Straw Gods: A Cautious Response to Jordan B. Peterson

Stevenson, Guy. 2018. Straw Gods: A Cautious Response to Jordan B. Peterson. Los Angeles Review of Books, [Article]

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This article discusses the fascinating rise of Canadian psychologist cum self-help guru Jordan Peterson: first in relation to the problems with identity politics that have helped facilitate it; second as an improbable Nietzschean and Jungian revival sixty years after the hippies made these two figures fashionable; and third, as a reductive and dangerously evangelical response to serious, pressing cultural problems. If the culture wars are back on - as Peterson keeps saying and his enormous popularity at least partly suggests - and the youth are turning en masse against the discourse of equal rights begun in the sixties, then it's vital he be called out for harnessing that rebellion in reductive, aggressive and quasi-religious terms. Rather than Peterson's charismatic and proselytising brand of PC-bashing, I'll suggest, curious and disillusioned young people need exposure to calm thinkers on this subject - people like the English philosopher John Gray, who for twenty years has been critiquing liberal humanist complacency but through careful application of Schopenhauer's saner reflections and sensible caution about the myth-intoxicated visions in Nietzsche and Jung. Unlike most commentary on Peterson, the piece will acknowledge that he is responding to serious problems, that he is doing so probably in good faith and that much of the advice he offers has been of benefit to disaffected young men in particular. But it will also point out the equally serious dangers of attacking these problems in a romantic and intellectually dogmatic manner; a manner that encourages blind disciple-guru adoration, and fosters exactly the atmosphere of unthinking partisanship Peterson purports to oppose.

Item Type:



Jordan Peterson, Identity Politics, John Gray, Carl Jung, Friedrich Nietzsche, Counterculture

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Centre for Cultural Studies (1998-2017)
English and Comparative Literature


1 October 2018Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

16 Aug 2019 11:15

Last Modified:

12 Jun 2021 09:03


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