case that the free market constitutes
the clear winner and maybe capitalism will not solve our problems I actually don’t believe
that it will I’ve in fact argued that the proper pathway forward is one of individual
moral responsibility aimed at the highest good and something for me that’s
rooted in our underlying judeo-christian tradition that insists that each person is a what is
is sovereign in their own right and a locus of ultimate value which is something that
you can accept regardless of your religious presuppositions and something that you do
accept if you participate in a society such as ours even the fact that you vote that you’re
charged without responsibility is an indication that our society has structured such that
we presume that each person is a locus of responsibility and decision making of such
import that the very stable the state depends upon the integrity of their psyche the integrity
of their character and so what I’ve been suggesting to people is that they adopt as much responsibility
as they possibly can in keeping with that in keeping with their
aim at the highest possible good which to me is something approximating a
balance between what’s good for you as an individual and what’s good for your family
in keeping with what’s good for you as an individual and then what’s good for society
in the larger frame such that it’s also good for you and your family and that’s a form
of an well an elaborated iterated game a form of elaborated cooperation it’s a sophisticated
way of looking at the ways society could possibly be organized and I happen to believe that
that has to happen at the individual level first and that’s the pathway forward that
I see and so that’s why (Applause) Zizek: I go up? Dr. Blackwood (moderator):Thank You Dr. Peterson Zizek: I spent a little bit of my time I will
try to be as short as possible so a couple of remarks and then my final point why I think
this self limitation of capitalism is needed first about happiness just a couple of remarks
but am I dreaming I think I’m not I remember a couple of years ago it was reported all
around the world some kind of investigation percentage of people interviewed in different
countries do they feel happy with their life and the shock was that some Scandinavian countries
which we which we considered social democratic paradise were very low while Bangladesh I
think was close to the top. Now I know this logic has a limit I don’t like the bullshit
of people are happy in their world there and so on but you know my argument here is not
against you my argument here is problematizing happiness
even more look if I interest you I was years ago in in I think Lithuania and we debated
a report on this in one of my books when were people in some perverted sense and this is
the critique of the category of happiness for me happy and we came to the crazy result
after the Soviet intervention Czechoslovakia in 1970s and 80s. Why? For happiness first
you don’t have you should not have too much democracy because this brings the burden of
responsibility happiness means there is another guy out there you can put all the
blame on him and as the joke went in Czechoslovakia if there is bad weather a
storm all these communist screwed it up again rest one condition of happiness the other
condition much more subtle ones is and this was done in Czechoslovakia it broke dark times
after life was relatively moderately good but not perfect like there was meat all the
time maybe once a month there was not meat in the sauce it was very good to remind you
how happy you are the other time another thing they had a paradise which should be the proper
distance West Germany uplands it was not proof are not directly
accessible you know so I it was so maybe in your critique of communist regimes I agree
with you you should more focus on something that I experienced of you know don’t
look only at the tear or ultimately totalitarian regime there was a kind of a silent perverted
pact between at least in this late a little bit more tolerant but I still approach them
communist regimes between power and population the messy trois leave us the power
don’t let it worse and we guarantee you a relatively safe life employment private pleasures
private niche and so on and so on so I am not surprised but again this is not for me
the argument for the Congress but against happiness let’s you know people said
when coming when the walls fell down what a wonder in Poland my god in
in in like Salah darkness which was prohibited hiragana triumph at the electrics who could
imagine this yes but the true miracle in a bad sense for me was four years later democratically
ex-communists came back to power so you know from this for me not the argument for them
but simply for the let’s call it corrupted nature of happiness so my formula may buted
riveted is my basic Dogma is happiness should be treated as a necessary by-product if you
focus on it you are lost it comes as a byproduct of you working for a cause and so on that’s
the vein the second point maybe we disagree here China of course the miracle economic
miracle was due to unleashing market reefer and so on but and here comes my pessimism
some of my liberal friends are telling me imagine what would they have achieved with
also political democratization I know we found a perfect formula of how an extra paradox
of China today the Communist Party is the best manager of capitalism
and protector against workers the truly dangerous thing in China today is not to flirt with
Western ideas is to organize trade unions do you know like this is what worries me this
perfect combination between unleashing capitalism and still the authoritarian rule or to put
it in another way my worry is that today all around the world this eternal marriage between
capitalism and democracy is slowly disappearing ill now I admit it capitalism needed from
time to time from 1020 years of dictatorship when in started to improve democracy returned
Chile South Korea and so on I wonder if we are still at debt now it’s just very quickly
your basic point in the introduction in your introductions you know I almost am tempted
to say the way you present the communist manifesto the simplified image and so on so on it’s
crazy to say but on many points right I agree with you and it’s a very complex argument
Marx didn’t have for example a good theory of how social power against his idea was simply
with disappearance of class structure it secretly although he wouldn’t have accepted a technocratic
dream like my experts social life will be run as a perfect machine although he at least
aware of the problem which is why he was so enthusiastic marks about Paris Commune you
know which was precisely not centralized power so I’m not just defending marks I’m saying
it was not clear to him and so let’s drop that maybe I have more interesting things
to say ah another point nonetheless where at one point I’m ready
to pay when did you find this this lost maybe for today’s politically correct drugs and
so on that this egalitarianism there is one asset in his late Critique of
Goethe Program where Marx directly accesses the problem of equality and he
dismisses it as a strict bourgeois category explicitly explicitly for him communism is
not a valid arianism it’s yes he is but not based on capitalism ok I’m not totally defending
here Marx I’m just saying don’t remark ok but to conclude because yes I want to keep
