Jonathan Haidt, Jordan Peterson and the 'social justice' institution

I just wanted to flag up this fascinating conversation between the public psychologists Jonathan Haidt and Jordan Peterson on 'the perilous state of the university' and draw out some parallels with my work on diversity and institutions in The Tribe.

Jordan Peterson interviewing Jonathan Haidt on 'the perilous state of the university'

The video, which I was drawn to by an effusive tweet from David Goodhart, is more than an hour and a half long. However, unusually for such a thing, I found it didn't drag at all. In fact at the end of it I was left wanting more. 

Goodhart picked up on the point the two discussed about how "any good society must be open AND closed", but there is a lot more to chew over. I was perhaps most interested in Haidt's idea of the 'social justice' university that is dedicated to the promotion of social justice and opposing the Right above other considerations - notably the pursuit of truth.

This has a lot in common with the notion of 'the institution of diversity' which I expound in The Tribe. As I have written it in the book, institutions of diversity have adopted norms and increasingly rules and laws (in the case of government) that favour some identity groups over others and outsource authority to representatives of those groups as victimised groups. Among others, I talk about Channel 4 and the BBC as institutions of diversity which do this to a greater or lesser degree, and whose purposes have therefore shifted from what they used to be. 

They have become more explicitly political institutions, dedicated in their being - in the way that they are organised - to political objectives: to the promotion of some people and the suppression of others. This expresses itself in all sorts of ways. Channel 4 has gone especially far in this direction, an example being its regular podcast Ways to Change the World, promoting and showcasting explicitly political viewpoints, the overwhelming majority of which gather around the social justice and diversity narratives and promoting people who expound them. 

The latest of these features the Channel 4 presenter and model Jameela Jamil talking about the Kardashian family as "agents for the patriarchy", how "people have made me look white" in modelling assignments and blaming society for eating disorders she had when younger - despite by any standards being a beneficiary of society's rules and norms. There are clearly some elements of truth to what Jamil says, but it's notable the way she frames them in the characteristic language of progressive liberal-left politics: of universal victimhood for certain favoured identity groups at the hands of society.

As I have written it in The Tribe, the 'system of diversity' that is spreading around our society offers possibilities to favoured group members who promote these narratives of victimhood for themselves, even if, or perhaps especially if, they are privileged with privileged access to channels for promotion like through Channel 4.

Channel 4 and other institutions that are embracing these norms and messages are therefore appearing as what Haidt might refer to as 'social justice' institutions, just like the universities that they talk about appear as 'social justice universities'. 

They are are dedicated to the same objectives, which are political objectives. The politics comes first, above such things as pursuit of the truth.

My book 'The Tribe: the liberal-left and the system of diversity' is available for £12 (RRP £14.95) with free postage to UK addresses. Use coupon TRIBE at It is also available via online retailers.

Comments so far include the following

“a wonderfully lucid and convincing book”
           ~ Professor Robert Tombs, author of The English and Their History

 ‘searing’, ‘daring’ and ‘pioneering’ ~ Spiked

“a must read for anyone who is trying to make sense of the issues and fault lines in UK politics today.” ~ All in Britain

“superb, timely, well-written and excellently researched” ~ Amazon reviewer

one of the most important books of our time” ~ another Amazon reviewer


  1. Thanks for flagging that, Ben. It was well worth listening to and, as you say, doesn't drag at all. It's a shame people are so quick to jump to conclusions about people like Jordan Peterson without ever listening to what he's actually saying.

    There are indeed points of obvious convergence with your book though some things which were new to me. One is the fact that the system of diversity is much more entrenched in the Anglosphere than any other part of the world. The pernicious effects of social media and the decline of unsupervised play amongst children have also been striking factors in getting us to where we are.

    It's easy to get depressed about all this stuff but I was cheered by the note of optimism particularly on Jonathan Haidt's part. This I felt was somewhat lacking in your book. Things can change very rapidly in either direction. A few years ago it was normal to hear Labour politicians saying that we have to listen to the concerns of ordinary people about immigration. It now seems to be the case that if you suggest there should be ANY controls on immigration you are suspect in polite society. Most people know this is all baloney but have just got scared of saying so.

    JH reminded us that in the latter days of communism the thought police were everywhere but when the Wall cam down their authority crumbled. The same could quickly happen again. Because the extremes of regressive Left thinking so frequently collide with common sense, however much they have become entrenched in the public sector.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Michael. Yes I was struck by the same optimism. One aspect of it though is his faith in the free market to deal with 'social justice' universities, which I don't think applies so much over here. Also, though I am seeing an increasing, and much wider political, backlash against the system - it is so entrenched and immersed into our society and institutions that it will take a lot of hard effort to push back against - and the process will inevitably be fraught and unpleasant.

  2. Don't do social media, so this will have to do. Just finished your book: Brilliant. Easily the best explanation of the faux-left.

    We've just rid our union local of the Diversity rot. Don't know if the damage they've done is repairable, but speaking of backlash... The Diversity phonies are being charged by the union to have their membership revoked.

    Never thought I'd see that in my lifetime. And those leading the charge are young, concerned only with local working conditions rather than saving the world. Just when you think all is lost...


    This is a great review of your book. I might have to buy a copy... but not read it because the following is enraging:

    ''Cobley builds up a detailed portrait of systemic discrimination against an already disadvantaged group (poor whites, particularly poor white men). He may well have proven that social policy around ameliorating disadvantage has been misdirected, even flat wrong, for something like 20 years. Along every metric that matters — education, wealth, life expectancy, suicide rates — poor white men and boys are at the bottom of the heap, yet are weirdly written off as ‘privileged’ by the system of diversity.''

    This is what betrayal looks like. The party founded by and for those white men has utterly betrayed them. I didn't know you were so widely read in terms of philosophy so it would be interesting to see how you would interpret this phenomenon. It's a like a form of colonisation.

    It might also interest you to know that, with Peter McLoughlin, author of ''Easy Meat'' about the ongoing Muslim grooming scandal, I am slowly building up a picture of thousands of racist attacks on lone white men by Muslim gangs in and around Islamic areas over the last 25 years. It is hard work since most police forces are reluctant to co-operate but that fact also supports one of our theses which is that they regularly refuse to record racist attacks as such regardless of what the victim says (which is hardly in the spirit of MacPherson...).

    And, I think you have gathered that what happened in Rotherham is the tip of the ice berg, particularly in comparison with Birmingham and the wider West Midlands, Greater Manchester, and Bradford and West Yorkshire. Indeed, Sheffield, not far from Rotherham is looking horrific. We believe at least 12 girls have been murdered and an unknown number taken abroad (including Sikh girls). White boys have also been raped.

    And no one should be under any illusions that the police have learned much. I just heard this week that my complaint against Greater Manchester Police for their handling of the grooming gang I discovered nearly three years ago and only started to act on this year, has just been upheld.

    The system of diversity has an awful lot of blood on its hands. Perhaps another book is needed: 'Labour's war on the English working class'.


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