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12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson
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The first thing you need to know about the Canadian clinical psychologist Jordan B. Peterson is that “millennials think he’s God”, said Melanie Reid in The Times. On the face of it this is surprising, given that his philosophy – a combination of stern exhortations to self-reliance and scathing denunciations of “the Left” – is the diametric opposite of a “snowflake” mentality associated with that generation. Yet young men especially seem to be drawn to the Peterson credo, which includes the claim that in today’s increasingly female-orientated society, traits such as aggression and competitiveness are being “groomed out of boys”. Having attracted millions of followers online, Peterson has now distilled his wisdom into a book, which is part self-help manual, part philosophical tract. While 12 Rules for Life contains plenty of “barminess” – there’s a chapter urging us to project confidence like a lobster – there’s invariably a “kernel of truth” to what Peterson says.

If that’s so, it passed me by, said Julian Baggini in the Financial Times. Many of Peterson’s bromides sound like “deep wisdom at first glance, but vanish into puffs of pseudo-profundity”. At heart, this book proposes an “ethics of conformity”, which reveals less about how to live than about the “growing assault on liberal values”. I started off assuming this was “yet another self-help guide, a genre for which I have little sympathy”, said Bryan Appleyard in The Sunday Times. But halfway through, I realised that it’s something else: a “stern religious meditation, a hellfire sermon”. As such, it’s “fascinating”. Peterson is “brilliant” on many subjects, including the need for parents to impose limits on children, and the value of risk. Although his views may result in him being “no-platformed for life”, they are a bracing corrective to the prevailing pieties.