my promise to be a little bit shorter you know
I agree with you on any point but you know what my problem with my problem that I was
aiming at with all the openings I know we don’t know really what is happening with ecology
and so on okay let’s take options you mentioned them but isn’t it for me correct me if I’m
wrong and I don’t mean this rhetorically I’m really wrong but the problem of oceans can
the only way for me is some kind of cooperated international action and so on you cannot
simply leave it to the market that’s what I’m saying this is tight we’ll limit that
I see about this diminishing poverty and so on I’m aware of it I tend to agree with I
also at the same time so many explosive tangents for example do you know about South Africa
it’s a terrifying situation on the edge of the civil war to be very brutal the only thing
that unsimplified that really happened with end of apartheid is that the old ruling class
is simplified in grotesque our system was drawn by a new black ruling class which is
not doing a good job so they are trying to play the race card it’s still the consequence
of white colonialism and so on and so on but terrifying and here I was pleading for not
abolishing borders and so on but this type of global change cooperation like again the
example of Congo that I mentioned or forget the killing of that guy khashoggi it’s horrible
but the true nightmare is Yemen today what I mean you said somewhere that we should well
think without engaging in large-scale reform what the consequences will be if you very
briefly I agree with you that the gap of standard Marxism or that the proletarian revolution
will be a place where you do something and you know exactly what you do if there is a
lesson of the 20th century is that this tragic logic you want something may be good the result
is catastrophic holds absolutely also for revolutions and so on and so on but in spite
of all this and I don’t know what forum will it have I’m not pleading for a new land in
this party or whatever and pleading for new forums (forms?) of international cooperation
and so on I agree with you when you said the majority of us is not even really aware of
the seriousness of especially the poor of ecological problems and so on and I think
would you agree that the situation here much more subtle and obscene we is that logic that
in psycho analysis is called the survival furlough ignant in French sister bian recipe
M a comb hem we know ecological problems but we don’t really take them seriously and here
I see problems and I don’t see an easy way out i I am a pessimist if you ask me when
people say no but they’re growing protests are growing and so on and so on yes I’m listening
to this story from when I was young you know your ground and then look what happened the
mega tragedy is for me for example what happened to syriza they were elected for change whatever
and they become and I’m not blaming them they become the perfect executives of of austerity
program so I just see problems I’m a pessimist and I’m not a radical pessimist but you have
to maybe here we are different I noticed with your final speech that final moments of your
engagement that it’s very strange because usually Marxists have this stupid optimist
and rapallo Glee just get rid of capitalist terror and we will all be happy my god I’m
much more passionate I don’t believe in human goodness I will never underestimate evil never
underestimate Envy I mean it’s part of my nature in Slovenia we have a wonderful story
godlike figure comes to a farmer and I will stop immediately and ask and ask him I will
glue to you to you what everyone trusts I warn you I will do price the same to your
neighbor you know what live-in partner answers fine take one of my eyes you know we are in
this don’t underestimate this I don’t see any simple clear way out thank you (Applause) Dr. Blackwood (moderator): Thank you both
very much it’s pretty clear I think to all of us that you both have quite a bit to say
to each other and so Zizek: …and to ourselves Dr. Blackwood (moderator): …and so I think
before we we jump to some audience questions I thought it would be nice to give each of
you a chance to ask a response or ask a question or two from each other so starting with you
dr. Peterson Zizek: maybe you want simply to counter-attack
it wasn’t fair, maybe you should do your reply Peterson: I had three questions and two are
completely irrelevant and so I have one Left I guess and I’m not sure that it’s a fair
question but maybe it’s it seems to me to be a fair question your your estranged Marxist
to have a discussion with and well but here’s why this is not an insult I mean one of the
things that struck me when I was looking at your work was that your well first of all
you’re a character you know and that’s that’s that’s an interesting thing like you’re it’s
a sign of it’s a sign of originality and it’s a sign of a certain amount of moral courage
and and and it’s a sign of a certain temperament and it makes you humorous and charismatic
and attractive and and and and I think you appeal to young people the way that outside
intellectual rebels appeal to young people and so those are all positive things it can
be used positively or negatively and my question is like it seems to me that your your your
reputation unless I’m very Misinformed about this is as a strong supporter of Marxist doctrines
on the left or was that and so then my question is given the originality of your thought why’d
why is it that you came to presume at some point in your life perhaps not now and perhaps
still that the promotion of Marxism rather say rather than Zizekism was appropriate because
it seems to me that there’s enough originality in your body of thought and lateral thinking
in the manner in which you approach intellectual ideas that there’s just no reason for you
to be allied with a doctrine that’s a hundred and seventy years old and that is if capitalism
is rife with problems is twice as ripe as with problems as that and so you’re kind of
a mystery to me in that way and so that’s my question Zizek: okay very briefly I I developed systematically
in my book critical insights into many traditional Marxist resist so no doubt here you know what
I still admire nonetheless in Marx not those simplicities of Communist Manifesto but I
still think that his so-called critique of political economy, capital, and so on is tremendous
achievement as a description of the dynamics of capitalist society and if you read it closely
Marx is much more ambiguous and opener for example he mentions for example a report what
you refer to he mentions that law of diminishing return like well why crisis will arrive necessarily
poor are getting poorer but in his honest enough to enumerate seven or eight counter
tendencies and if you read him closely you will see that precisely those tendencies prevailed
later or forget Communist Manifesto go to read his political analysis of its unsurpassable
18 Brumaire and so on of the 1848 revolution which are incredibly complex no traces of
traces of that class binary day their March deals with middle classes with crucial loom
proletariat with the ambiguous role of intellectuals and so on and so on but basically what I was
pleading for and I like to put it in paradoxical turn was for a return off from Marx back to
