A postmodern neo-Marxist’s guide to free speech
Jordan Peterson, the alt-right and neo-fascism
in The free speech wars
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Jordan Peterson is a central figure in the so-called ‘culture wars’. Lumping together 'postmodern neo-Marxists', feminists, queer theorists and transgender rights activists as the ‘social justice warrior' blob he stands against, Peterson has become a poster boy of the transnational far right. This chapter tackles Peterson’s conceptualisation of his enemies head-on, arguing that he identifies something real: unity among diverse critical traditions in our opposition to ‘free speech’. ‘Postmodern neo-Marxists’ may be an oxymoron, given the well-documented animosity between these two intellectual movements. But what postmodernists (or poststructuralists), Marxists, feminists, and gender and queer theorists share in common is a belief that the ways in which we theorise, explain and act in our world must stem from actual social practices rather than abstract, ahistorical principles. Whereas the ‘alt-right’ depicts a right to free speech as a universal principle, endogenous to ‘Western civilisation’, in practice it has always and everywhere been strictly limited. And so it goes today – not least in the culture wars, where, for example, women of colour calling out racism are routinely ‘shut down’ for ‘incivility’. A guide to free speech politics in the age of Peterson, this chapter shows how inescapably raced, classed and gendered the exclusionary practice of ‘free speech’ really is, and what this tells us about liberalism’s inadequacy in responding to neo-fascism.

The free speech wars

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