Ben Burgis

Philosophy Department, Rutgers University

Ben Burgis is a Part-Time Lecturer in the Philosophy Department Rutgers University. He’s on the executive board of the PTL union there, fighting for such luxuries as health insurance and equal pay for equal work. He’s also an active member of Central New Jersey DSA. (He clearly doesn’t know that even lobsters have hierarchies, and that it clearly follows from this premise that humans are just wasting their time if they try to push for any sort of social progress.) He’s currently under contract for two books, both of which should be coming out next year—an academic monograph in the Synthese Library series at Springer called Logic Without Gaps or Gluts: How to Solve the Paradoxes Without Sacrificing Classical Logic and a shorter and punchier tome solicited by Zero Books editor Douglas Lain called Give Them An Argument: Logic for the Left.

Of Lobsters and Proletarians: Jordan Peterson's Defense of Hierarchy


When Jordan Peterson says that ‘postmodern Marxists’ support ‘equality of outcome,’ it’s easy for Marxists to get confused. We know that Marxism and postmodernism are very different schools of thought, and anyone’s who’s read Karl Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program knows that Marx’s vision of what non-Marxist philosophers would call “distributive justice” has very little to do with equality. Also, what’s all this about lobsters? I’ll argue, however, that there is a sense in which Peterson is right to frame things in this way. Every hierarchical social system claims that its hierarchies are natural. The Divine Right of Kings is one such story, and the idea that capitalism’s hierarchies are ‘hierarchies of competence’ that arise from a starting point of equality of opportunity is another. By presenting a materialist analysis of how capitalism originated, how it functions, and how it might be overcome, Marx acts like Toto in the Wizard of Oz, pulling back the curtain. While thinkers like Foucault and Derrida disagreed with almost all of Marx’s specific claims, even they were inheritors of this demystification project. Peterson’s overall project, the one that ties together his Jungian psychotherapeutic vision quests with his crusade against ‘Social Justice Warriors,’ is remystification. While economic class is often not his primary focus, the hierarchies he aims to relegitimize in terms of primal mythic archetypes about order and chaos and explain in terms of features that run so deep humans have them in common with lobsters very much include capitalism’s economic hierarchy. As such, he’s right to associate all of his philosophical enemies with the name of Karl Marx.