Hegel I define myself more as a girl why consider a madman you know the guy absolute knowing
and so on and so on no Kegley much more modest and open the danger in Marxism is for me this
teleological structure we are at the zero point unique chance of reversal into a new
emancipated society and so on and the danger here is that of self instrumentalization proletarian
communist party is a an agent of history which knows the laws of history to put it follows
them and so on the catastrophe in Hegel such a position is strictly prohibited in cable
whenever you act you err so you know you have to there is no position of this pure acting
where you know what you are doing and the result with it will be so I this this would
be this would be my main point so yes my my my formula is kind of ironically I know Hegel
is the greatest idealist materialist reversal of Marx by turning back to Hegel for Hegel
Hegel says in a part that people don’t read introduction to Philosophy of Right she says
explicitly that the owner of Minerva takes off in the evening when there is dusk so philosophy
can just grasp a social order when it’s already in its decay philosophycannot see into the
future it’s radical openness we need this openness today the tragedy today may be agree
here is that we really don’t have a basic house they call it cognitive mapping I don’t
think we have here a clear insight into where we stand where we are moving and so on and
so on so I’m much more again sincerely of a pessimist (Applause) Peterson: I don’t have any thing to quibble
about with what you just said Zizek: But? Peterson: well no there’s not even a but really
it’s that the even if the if what you said about Marx is more sophisticated thought is
true I think the unfortunate reality is that any support for Marxism especially directed
towards those are who are young is likely to be read as support for the most radical
and revolutionary proclivities and I would say that as they’re outlined in in the document
that I described in the communist manifesto that they’re of extraordinary danger and so
it seems to me that by attempting to you know rescue the sheep yuvan you’ve sort of invited
the dragon into the house and that seems to me to be dangerous and unfortunate Zizek: Here I can answer your answer by asking
you mine question because you know very naively you mention do you really where did you find
the data that I complete don’t see it okay let me begin by this you designate you’re
under quotation marks I’m not characterizing here enemy or what you are fighting against
as sometimes you call it postmodern neo Marxism I know what you mean all this from political
correctness this access of whatever spirit of envy and so on and so on do you think they
are really where did you find this that I don’t know them I
would ask you here give me some names or whatever one of the Marxist here (Applause) Zizek: I think they hear like a good vampire
fear garlic and this is why they are already the one who is not a market economic topic
Bernie Sanders he is already under attack as white male and all that stuff and so on
I simply I simply my problem would be this one what you described as postmodern neo Marxism
where is really the Marxist element in it therefore equality sorry where there are for
equality at this cultural struggles proper names how to be called each other do you see
in them in political correctness and so on any genuine wheel of to change society I don’t
see I think it’s a hyper moralization hyper moralization which is a silent admission of
a defeat that’s my problem why do you call give me, it’s not a rhetorical question
or politely saying you are an idiot you don’t know what you’re talking about Peterson: no, I understand Zizek: it’s simply I would like to know because
you and I like this often when you attack somebody you said aggressively and what should
read more tell me whom so I’m asking you not read more I don’t advise you but who are give
me some names and so on and who are these post-modern egalitarian neo-marxist and where
do you see any kind even of a Marxism I see in it mostly and impotent and utterly impotent
moralization Peterson: well I mean there’s ganization
like jonathon Heights what’s it called heterodox Academy and other organizations like that
have documented an absolute dearth of conservative voices in the social sciences and the humanities
and about 25% according to the what I think are reliable surveys approximately 25% of
social scientists in the u.s. identified themselves as Marxists and so there’s that very solid Zizek: but where are these neo Marxists? Peterson: okay, but…. Zizek: Can you name me one neo-Marxist? Peterson: well, well…let’s go to…. Zizek: I know a couple of Marxists, for example,
whp does very solid economic work, David Harvey, one, but he writes very serious books, economic
analysis and so on and so on then there is the old guy who is far from simplification
Fredric Jameson and so On but they are totally marginalized today
it is politically correct mainstream you know? I don’t see Peterson: well yeah your question seemed to
me to focus more on the pair a peculiar relationship that I’ve noticed and that people have disputed
between post-modernism and and neo Marxism and I see the connection between the postmodernist
types and the Marxists as a sleight of hand that replaced the notion of the oppression
of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie as the oppression by one identity group by another Zizek: totally agree with you Peterson: okay so with that but so now look,
we can Zizek: but that’s precisely a non Marxist
gesture Peterson: well, that’s it, see I guess that’s
where we might have a dispute because I think what happened especially in France in the
1960s as the as the radical marxist postmodern types like Derrida and Foucault realized that
they were losing the moral battle especially after the information came out of the Soviet
Union in the manner that it came out Zizek: Solsynetisian and so on Peterson: yeah that the whole blood is telling
us yeah the whole Stellan this catastrophe along with the entire Maoist catastrophe that
they didn’t really have a leg to stand on and instead of revising their notion that
human history and this is a Marxist notion should be regarded as the eternal class struggle
between the economically deprived and the oppressors they just recast it and said well
it’s not based on economics it’s based on identity but it’s still fundamentally oppressor
against oppressed and to me that meant that they smuggled the the the fundamental narrative
of Marxism and many of its schools back into the argument without ever admitting that they
did so now I’ve been criticized you know for this opposition because people who are post
modernists say look one of the hallmarks of post-modernism is skepticism of meta-narratives
it’s like I know that perfectly well and I also know that Marxism is a meta-narrative
and so you shouldn’t be able to be a post modernist and a Marxist but I still see the
union of those two things in the insistence that the best the appropriate way to look
at the view world is to view it as the battleground between groups defined by a particular group
identity nin dividuals defined by a particular group identity so that the group identity
becomes paramount and then the proper reading is always oppressor versus oppressed with
