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Identity Politics and Class Guilt


One of the most awful elements, I think, is the idea that individuals should be defined in terms of their group identity at all.

peterson2This is one of these weird inversions that's so characteristic of this chaotic state that we're in.

When people originally started fighting against unfair discrimination... the initial idea was to eliminate the proclivity for people to be categorized according to their group identity, because that was interfering with everyone's ability to view them as competent individuals. But that got flipped, probably in the 70s after the Soviet state so self-evidently was revealed as a catastrophe.  That got flipped so that the world was turned into one group against another — a power struggle from one group against another.  And then the social justice warrior types and the lefties, even the Democratic Party, started categorizing everyone according to their ethnic or sexual or racial identity, and made that the canonical element of their being.

That's an absolutely terrible thing to do.  In the Soviet Union when that happened, they introduced that idea along with the notion of "class guilt." So, for example, when the Soviets collectivized the farms, they pretty much wiped out or raped and froze to death all of their competent farmers.  They called them "kulaks," and they attributed class guilt to them because they were successful peasants, and they defined their success as oppression and theft.  They killed all of them, pretty much — shipped them off to Siberia and froze them to death.  And they were the productive agriculturalists in the Soviet Union.  And then in the 1930s in the Ukraine, because of that, about 6 million Ukrainians starved to death.  The Soviets were big on collective guilt.

And all of these things you hear about now, like "white privilege" for example, are variants of collective guilt.  I pick your bloody identity, whatever it happens to be, and then I make you a guilty member of that category, and then you and the rest of the guilty members of that category are judged as a unit.  It's murderous, pushed to its extreme.  And we've seen that many, many times.

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Jordan B. Peterson, "Identity Politics and Class Guilt." JBP Weekly June 8, 2020.

Reprinted with permission of the JBP Weekly.

The Author

peterson1peterson2Jordan Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist and cultural critic. He is the author of Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life,12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, and his now classic Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief. As a Harvard professor, he was nominated for the prestigious Levinson Teaching Prize. His classroom lectures on mythology and psychology, based on Maps of Meaning, were turned into a popular 13-part TV series on TVO. Dr. Peterson’s YouTube channel, Jordan Peterson Videos features his university and public lectures (including the most recent 15-part biblical series). 

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