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.
Peterson himself embraces the self-help genre, to a point. The book is built around forthright and perhaps impractically specific advice ... Peterson has a way of making even the mildest pronouncement sound like the dying declaration of a political prisoner ... Peterson sometimes assumes the role of a strident anti-feminist, intent on ending the oppression of males by destroying the myth of male oppression. (He once referred to his critics as 'rabid harpies.') But his tone is more pragmatic in this book, and some of his critics might be surprised to find much of the advice he offers unobjectionable, if old-fashioned: he wants young men to be better fathers, better husbands, better community members ... Peterson excels at explaining why we should be careful about social change, but not at helping us assess which changes we should favor; just about any modern human arrangement could be portrayed as a radical deviation from what came before.
Peterson has a knack for penning sentences that sound like deep wisdom at first glance but vanish into puffs of pseudo-profundity if you give them more than a second’s thought ... Peterson peddles a kind of academic populism in which the philosophies of Heidegger and Kierkegaard are drafted in to support the will of the people and the wisdom of tradition. No one trying to understand how to live should read this book. Anyone interested in the growing assault on liberal values, however, should study it with fear and trembling.