the secondary insistence that it’s very similar to Marx’s insistence upon the moral superiority
of the proletariat that the oppressors are by definition because they’re oppressed morally
superior and and there’s the call for perhaps not revolutionary change although that comes
up above but change in the structure so that that oppression disappears so that a certain
form of equality comes about now you argue that Marx wasn’t a believer in equality of
outcome and I’m not so sure about that because his notion of the eventual utopia that would
constitute genuine communism was a place where all class divisions were eradicated and so
there’s a Zizek: but so are anrachists… Peterson: well well there’s at least an implication
like the most important of the hierarchies had disappeared and so maybe he had enough
sophistication to talk about other forms of hierarchies but if if that’s the case then
I can’t imagine why he thought that the Utopia that would emerge as a consequence of the
elimination of economic hierarchies would be a utopia because if there are other forms
of hierarchies that still existed people would be just as contentious about them as they
are now like we have hierarchies of attractiveness for example that have nothing to do with economics
are very little to do with economics and there’s no shortage of contention around that or any
other form of ability and so that’s why I associate the social justice types who are
basically postmodernist with Marx Postma their postmodernist with Marxism it’s the insistence
that you view the world through the narrative of oppressed versus oppressor and I think
it’s a catastrophe I think it’s a catastrophe and you appear to think it’s a catastrophe
as well Zizek: No just one sentence and then he you
can reply in so strange that you mentioned for example somebody like Foucault who for
me his main target was Marxism okay for him represented in a radical change but in this
is what I don’t like in this what you call postmodern let’s not call the Marxist revolutionaries
enjoying your own self marginalization the good thing is to be on the margin you know
like not in the center and so on and so on it almost made me nostalgic for old communists
who at least had the honesty to say no we don’t enjoy our margin position we want to
do something central power, you know it’s so disgusting Peterson: it’s not wonder you’re don’t
get invited to lots of places (laughter) Zizek: yeah, you know you know for me and
bodies this logic of revolution revolution he meant any social change serious bad small
resistances and so on small marginal places of resistance and so on and so on so okay
but let’s maybe drop it here if you want but since you are replying to my question you
should have the last word here Peterson: No, I’ll stop with that. Let’s move
to the neck we’ll get back to these topics now as we move forward with the questions
so I’m happy let that that particular issue stop stop Zizek: (to Dr. Blackwood moderator) did you
already do your Stalinist manipulation and censor the questions because this
program that he described to us through some screens questions and so on I think it good
scheme to the one who decides which questions, as Stalinists would have put it, what they
put in are real voice of the people Peterson: yes yes, well hopefully we can trust
it Dr. Blackwood (moderator): let’s move on from
that, at heart this evening we’re talking about happiness at least that’s the frame
of the debate that we have tonight and you’ve
both been in your work and also tonight very critical of happiness as mere hedonism pleasure-seeking
or even simply as a feeling what does true or deeper human happiness consist of and
how is it attained ? Zizek: (points to Peterson: you want to start,
I don’t care, sorry Peterspn: well I don’t I don’t first of all
there’s something you said five minutes ago or so I think you were still at the podium
that I agree with profoundly which is that happiness is a side effect it’s not it’s not
a thing in itself it’s something that comes upon you it’s like an act of grace in some
sense Zizek: I accept even your theological undertone Peterson: okay, okay Zizek: the category of grace can be used in
a perfect atheist sense, one of the deepest categories, sorry Peterson: yes I would think I would think
that we could find agreement about because partly because of your psychoanalytic background
you know perfectly well that were subject to forces within us the aren’t of our voluntary
control and certainly happiness is one of those because you cannot will yourself to
be happy you might be able to will yourself to be unhappy but you can’t will yourself
to be happy there are certain preconditions that have to be met that are quite mysterious
in order for you to be happy and then it happens and then maybe if you’re wise you you regard
this as a like an in a minor incomprehensible miracle that somehow you happen to be in the
right place at the right time now I’ve made the case that the most effective means of
pursuing the good life which is not the same as pursuing happiness is to adopt something
like a stance of maximal responsibility towards the suffering and malevolence in the world
and I think that that should be pursued primarily as an individual responsibility it’s not like
I don’t think that political and familial larger organizations are necessary but in
the final analysis we each suffer alone in some fundamental sense and we have our own
malevolence to contend with in some fundamental sense and the proper beginning of moral behavior
which is the proper beginning of the right way to act in the world is to take responsibility
for that I think you do what you can to conceptualize the highest good that you can conceptualize
that’s the first thing to develop a vision of what might be and it has to be a personalised
vision as well as a universalized vision and then you work diligently to ensure that your
actions are in keeping with that and you allow yourself on that pursuit to be informed by
the knowledge of your ignorance and the necessity for acting and speaking in truth and a fair
bit of that I believe is derived I think it’s fair to say that that’s derived from an underlying
judeo-christian ethic and I make no bones about the fact that I think of those stories
metaphysically or philosophically or psychologically as fundamental to the proper functioning of
our society in so far as it can function properly and so it’s not happiness it’s meaning and
meaning is to be found in the adoption of responsibilities and then I’ll
close with this the responsibility is not only to do what you believe to be right that’s
not is that’s duty that’s not enough that’s sort of what the Conservatives put forward
as the ultimate virtue which is duty it’s notthat it’s it’s that you’re you’re acting
in a manner it is in accordance with what you believe to be right but you’re doing it
in a manner that simultaneously expands your ability to do it which means that you cannot
stay safely ensconced within the confines of your current ethical beliefs you have to
stand on the edge of what you know and encounter continually the consequences of your ignorance
to expand your domain of knowledge and ability so that you’re not only acting in an efficient
manner but you’re increasing the efficiency and productivity and meaningfulness of what
it is that you’re engaged in and I think that and I believe that the psychological evidence
