Live Commentary on the Zizek-Peterson Debate

Nathan Robinson in Current Affairs:

Tonight, “philosopher” Slavoj Žižek will debate “psychologist” Jordan Peterson in Toronto, ostensibly on the subject of Capitalism vs. Marxism. It has been said of the debate that “nothing is a greater waste of time.” Tickets to the livestream are $14.95, and admission to the venue itself was running as high as $1,500. By popular demand, our editor has been instructed to stare into the abyss and report on what he sees. Those grateful for his sacrifice should consider purchasing a subscription or making a donation as a means of supporting his recovery expenses, which are sure to be considerable. …

8:27 P.M. — Now a recitation of the familiar pro-capitalist arguments: poor people today have iPhones, poverty is going away, etc. He cites the familiar statistic that there are many fewer people living on extremely small amounts of money. This the usual dodge: the question has always been “Why is there so much deprivation that could be alleviated and is not being?” not “Is there less deprivation?” If you adopt the “Have things gotten better?” approach, as Peterson and Steven Pinker do, then you could make the same argument in 1900: oh look, we’re better off than the Middle Ages, therefore things must be great and nobody has any legitimate objections.

8:30 P.M. — Zizek begins by whining about how he has been marginalized by the academy and says he is disowned by the left. Inexplicable. And annoying. Pity poor Zizek.

8:31 P.M. — Zizek correctly begins with China: if capitalism is the force lifting people out of poverty, then why did the greatest reduction of poverty occur in an authoritarian state that intervenes extensively in its market? But he then raises the question that the debate is ostensibly about: what is happiness? Peterson didn’t really talk about this. He just talked about why Marx was wrong about things. I don’t even think happiness came up.

8:34 P.M. — I turned away for a minute and now I have no idea what Zizek is talking about. “Trump is the ultimate postmodern president.” I don’t know where happiness went. Zizek was doing so well at staying on topic… for about ten seconds.

More here.