The 2018 bestselling self-help book by controversial Canadian clinical psychologist and psychology professor Jordan Peterson. The book includes abstract ethical principles about life influenced by and based on biology, literature, religion, myths, clinical experience and scientific research.
Like the best intellectual polymaths, Peterson invites his readers to embark on their own intellectual, spiritual and ideological journeys into the many topics and disciplines he touches on. It’s a counter-intuitive strategy for a population hooked on the instant gratification of ideological conformity and social media 'likes,' but if Peterson is right, you have nothing to lose but your own misery.
It’s not just that this sloppy use of language exposes Peterson as an intellectual lightweight; the tendency to causally conflate various disparate phenomena that one happens not to like — in this instance, postmodernism, Marxism, and political correctness — is the calling card of the paranoiac ... Arguably the most manipulative feature of 12 Rules for Life is the author’s repeated reference to procreation as the driving force of human behavior: time and again this or that proposition is supported by reference to the mating patterns of humans or animals. Given that so many of his readers appear to be young men struggling with masculinity issues, this is fiendishly clever in its appeal to their deepest insecurities: reinvent yourself as a brutal Nietzschean strongman and you’ll get some ... The world is full of snake oil salesmen; why should this one concern us particularly? Because male self-pity is a killer
Once the cloud of testosterone has cleared, the reader discovers that each of Peterson’s 12 rules is explained in an essay delivered in a baroque style that combines pull-your-socks-up scolding with footnoted references to academic papers and Blavatskyesque metaphysical flights...The effect is bizarre, like being shouted at by a rugby coach in a sarong ... Unfortunately, he is not a man who will be content with a heuristic when he thinks there’s a fundamental truth to be had. As a good student of Jung, he likes an archetype, ideally one he can ground in biology ... What makes this book so irritating is Peterson’s failure to follow many of the rules he sets out with such sententiousness...He is happy to dish out a stern injunction against straw-manning, but his 'Postmodernists' and Marxists are the flimsiest of scarecrows, so his chest-thumping intellectual victories seem hollow. He appears sincere, and in some ways admirable in his fierce desire for truth, but he is much less far along his journey than he thinks, and one ends his oppressive, hectoring book relieved to be free of him.