Jordan Peterson Is Wrong About Foucault
Why the right should reconsider Foucault.
Posted by Jordan Peterson today:
Michel Foucault could be the greatest intellectual asset to the right if they actually understood him. Jordan Peterson and other right-wing thinkers are missing significant insights into how power works by rejecting Foucault.
Most right-wing criticism of Foucault can be boiled down to "Foucault was a bad person." Yes. So was Machiavelli. No one reads Machiavelli to understand how to be a good person. They read him to understand power. Foucault understood power.
“Foucault was a pedophile.” Yes. Some of the accusations made against him are less credible than others, but this has been known for some time. You’d have to be blind not to see in Foucault’s writing and life that he was a huge pervert who had no problem with such abhorrent behavior. But again - no one reads Foucault to understand how to be a good person.
Foucault was a monster who understood monsters. In my writing, I argue that society has a systemic pedophilia problem. Much of this argument is made using left-wing thinkers that Jordan Petersen would describe as “Neo-Marxist.” If someone within the system you oppose could brilliantly and articulately explain it to you, wouldn’t you want to read them? This is where Foucault is useful.
The right mistakenly looks at many left-wing thinkers from a moral perspective. Over time, they’ve come to see others from a strategic one. For example, Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals is frequently cited in right-wing circles as simply a description of how politics works. Right-wing activists have no issue using Alinsky tactics like “make the enemy live up to its own book of rules” and arguably use that tactic more than the left. Why not use all left-wing understandings of power, including Foucault?
The question isn’t whether or not Foucault was a bad person. He was. (He was also a deeply traumatized person if you look at his childhood and upbringing, but that is another subject for another article.) The question is: was he correct? If he was correct about power then to paraphrase a popular right-wing saying “facts don’t care about your morality.” To understand power, read Foucault.
Edit: Peterson has since deleted the tweet that prompted this article.
Sidenote: There is a lecture in his book Abnormal that completely explained and reframed medical power around everything from the medical treatment of children to the COVID-19 lockdowns. I go into depth on it in chapters 13-16 of my own book Children’s Justice. If you’re like to understand how Foucault can be used for good, read the book here.
If you liked this article, please subscribe and read more: