Saturday, June 30, 2018

Jordan Peterson as conservative cat's paw part 2

Evangelicals can be curiously sympathetic to Peterson and I've already suggested this is because Peterson can serve as a cat's paw for some of the interests and aims of Anglo-American social conservatives with an evangelical set of convictions (not the blue-state types of evangelicals, obviously, but it's just as obvious to me that the difference is of what "kind" of transformational Social Gospel is meant to be implemented rather than a difference about whether or not a transformational and ultimately triumphalist Social Gospel is the guiding "worldview").

So, over at Slate ...

as to the question of quite literally who is buying what Peterson is selling the answer has become somewhat clear, just as it has become clear who isn't buying it what Peterson is selling.  I've picked up the PDF of Maps of Meaning and I only started into it and it might take a while to finish. Since my interests are more in the arts and arts criticism and theory angle than variations of self-help Peterson's on the backest of the back burners.  I'm going to try to jump into Joseph Campbell more thoroughly in a bit, I think.  And ...

I finished Aesthetic Theory and Philosophy of New Music in the last month so I admit that for my interests Adorno is far more germane than Peterson.  At this point my belief is that any kid in college who thinks he or she wants to get into critical theory needs to go and actually read Adorno to understand that if they plan to embrace critical theory as a healthy and honest alternative to white cisgender heteropatriarchal chauvinistic racist authoritarianism that reading even one book by Adorno should disabuse them of such an illusion, however appealing that illusion might seem to be.  If an arch Marxist-Leninist of the old left like Adorno could write the racist and elitist screed "On jazz" there's no reason to think that to be on the left is to not traffic in elitism or racism, even if in Adorno's case I would say my impression has been that he was virulently anti-Slav more than he was particularly against African or African American musicians.  Still, the point about the problem of the white left and right scapegoating each other for a shared legacy of racism would be most easily underlined if you cross reference someone like Adorno with someone like Dabney. 

All that is to say that for those who are buying what Peterson is selling it's clear they want to buy in.  After so many years at Mars Hill the reasons people buy in as they understand them should not be confused with the reason you think they are buying in. That's the kind of mistake that's made so habitually and systemically by contributors to Slate I'd write about that but I don't feel like it. 


Cal of Chelcice said...

It all comes back to a question of what people are actually doing, and how that correlates to the ideas they profess. It's hard to see how literary critics like Adorno can actually stand for some revolutionary vanguard, when they are playing a role barely different than many conservative university colleagues. Fantasies of destruction are nothing new. The academic ecstasy of white people being enslaved or wiped out, or Trump as Hitler Redivivus, or a Benjaminian-esque divine violence of the prols striking against their masters is NOT substantially different than Thomas speculating about how the saints will enjoy the eternal suffering of the damned. Genealogies are anti-theologies, but still remained in the same dialectic. So, despite the spleen from many arts and literary critics, seeking to give their desperate learned opinions, in a hurry nowhere, they reveal the ultimate absurdity of it all as they write from their laptops in Manhattan.

As a side-note: there's a new netflix show on Joseph Campbell, which could be interesting (and worthy of a review). When you have time, of course :)

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

the complaint leveled against Adorno by Lukacs (sic) levelled at Adorno was he had invented an ivory tower form of Marxism that did away with the proletariat. :) I now totally get what that accusation entailed! I do think there's some value in Adorno's often torturous prose and opaque screeds as a partial antidote to Romantic era ideas that, to put this in terms used by Daniel Kahneman, art should be all "System 1" intuition rather than including "System 2" theoretical work. But at the end of the day Adorno was pretty reactionary.

But Adorno's "On Jazz" is one of the nastiest vitriolic rants against the legitimacy of jazz I've ever seen in my life. The idea that it's all just incompetent retreads of Debussy and Ravel and that it's emblematic of black male impotence in socio-economic terms and worthless as music is just plain wrong. Adorno was, as some critics have pointed out with cause, trapped within a dialectic of enlightenment/Romantic ideology to the point where he couldn't grant that non-German music quite mattered.

What's been done in the last fifty years is attempt to take critical theory as a way to champion popular music, ironically precisely the kind of mass produced mass culture the critical theorists tended to be against as the mind-manipulating swill of the culture industry used to subjugate the thoughtless masses. The problem is that the master narrative of societal decline can look the same in Marxists readings as a quasi-Spenglerian Francis Schaeffer model. The possibility that life does, in fact, go on and that there are eras in which diversity of style can be accepted doesn't really win over academics.

I haven't been as much of a film watcher in the last five years and I actually don't have Netflix so I have to watch stuff when it hits disc, whether in the city library or me buying something (or my relatives).

Now that I've finally finished a couple of Adorno books it's even clearer to me that he and Schaeffer were both hamstrung by their respective master narratives of history.