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Jordan Peterson and His Enemies


Jordan B. Peterson has sold over half a million volumes of 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos since January, a staggering number of books. His yearlong "Antidote to Chaos" speaking tour is even more remarkable. In December, he will speak to an already sold out 2,000-seat Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles. His tickets are fetching up to $900 each, prices comparable to Bruce Springsteen and Hamilton. Before that, he'll speak to audiences in Europe from Helsinki to Stockholm.

A while back, I asked a former college president what she thought of Peterson. To my surprise she drew a blank. He was saying sensible things about hierarchy, gender, and coping with life's limits, I explained. He was dispensing good advice, some of it aimed directly at feckless young men.

I brought up the lobsters. Lobsters have been doing status and power contests for 350 million years and are a theme in 12 Rules for Life. Their neural systems are primitive analogues of our own. Just maybe, Peterson speculates, such status and power contests apply to more advanced animal behavior, to humans, to us. "They should rename my New York neighborhood Lobster Cove," I laughed. She didn't. For academics, social class, hierarchy, and status are touchy subjects, like sex and death in earlier times. Her ideological Geiger counter had started ticking. She looked uncomfortable, and we moved on.

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