supports this even the neuropsychological evidence is that that’s when true happiness
descends upon you because it’s an indication from the deepest recesses of your psyche biologically
instantiated that you’re in the right place at the right time you’re doing what you should
be doing but you’re doing it in a manner that expands your capacity to do even better things
in the future and and that’s I think that’s the deepest human instinct there is it’s not
rational it’s far deeper than that and it’s something that it’s something that’s genuine
and it exists within us and that constitutes a proper guide if you don’t pervert it with
this self-deception and deceit so that’s my perspective (Applause) Zizek: okay I’ll try if you are stupid enough
to believe me to be brief first I like very much what you began with this grace or whatever
we call it moment of happiness and I would like to would you agree that the same goes
for love I think we have a huge in the habit in French I don’t know if in other language
they have it they use the verb to fall in love which means it’s in this sense in some
sense a fall you are surprised you are shocked authentic love I think is something very traumatic
even in this sense I always like to use this example let’s say you live stupidly happy
life maybe one night stand here and there you drink with French then you fall in love
passionately this is in some sense all the balance is lost after so but where I second
surprisingly maybe for youth I agree with your point about judeo-christian legacy for
which I am very much attacked centrist and so on and so on you know I wonder if you’d
agree with it I will try to condense it very much you know for me the deepest I simplify
to the utmost something unheard of and I as an atheist accept the spiritual value of it
happens in Christianity other religions you have got up there we fall from God and then
we try to climb back through spiritual discipline whatever training goodness and so on and so
on the form of Christianity is a totally different one as with philosopher us would have put
it you don’t climb to God God you are free in a Christian sense when you discover that
the distance that separates you from God is inscribed into God himself that’s why I agree
with those intelligent theologies like my favorite Gilbert Keith Chesterton who said
that this the cross the crucifixion is something absolutely unique because in that moment of
alien in ahmedabad God for the life of you abandoned me for a brief moment symbolically
God Himself becomes an 80s in the sense of you know you get a gap there and that is something
shows absolutely unique it means that you are not simply separated from God your separation
from God is part of divinity itself and we can then put it also in other terms maybe
closer to you like that that’s right for me happiness is not some blissful unity with
higher value it’s the very struggle the fall and so on and that’s why I hope we both worry
about what will this possibility of so-called I’m horrified with it Ray Kurzweil calls singularity
and this blissful state I prefer not to know but the final contrary breeze what I only
don’t quite get why do you put so much access to this we have to begin with a person with
personal change I mean this is also the second or which one I don’t remember forgive me of
your slogans in your book you know first set your house in order then but extremely common
sense naive question here but what if in trying to set your house in order you discover that
your housing is in this order precisely because the way the society is messed up which doesn’t
mean okay let’s forget about my house but you can do both at the same time and I would
even say I will give you now the ultimate sample yourself that you are so socially active
because you realize that it’s not enough to tell to your to your to your patient set your
house in order much of the reason of why they are in disorder their house is that there
is some crisis in our society and so on and so on so my reproach to you remembering would
have been another joke your coffee yes please like individual or social yes
please because this is obvious in extreme situation like I hope we agree to say to somebody
in in North Korea set your house in order but I think in some deeper
sense it goes also for our society you see some kind of a social crisis and I don’t see
clearly why insist so much on this choice because I will give you an example that I
think perfectly does it how do we usually deal with ecology by this false personalization
you know they tell you ah what did you do did you put all the coke cans on the side
did you recycle old paper and so yes we should do this but you know like I in a way this
is also a very easy way to describe yourself like you say ok I do the recycling show up
you know I did my duty let’s go on so I would not say why the choice there Peterson: ok so well so first of all I have
to point out that it’s you have unfairly tasked me with three very difficult questions and
so I’m hoping that I can Zizek: that’s life, you said life is a challenge
and so on (laughter) Peterson: yes so so I’m going to I’m hoping
that I have the mental wherewithal to keep them in track and answer them in order but
you can help me if I stray I was very interested in your comments about the about Christ’s
atheism one on the cross that final moment of atheism that that’s something I I never
thought about it that way Zizek: Chesterton, ‘Orthodoxy’ read it,
it’s a short book, excellent Peterson: no,no, it’s a very it’s a very interesting
thought because what it what it it’s a really it’s an unbelievably merciful idea in some
sense that the burden of life is so unbearable and you see in the Christian passion of course
torture unfair judgment i society betrayal by friends and then and then a low death and
so that’s that’s kind of that’s what as bad as it gets right which is why it’s an archetypal
story right it’s about as about as gifts and the story that you described point so that
it’s so bad that even God himself might despair about the essential quality of being right
right so and so that is merciful in some sense because it does say that there is something
that’s built into the fabric of existence the tests are so severely in our faith about
being itself that even God Himself falls prey to the temptation to doubt and so that’s okay
now this is where things get very complicated because I want to use that in part to answer
the other questions that you answered look there’s there’s a very large clinical literature
that suggests that if you want to develop optimal resilience what you do is you lay
out a pathway towards somewhere better someone comes in they have a problem you try to figure
out what the problem is and then you try to figure out what might constitute a solution
and so you have something approximating a map right and it’s a it’s a tentative map
of how to get from where our things aren’t so good to where they’re better and then you
you have the person gold in the world and confront those things that they’re avoiding
that are stopping them from moving towards that higher place and there’s an archetypal
reality to that it’s you’re in a fallen state you’re attempting to redeem yourself and there’s
a process by which that has to occur and that process involves voluntary confrontation with
