Jordan Peterson vs Slavoj Zizek isn’t a Football Match

The upcoming debate between Canadian psychology professor Jordan Peterson and Slovenian communist intellectual Slavoj Zizek is perhaps the most highly anticipated debate this year so far. In a sense, this looks to be quite a polarized debate. On one side, we have a capitalist, individualist intellectual, and on the other side, we have an unconventional communist.

People are already picking their sides. It’s almost like a football match. It certainly has that feeling to it. Perhaps we should expect Peterson fans to gather together to watch the show, wearing matching Peterson shirts, and Zizek fans would do the same, wearing Zizek shirts. As a classical liberal, who also happens to agree with Peterson about 75% of the time, you would think I’d be all Team Jordan. (You know, Go Jordan! Go Jordan! Go Jordan!) And I guess at least part of me wants Peterson to win this thing. But I do consider myself a true intellectual, and as intellectuals we probably shouldn’t see it as a football match with screaming fans on both sides. That is not what rational debate should be. Instead, we should see it as a meeting of ideas. And perhaps, some great new insights could come up, especially where the two of them share some common ground.

And what common ground do they share?

Probably more than you think.

Firstly, both Peterson and Zizek are ultimately for some kind of freedom. As a Moral Libertarian, the idea of individual freedom is the primary principle of my politics, and I would naturally be interested in any debate on freedom. I mean, I personally don’t think Zizek’s communism is the way to freedom, but from Zizek’s point of view, he is for freedom. While I don’t agree with him on the economics, I guess we should still try to understand his perspective on culture, to see if there is anything we can learn from it.

Because both Peterson and Zizek are ultimately for freedom, they do agree on certain important issues. From what I understand, both men are opposed to political correctness, and see it as a form of totalitarian control over individuals, as well as an impediment to resolving important social issues. I hope that they will dedicate some time to this issue during their debate. I firmly believe that the erosion of free speech and the acceleration of political correctness is one of the biggest crises of the Western world right now. The more focus there is on this issue, the better. Another thing I understand that Peterson and Zizek share is that they are both opposed to postmodernism. Political postmodernism is poisoning the minds of young people, and again, the more voices against postmodernist nonsense, the better.

I believe that, if we want to thorougly understand an issue, whether it be individual liberty, free speech, political correctness or the identity politics epidemic, it is important to look at it from different angles. This allows us to form a detailed and nuanced understanding of the issues, and leads us to develop the most effective and evidence-based solutions to tackle the problems. Jordan Peterson and Slavoj Zizek will bring very different understandings of these issues to the table, and we will have an opportunity to look at them from different perspectives. This, in my opinion, is what is most valuable about the debate. I guess that Peterson will focus on logic and facts like he always does, and Zizek will focus on a more systematic perspective, like he often does. And both perspectives are valid to some extent, even if some of us hate to admit it.

If Peterson fans and Zizek fans simply root for their man and refuse to listen to the other guy, a valuable opportunity to understand the issues will be lost. If, at the end of the debate, we conclude either that Peterson destroyed Zizek or that Zizek destroyed Peterson, it would be a sad conclusion. And it would also be inaccurate indeed, because we would be falsely concluding that one perspective is always correct over another.

I really look forward to the Peterson vs Zizek debate. I see it as a meeting of two of the world’s most brilliant minds, and a great opportunity for two very different perspectives to mesh together. I really hope everyone out there approaches the debate with a similarly positive and curious attitude.

Originally published at on March 21, 2019.

TaraElla is a singer-songwriter, independent journalist and author, who is passionate about free speech, liberty and equality. She is the author of the Moral Libertarian Horizon books, which focus on developing a moral case for freedom-based politics in the 21st century.