A Review: Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules

April 1st, 2019  | J. Hodgson
12 rules

I finally finished Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. I’ve been meaning to read it sooner, but for a brief time I had had enough of Peterson and felt I had nothing more to learn by reading his book. Some time passed and then it miraculously appeared on the library shelf as a New and Notable 3-week loaner… so I decided to jump into the Peterson hurricane once more.

It was worth it.

Peterson does a great job diving deep into all sorts of subjects that he’s touched upon before, but the structure of the book and the uninterrupted narrative helped to contextualize and expand many of his ideas that have been presented in other formats previously. Peterson has taken criticism for offering “trite” advice such as, “Clean your room!” and “Pet a cat!” Many online Alt-Righters have mocked such expressions by appropriating Peterson’s voice and responding with things like, “Remember to wash your balls, Bucko!” The advice proves to be not trite, but essential.

It’s a testament to Peterson’s power and prestige that he is becoming the focus of so much criticism from across the political spectrum. The left has been coming at him since his initial rise to fame due to the compelled speech issue in Ontario. From there he has been painted as Alt-Right and many gotcha journalists have attempted to TAKE HIM DOWN! Cathy Newman was the first prominent victim of an attempted take down when she catastrophically tried to “interview” him on issues of the gender wage gap and equality of outcome. Many others followed in her wake, but they’ve never been able to stop his ascent.

This has spurred jealously amongst his former contemporaries in the non-politically-correct scene. Vox Day has published a book called Jordanetics which portends to reveal the real Jordan Peterson. Faith Goldy, Milo Yannapolis, Richard Spencer and a host of anonymous or lesser know Youtubers and bloggers have decided that Peterson is a globalist sell-out shill that is functioning as controlled opposition for the purpose of misdirecting angry white men from their true collective potential. Their true collective potential being to bring the Turner Diaries to life, I guess? Or maybe just showing up for another Charlottesville?

If one were to take a Peterson-style psychological approach to the reactions from these fringe figures, it becomes obvious that they are jealous that Jordan is making millions of dollars a year and becoming mainstream while selling a more moderate and practical version of anti-politically correct thinking. The extra kicker here is that if these folks followed Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, they would probably be far better off personally.

That’s really what this book is about. It’s a self-help book dressed up with loads of high (and sometimes low) culture intellectualism. It’s entertaining, emotional, thought-provoking and positive. Peterson accurately assesses many of our social problems as personal ones. This is where his background as a clinical psychologist really shines. The Alt-Righters living dead-end lives don’t need a white-only ethnostate in order to thrive, they just need to sort themselves out and make the most of opportunities that exist right in front of them. They need to begin by cleaning their rooms.

This is where the new political divide is happening with Peterson. His insights psychologically are really good, and he has a fantastic grasp of politics. The two intertwine in order to create some extremely good insights into the madness of the modern West. Beyond this, however, Peterson is truthfully, fairly status quo. He’s like the stern suburban Dad telling lazy kids about how the real-world works. When you push a little deeper politically it becomes obvious that Peterson is for the most part, just a yesterday liberal appalled at what today’s liberalism has become. All the Alt-Right conspiracies regarding Peterson as some kind of secret Communist disguised as a neo-liberal globalist is non-sense. He’s just an eccentric intellectual whose formative years were very Boomer and is now trying to roll the clock back after witnessing the rise of SJW culture—a culture he rightly finds analogous to 20th century totalitarian regimes.

These online conspiracies have extended to the “intellectual dark web”… a collection of internet famous thinkers that are non-politically correct enough to be controversial, but not far enough outside the Overton Window to be toxic and deplatformed. To be precise the breakfast club of thinkers consists of Jordan Peterson, Eric Weinstein, Sam Harris and to a lesser extent Ben Shapiro, Dave Rubin and inexplicably…Joe Rogan. This list alone should put to shame anyone who thinks these guys are somehow connected due to a shadow conspiracy by some kind of George Soros character for the purpose of undermining a potential white collective threat to the neo-liberal new world order. These guys have for the most part organically created their own niches and due to the nature of the internet in 2019 they’ve been able to help one another capitalize on their successes.

Does any of this matter to someone looking to improve their life by reading 12 Rules for Life? No, not at all. 12 Rules is primarily a psychology book aimed at improving people’s lives directly. Each of the 12 rules has a lot of content to absorb and it’s probably best to read one chapter at a time. Chapter titles like “Treat Yourself Like Someone You are Responsible for Helping” or “Stand Up Straight with Your Shoulders Back” are only trite if you haven’t read the in-depth content that goes with them. Peterson includes many personal stories that make the content far more effective emotionally than if he just regurgitated his own thinking process for 368 pages. He recounts his friend’s suicide, his daughter’s health struggles, growing up in Northern Alberta, working with insane people as a psychology student… all of which personalize the book in-between references to Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Lenin, Darwin, Superman and Jesus Christ.

12 Rules for Life is basically a big book of entertaining existentialism for the 21st century. Jordan Peterson isn’t a false prophet… he’s no prophet whatsoever. He’s a flawed, beef-eating dude with a Soviet fetish, a high IQ and an appetite for learning about life. You don’t need to agree with everything he presents…he’d probably be disappointed if you did, but the insights, anecdotes and perspective on life’s tough questions found in 12 Rules for Life is a great new edition to the lexicon of great works from the past. Apparently, Peterson has more than 12 rules in his back pocket, so hopefully there’s a sequel in the works. Until then enjoy this refreshing collection, put the haters on mute and remember to clean your room!

Five stars.