what you’re afraid of disgusted by and inclined to avoid and that works every psychological
school agrees upon that is that exposure therapy the psychoanalysts expose you to the tragedies
of your past you know and and redeem you in that manner and the behaviorists expose you
to the terrors of the present and redeem you in that manner but there’s a great broad agreement
across psychological schools that that’s that works and my sense is that were called upon
as individuals precisely to do that in our life is that we are faced by this
unbearable reality that you made reference to when you talked about the situation on
the cross is that life itself is fundamentally and this is a pessimism that we might share
it’s fundamentally suffering and malevolence but and this is I think where we differ I
believe that the evidence suggests that the the the light that you discover in your life
is proportionate to the amount of the darkness that you’re willing to forthrightly confront
and that there’s no necessary upper limit to that so I think that the good that people
are capable of is actually it’s a higher good than the evil that people are capable of and
leave me I do not say that lightly given what I know about the evil that people are capable
of and I think that I believe that a central psychological message of the biblical corpus
fundamentally is that that’s why it culminates in some sense with the idea that it’s necessary
to adopt it’s it’s necessary to confront the devil and to accept your what would you say
your the unjustness of your tortured mortality if you can do that and that and that’s it’s
a challenge as you just pointed out that it’s sufficient to challenge even God himself that
you have the you have the best chance of transcending it and living the kind of life that will set
your house in order and everyone’s house in order at the same time and so I think that’s
even true in states like North Korea and like I’m
not asking people to foolishly immolate themselves for pointless reasons you know if I’m when
I’m working with people who are Clinic clinically and they have a terrible oppressor who’s their
boss at work I don’t suggest that they march in and tell them exactly what they think of
them and end up on the street it’s not helpful you know and so the pathway towards adopting
individual responsibilities happens to be a very individual one but I do believe that
the best bet for most people is to solve the problems that beset them in their own lives
the ethical problems that beset them that they know our problems and that they can set
themselves together well enough so that they can then become capable of addressing larger
scale problems without falling prey to some of the errors that characterize let’s say
over optimistic and intellectually arrogant ideologue he close with one thing one of my
favorite quotes from Carl Jung it’s actually a quote that I used at the beginning of my
first book which was called naps of meaning was that if you take a personal problem seriously
enough you will simultaneously solve a social problem and this bears on on your point because
it’s not like you’re a small family even the relationship between you and your wife is
immune in some sense to the broader social problems around you and so let’s say right
now there’s tremendous tension between men and women in the West and that’s certainly
the case given the divorce rate let’s say that would be some evidence and the later
and later stages that people are waiting to become in – you know enter into permanent
relationships there’s a there’s a real tension there and then if you do establish a relationship
with a woman or a partner but we’ll say a woman in this particular case you are instantly
faced with all of the sociological problems in a microcosm in that relationship and then
if you work those damn problems out if you can work
them out within your relationship and you can get some insight it’s not complete insight
but you can get some partial insight into what the problem actually is and get the diagnosis
right and you’ve moved some small measure forward in addressing what might
constitute the broader social concern and what’s even better you’re punished for your
own goddamn mistakes and that’s another thing I like about the idea of working
locally is that you know if I do broad scale social experiments and they fail it’s like
well tough luck for the people for whom they failed but if I’m experimenting on myself
within the confines of my own relationship and I make a mistake I’m going to feel the
pain and then I and that’s good that’s just it but it also gives me the possibility of
learning and so I believe that you do solve what you can about yourself first before you
can set your family straight and before you should dare to try to set the world straight
otherwise you degenerate into this kind of you already talked about it is shallow moralizing
leave this well I’ve divided my goddamn coke cans up and now I can spend more money on
new packaging at the supermarket which is exactly what the psychological research indicates
that people do if they perform a casual moral action they immediately justify committing
a less moral action because they’ve put themselves in a higher moral place and you might if you
were real pessimist you’d say well that’s why they performed the action to begin with
I think that’s often true that’s associated with that shallow moralizing Dr. Blackwood (moderator): Slavoj Zizek: are we are we too much in this direction
or or again I will put in my Stalinist arms would you go as far as to say who
needs the people we talk for the people no because I don’t want to take too much of the
time for the public but you know what interests me would you then agree because this is how
Hegel reads the story of the fall that fall really is Felix culpa in the sense that for
Hegel before the fall we are simply animals it’s through the fall that you perceive goodness
as what will drag you out of the fall so in this sense fall is constitutive of the very
you know it’s not you fall from goodness you fall and that’s the dialectical paradox your
phone recur actively creates what you fell from as it were and that’s the tough lesson
for trip moralist to to to accept but you know where I see very briefly maybe a counter
question what fascinates me we didn’t cover this I didn’t cover this but speaking about
ideology would you agree what fascinates me more and more is not big ideology in the sense
of projects and so on in our cynical era people claim all we no longer take them seriously
and say walk but and here for me social dimensions enter enters even our intimate space implicit
beliefs ideological pressure positions why not which we embody in our most common daily
practices for example probably some of you already know it I will nonetheless repeat
a very shortened version I was occupied at some point by the structure of toilets in
Western Europe Peterson: I know of what your talking about… Zizek: I noticed this especially a specificity
of German toilets where you know Rafi doesn’t this shit doesn’t disappear in water it is
their exposure that you smell it and control it for whatever and immediately associated
it with German spirit of poetry and reflection and so on it’s a bad joke but what I’m saying
is that in a sense and I’ve spoken with some specialists I was so intrigued by of how do
