Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism
Andrew Woods is a Doctoral Candidate at the Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism at University of Western Ontario. He has spoken at academic conferences in Canada, Poland, the U.K., and the U.S.. His upcoming publications include an article on space exploration in the Canadian Review of American Studies, an essay on Henri Lefebvre and gentrification in the collection Emerging Possibilities, and a chapter on the "Frankfurt School conspiracy" in Critical Theory in the Age of the Alt-Right: Reaffirming the Humanities.
Gravediggers: Jordan Peterson and the Corpse of the Enlightenment
In 12 Rules for Life, Jordan Peterson supplies a single citation to substantiate his claims about what he calls postmodern Neo-Marxism: Stephen Hicks’ Explaining Postmodernism. From this book, Peterson borrows Hicks’ central claim that postmodernism is the “academic far left’s epistemological strategy for responding to the crisis caused by the failures of socialism in theory and in practice.” In my paper, I argue that Peterson denigrates postmodernism in an effort to portray himself as a defender of Enlightenment ideals. In my analysis of Peterson’s position, I build on Zygmunt Bauman’s claim that descriptions of the Enlightenment are “reconstructions” that tell us “more about the reconstructors than about the reconstructed epoch.” Peterson’s reconstruction of modernity/Enlightenment serves to identify Reason as a core component of capitalist liberalism. I argue that Peterson and the wider “intellectual dark web” weaponize Enlightenment principles to contend that the political Right are the true inheritors of the legacy of modernity. Moreover, I insist that Peterson embodies Adorno and Horkheimer’s argument that Enlightenment thinking can become a reactionary and dominating force. Lastly, I consider whether the Left should adopt Enlightenment tenets (as found in accelerationism), stick with postmodern deconstruction, or seek another theoretical alternative.