While I highlight the merits of Jordan Peterson’s views on human relationships, I am frustrated by his discussions of power, ideology, and social dynamics.from his first the law of lifeIn exploring “The Lobster Hierarchy” (2018), Peterson typically focuses on the dynamics of competence and merit in hierarchically ordered social systems. At the same time, he downplays or ignores the interpersonal dynamics (and power) associated with cooperation, collective action, and the “power of the powerless” at the bottom of these hierarchies. As such, his critiques of “awakening” ideologies and collective action do not accurately account for the power and appeal of such movements—often simply dismissing them as “the fatal attraction of false idols” (Peterson, 2021). Besides citing oversimplification and pseudo-intellectualism, he also fails to explain why these forms of power and social change may actually lead to some of the negative consequences he says.
Understand power and social dynamics
As I’ve discussed elsewhere, there are different types and bases of power.Within this framework, Peterson focuses primarily on competencies and strengths, which can be categorized as Expert power and Reward power. As he suggests, these types of powers may indeed lead to the creation of ordered hierarchies. So far so good.
Unfortunately, however, these hierarchies do not only Based on ability.Sometimes, as his discussion of lobsters shows, these hierarchies can also be based on dominance (i.e. coercive force). Moreover, as the hierarchy transformed into a “hard power” structure based on domination and coercion, it also fell into oppression and despotism.
In fact, this situation can be explained by Peterson’s frequently mentioned abusive father Prototype (2002). With due respect, I believe this is why he is careful to use his language to promote a hierarchy of abilities and merit, hoping to avoid the pitfalls of an authoritarian order. However, it’s important to acknowledge that such hierarchies can become coercive and decadent (hence archetypal) – and realize that when they do, they can trigger backlash.
Invert the hierarchy
So what happens when “Dad” becomes domineering – when the hierarchy becomes too steep, dominant and oppressive? Well, those at the bottom have had enough, rebel, and band together to overthrow the system.They are motivated to create what anthropologists say reverse dominance hierarchy On the contrary (Boehm, 1993).
They do this by using different forms of power, such as their connection to each other (Prestige rights) and existing laws and regulations (legal power). Using this power, they formed a group strong enough to stand against the top. Essentially, they band together to collectively negotiate and maximize their power through ties.
Ultimately, this motivation is the driving force behind the awakening ideology. A social dynamic arises when a hierarchical order becomes too oppressive and needs to be rebalanced. As Peterson (2021) suggests, this process may be fueled by resentment (often justified). More importantly, however, social dynamics are also driven by a desire to reconnect, collaborate, and build relationships with others—especially for those who are alienated and marginalized.
Will waking up go too far?
Who doesn’t want to connect, build relationships, and love a little more? Who wouldn’t benefit from the safety (and power) of the large groups that support them? It’s hard to see the downside. However, as Peterson (2021) argues, this ideology can lead to unintended destruction. But why exactly?
reverse dominance hierarchy from quantity Relationship. In other words, the more people on the team, the better — and the stronger. Unfortunately, this focus tends to ignore the capabilities of each person involved. After all, if you are motivated to include everyone (and gain power, money, or status by doing so), any standard that might reject someone can be counterproductive, exclusionary, and negative. However, a team without standards can stop functioning and become more like a rambling thug than a productive team.
Like Peterson’s lobster, here too we can use an analogy to better understand the situation – in this case, about crabs. If you put a crab in a bucket, it can easily crawl out. However, if you put a lot of crabs in a bucket, none of them will crawl out. This happens because the crabs grab each other and drag each other. The overwhelming power of the crowd prevents anyone capable of climbing upwards. In this way, the positive and powerful bonds of a group can become chaotic and coercive, stifling individual effort and productivity.This is what Peterson (2002) himself was discussing destructive mother prototype.
By adding the above metaphors and dynamics to the section Peterson discusses, we get the full picture. Both sides have advantages, but both can go too far. Focus too much on competence and competition, and you end up in a fragile lobster hierarchy where individuals feel isolated, relationships break down, and authoritarian order suffers. By contrast, focus too much on connection and cooperation, and you’ll end up bogged down in a chaotic mob that stifles individual efforts to competency and achievement. In short, one is sacrificing relationships for professionalism and the other is doing the opposite – a balanced life requires two power bases!
Given this, in our personal lives and in society, the way forward is to understand each other and strive to strike a balance between personal abilities and relationships. We do this by learning to share power with others, building capabilities and connections, and avoiding the use of power bases for coercive control.In this way, we avoid being abusive father or destructive motherand create powerful social dynamics that help us live, love and thrive best.
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© 2022 Jeremy S. Nicholson, MA, MSW, Ph.D. All rights reserved.