you construct toilets and they admitted it there is no direct direct utilitarian valgus
going to the toilet ideology in this deeper sense is there another thing that at the same
level I repeat one of my old robes that fascinates me intensely is how it’s not just as superficial
psychoanalysts claim we pretend to be moral to believe but deeply we are cynical egotist
quite often in today’s times we think that we are free permissive and so on but secretly
we are dominated by an entire pathological or not even often pathological structure of
prohibitions and so on so we may and this is what interests me so much precisely in
today’s time where and this is how would you agree we would explain the simple fact
which may appear weird at how apparently they so they tell us we live in permissive times
take your pleasure may enjoy it but at the same time there is probably so some clinicians
are telling me more rigidity and importance than ever let the lesson of psychoanalysis
I hope we agree is not this vulgar one you are cannot perform sexual you go to a psychology
psychiatrist he teaches you how to get rid of authority and so on it’s a much more complex
situation it’s and this is what interests me immensely all this set of implicit beliefs
cow you don’t even know but you you know I will repeat the story that half of you know
and my favorite that niels bohr anecdote you know he had the house outside copenhagen the
quantum physics right and he had a horse through a superstitious above his door Peterson: yes (laughs) Zizek: and then a friend asked him what do
you believe in it why do I be there and he said I’m a scientist why then do you have
it there because I was told it works the idea is it prevents evil spirits I enter the house
it works even if you don’t believe in it that’s ideology today that’s ideology today fundamentally I want to solicit from you to tell a joke
don’t you see I think I think that people are are possessed by ideas that aren’t theirs
there yeah and their personalities that aren’t theirs and that’s the great psychoanalytic
insight it’s not ideas it’s personalities it’s way worse than ideas and some of those
personalities might be the ones that are associated with the idea that freedom is found in maximizing
hedonistic moment-to-moment pleasure or something like that which sounds like freedom for me
one of the things that I suggest to people is that they watch themselves as if they do
not understand who they are or what they’re ruled by and then notice those times when
they’re there they’re where they should be that and that’s back to our discussion about
meaning rather than happiness it’s like you’ll see there are times in your life where you’re
somewhere or you’ve done something and all of a sudden you’re you’re together you’re
where you should be your conscience is not disturbing you you’re you’re you’re not proud
of what you did because pride is the wrong term but you understand deeply that you’ve
done something that you should have done you might not understand why you might not even
understand what it is but the study of that can help elucidate the difference between
what actually constitutes you is a very difficult thing to discover and what constitutes the
accretion that characterizes you because of the well let’s say you’re intense you’re intense
proclivity for socialized mimicry and so you know you’re I don’t mean you personally but
people are amalgams of everything they’ve seen and everything they’ve ever seen they’ve
watch it yeah yes yes and everything they’ve read and and to integrate that and define
that the truth that constitutes that integration is incredibly difficult endeavor and one of
the reasons why in twelve rules for life for example I suggested that I’ll try to tell
the truth or at least don’t lie is because one of the ways apart from pursuing what you
what appears to you to be meaningful one of the ways of escaping from that possession
by the kind of ideology that you’re describing which is like an it’s like a it’s like an
unconscious of unidentified axioms it’s something like that even though they take personified
form they’re like personalities is to stop saying things you know not to be true it’s
a nice pathway forward it’s the original rule was tell the truth and I thought no that’s
not any good because you’re so biased and limited and ignorant
and possessed that you don’t know what the truth is and so you can’t be asked to tell
it but everyone does have the experience of being about to say or do something that they
know by their own they know as deeply as they can know anything about themselves that that
utterance or action is wrong and they still do it now my suggestion is try to stop doing
that and one of the consequences or you can try in small ways like you might not be able
to manage it in big ways but now and then you know you’re tempted to do something that
you know to be wrong and you could not do it and if you practice that you get better
and better at not doing it and that means you lie less and you and you take the easy
route less and you pursue hedonic pleasures that cost you in the future less you start
to straighten yourself out you take the beam out of your eye that’s essentially what you’re
doing and over time you have some modicum of hope that your vision will clear up and
you’ll be able to see the proper pathway forward and that’s part of the process of redemption
and it seems to me to be in your grasp you’re capable of doing that you have a conscience
it does inform you from time to time correctly about the difference between good and evil
the consequence the knowledge the consequence of the fall that you described which I think
you described it very eloquent terms and that you can slowly make your way back to the straight
and narrow path that’s characterized by maximal meaning but also see that this instinct of
meaning is a sophisticated one it’s not that I’m making a case for the individual like
Iran makes a case for the individual that’s not it I’m making a case for individual responsibility
that’s not the same thing it’s like there is something that’s good for you but it has
to also be good for your family if it’s just good for you that’s not good enough and if
it’s good for you and your family and it’s not good for society then that’s not good
enough either and so the responsibility is to find a pathway that balances these things
in a harmonious manner it’s like a I got a lot of this thinking from Jean Piaget and
his idea of equilibrated States right is you’re attempting to find something like a game that
everyone is willing to play that can be played in an iterative manner and not degenerate
well hopefully actually ascend if that’s possible hopefully become a better and better game
across time and I do believe that I do believe that you can do that I do believe that you
can do that if you’re guided by truth and I do believe that the pathway to that is the
phenomenology of meaning and then the secondary consequence of that is if you do that now
and then you might be happy and then you should be profoundly grateful because happiness as
we already agreed upon is something like a grace Again my pessimism comes here I agree with
you but the danger here here the ology can massively enter you describe a nice situation
you are whatever to do something that you know it’s wrong but so-called totalitarian
ideologies step in at this point and try to present to you that the true greatness is
to do what you individually think it’s wrong for the higher course you know who says this
wonderfully horrible guy Heinrich Himmler of SS, no no no, Peterson: no, that’s no joke Zizek: seriously he knew the problem Peterson: Yes Zizek: German officers must blue horrible
things feel good Peterson: Yes Zizek: and his solution was double first to
let them know as he put it somewhere every idiot okay ordinary men can do something great
maybe local sacrificed himself for his country but his reply was his point was but it takes
a truly great men to be ready to lose his soul and to do horrible things for his country Peterson: Yeah Zizek: and I read some good memories of relatively
honest communists who broke down whenever sent to the countryside from inin early thirties
and this is what this is what they were told by apparatchik you will see horrible things
children starving and so on remember there is a higher course and your highest ethical
duty is to is to overcome this small bourgeois sentimentality and so here see the danger
of again my pessimism false meaning which can massively cover this false narrative ii
think also the solution by I wonder if you share this pessimism French another one by
Himmler you know what was his sacred book I read he all the time had a special leather-bound
copy in his pocket Bhadaga ba Geeta he massively he said his problem was this one he puts it
perfectly Nazi officers have to do SS horrible things how to enable them to do it without
themselves becoming horrible beings his solution was oriental wisdom to learn to act from distance
I’m not really there and this is was the shock of my life based on this do not the book I
found a book the Gaiden wrote many books Bryan Victoria sane at war it’s a shocking book
especially horrible from any so called entire a centrist who claim our monotheism is guilty
of everything we need oriental evidence book is about the apart from a couple of
exceptions the behavior of Zen Buddhist community in Japan in the thirties early forties not
only they totally supported Japanese expansion into include China they even provided properly
Zen Buddhist justification for it for example the one you know who did this no you are not
as old as me I remember him DT Suzuki the Great Tree yeah but okay he was doing this
in the sixties but as a younger guy he was fully supporting Japanese militarism and one
of his justifications was this one the advice of Japanese military to them to support Zen
Buddhist training because he says it’s one of the most horrifying thing that I’ve ever
read he said sorry don’t take it personally but let’s say an officer orders me if I were
to tell this to you it would be too obvious so I pick you I have to kill you stab you
with mine and he says if I remain in this illusionary self then I feel responsible I
kill you but he says if you are enlightened by Zen Buddhism then you know there is no
substance reality you become a neutral observer of your life just a flow of phenomena and
you tell yourself it’s not that I am killing you but in the cosmic dance of phenomena my
knife is floating and somehow your knife Falls you know what I’m saying is I’m not disputing
some spiritual greatness of Zen Buddhism I’m saying how even the most enlightened spiritual
experience can serve a terrible cost now because we’re running very quickly out of time and
it’s clear that this conversation could go for a very long time I’m going to ask one
representative question here and give you each one minute each and that is and that
is simply this coming from online what is one thing you hope people will leave this
debate with and why Jordan I I hope they leave this debate with a belief in the power of
communication between people with different views (Applause) Peterson: and there there there is this there
is a growing idea on college campuses tell me if I go over my minute that there really
is no such thing as free speech because people are only the avatars of their group identity
and they have nothing unique to say and besides that there’s no communication across boundaries
of identity or belief and and I think that that’s an unbelievably dangerous and and pernicious
doctrine and I think that people of goodwill despite their differences can communicate
and they can both come out of that communication improved even though there might be some dissent
and some some dissent and some dissent on the way and so that’s what I would hope people
would come out Zizek: I will be more concrete even politically
there is today so it appears this big conflict between all that of modern stuff that you
oppose and this all right and so on I hope sincerely that we made at least some people
to think and to reject this simple opposition there are quite reasonable working the only
alternative to all try it is not political correctness and so on and I know I’m speaking
not for you but for me please if you are a leftist don’t feel obliged to be politically
correct please please don’t be afraid don’t be afraid to think and especially would you
agree one great version of not thinking is how immediately if they don’t agree with you
you are labeled a fascist but that’s the laziness people find something they don’t agree with
instead of thinking they think about something we all agree was a bad thing up you’re a fascist
and so on you know it’s not a simple aspect even some of whom I’m deeply critical no I’m
sorry to tell you but he is not a fascist you make it all too easy to play these games
I just want not a positive result but to shatter you a little bit to make you think Dr. Blackwood (moderator):I have always felt
that the greatest conversations are unfinished ones please join me in thanking Slavoj Zizek
in Jordan Peterson for a great unfinished conversation! (Applause) Zizek: Ah… ah… Hi. It’s nice that we
survived this… Dr. Blackwood (moderator): Thank you, Slavoj Zizek: I forgot that I.. still wired (Applause) Dr. Blackwood (moderator): We did alright.
You can go out this way… (Applause) Dr. Blackwood (moderator): Good night everyone!

14 Comments on "Jordan Peterson & Slavoj Žižek – Happiness: Capitalism Vs. Marxism – HQ Video & Audio + English CC"


  1. the screen shows a close-up of peterson's or zizek's face and the audience laughs. how old are they, 12?

    Reply

  2. Peterson speech:
    13:10 class strugle; hierarchies
    16:40 No nature in Marx
    18:45 binary class strugle
    21:50 prol. dictatorship
    25:15 managers <3
    26:40 Profit = theft
    28:58 Prol. dictatorship – productiveness
    32:15 producing commodities
    33:19 conclusion

    Zizek speech:
    40:07 china today
    41:14 hapiness
    42:34 burdens
    44:29 religion
    46:19 don't fall in love with ur suffering
    47:18 jacques lacan once wrote
    49:05 Hitler as a storyteller
    50:58 wtf???
    54:00 political correctness
    57:13 lobster topic (biology, sexuality)
    1:00:23 democracy
    1:03:00 end of the lobster part
    1:03:19 for communism
    1:09:00 refugees
    1:11:00 conslusion

    Reply

  3. Girl, god bless you for correcting the audio. How did you do that?. Thanks a lot 😽

    Reply

  4. There are a lot of errors on the subtitles in Zizek talk. Errors that actually make people perceive other meaning.

    Reply

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