There was the flash of a tweet. It came out of the blue. Nietzsche's worst and, in our times, possibly most recognizable supporter, Jordan Peterson, attacked a Marxist geographer whose name is practically unknown outside of what early 20th century modernists called "the smart set," David Harvey. The tweet was sent with what Peterson imagined to be the force of a thunderbolt: "Oh good. A Marxist. In academia. 100 million plus corpses not enough for you, buddy?"
What one cannot doubt is Peterson has never read a single page of Harvey's work. One is also certain that he has no idea that The Limits to Capital is a masterpiece of Marxian interpretation and scholarship. And, of course, such matters as careful analysis and professional erudition have little to no value for this fourth-rate (and that may not be low enough) Nietzschean—a Nietzschean who probably has no idea that his hero, rather than Marx, played a much larger role in the rise of post-structuralism and postmodernism. That Marx actually had a more positive (indeed Victorian) view of capitalism than Nietzsche, who celebrated the aristocratic values and saw the subjects of capitalist consumption as, to use the words of the late Nietzsche scholar Robert Solomon, couch potatoes—indeed, the very types who attend his events and watch his YouTube videos.
Peterson can’t even explain Nietzsche coherently because he’s (again) only read one thing by him.— Francis D. Rose 🇺🇸 (@Newer_Deal) February 16, 2023
He’s lazy afhttps://t.co/qV7VrILihF
Marx was actually abandoned by the leaders of leftist theory in the late '60s and early '70s. And let's not point to the very fact that Harvey isn't popular with anarchists (he made this famous statement: "I wouldn't want my anarchist friends to be in charge of a nuclear power station"). But there you have it. Peterson, who can only be described as a poor man's William F. Buckley, and is certainly nowhere near the heights of the Austrian School, a major conservative movement in 20th-century economics that took Marx very seriously, decided to impress his followers, many of whom actually believe he is an intellectual, by belittling ("buddy") an actual intellectual.
Dear @jordanbpeterson, I invite you to join my free course, Reading Marx's Grundrisse. It could be a great way for you to read Marx for the first time! So when you next try to debate someone like Zizek, maybe you won't abjectly humiliate yourself again. https://t.co/SCuG2FZCog https://t.co/K2hChgnSnK— David Harvey (@profdavidharvey) February 15, 2023
But we on the left can only thank Peterson for extending Harvey's fame outside of the usual suspects, the smart set. And he could not have picked a better time to do this favor. Harvey has published a new book. It concerns a work by Marx that dramatically changed Marxian scholarship and theorizing in the second half of the 20th century, Grundrisse. It's a collection of notes he wrote before his late-period masterpiece Capital Volume 1.
Harvey composed A Companion to Marx's Grundrisse while teaching an online class on the work at the beginning of the pandemic. All you need to do is, first, follow this course closely with a copy of Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy translated by Martin Nicolaus (Penguin Classics), and, once done with that, read Grundrisse on its own—this part, sadly, will take some time as it's not easy text and draws a lot of its language and program from Hegel's severely abstruse Science of Logic. And once done with that tough going, read Harvey's superbly lucid A Companion to Marx's Grundrisse. (And, yes, you can, to save on time, just read Harvey's new book.)
Do all of this, and I can promise you the world you and I live in (its economic structure and processes, which are, for the most part, with us to this day) will make a lot of sense. And the world that makes Peterson make millions from suckers will look like the nonsense that it is and can only be. One of Canada's worst exports doesn't provide followers with something like the glasses we find in John Carpenter's They Live. What you find instead are boxes upon boxes filled with eyeballs that met the same fate as those of Oedipus Rex.