Feminist and social justice editions: The Peter Principle


By Not Faber451

In the sci-fi disaster movie The Core, astronaut Rebecca Childs (Hilary Swank) keeps missing out on her coveted promotion to shuttle commander. Her commander Robert Iverson (Bruce Greenwood) explains to her that her flawless service record and personal history are the problem. She has never failed at anything, so NASA doesn’t know if she can take responsibility for the kind of bad decisions a commander can make. She doesn’t fully understand what he means until she has to decide between letting a crewmember die or putting the ship, the rest of the crew and the entire world at risk by enabling a rescue attempt. The idea of assessing someone’s leadership capabilities by observing how they handle failure sounds a lot like a certain training simulation from Star Trek, but the entire concept of a good service record alone being insufficient grounds for promotion can be traced back to 1969. In that year, The Peter Principle was published.


The science of incompetence

The Peter Principle is a book written by Dr Lawrence J. Peter and Raymond Hull about the science of incompetence and the study of hierarchies (hierarchiology). Like Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy, the Peter Principle is based on two hypotheses:


  1. Everyone has an individual limit to their capabilities called a level of incompetence.
  2. A promotion is based on the promoted employee’s good performance in their current job, which is not an indication of good performance in their new job.


The result is that in any hierarchy that is big enough, people rise through the ranks until they reach their levels of incompetence. They can’t do their new jobs well enough to get promoted again once they get there and the actual work in the hierarchy is done by people who haven’t reached their levels of incompetence yet. The incompetent promoted employees can’t be demoted because the people who promoted them would then have to admit that they made a mistake. This mistake may even have been the result of the people who promoted them being at their own levels of incompetence and assessing the wrong qualities. However, incompetent promoted employees can be reassigned to positions disguised as promotions to reduce the damage they can cause. Firing them is often not an option, as they might know enough about the hierarchies that employ them to cause even more serious damage by finding employment at competing hierarchies.

How incompetence can thrive at the expense of the hierarchies in question is explained with hierarchiology. According to hierarchiology, the most important function (the First Commandment) of every hierarchy is to maintain its internal consistency. Supercompetent employees can still be fired because the top dogs are afraid of being replaced by them in the future. The authors call this fear Hypercaninophobia Complex. Maintaining protocol and obedience to the hierarchy become more important factors for assessing competence than actual performance. Spending the entire budget before the end of the fiscal year becomes more important than efficiency and what the money was actually spent on.


The Peter Principle applied to identity politics

If competence is assessed by means of adherence to identity politics, which is not explicitly covered in the book, the shit hits the fan. Here are some feminist and SocJus examples of behavioral patterns that mask incompetence:


  1. Hypercaninophobia Complex

Erin Pizzey’s theory of domestic violence being genderless behavior that is passed down from generation to generation is at odds with feminist propaganda that it is caused solely by men as patriarchal terrorism. Pizzey’s approach to breaking this cycle of violence has the potential to significantly reduce the need for domestic violence shelters in the future, making her supercompetent in this matter. This endangers the ideological and business hierarchies feminist organizations have established to ensure a continuous supply of victims for their increasing networks of shelters and to secure more funding. As soon as they established these hierarchies in the 1970s, the first thing they did was exclude her. The Internet gave her a new platform and the same pattern was repeated in 2016 with her White Ribbon website, which contradicted the narrative of the other White Ribbon campaigns. She was sued by White Ribbon Australia into losing the domain name and she renamed her website Honest-Ribbon.org.


  1. Teeter-Totter Syndrome

The Dutch telecom provider KPN quietly cancelled its affirmative-action initiative to get women into 30 % of its management positions in 2011, two years after it was implemented. Too many women hired under this initiative were white women in their 40s or 50s with the same backgrounds and flaws as the men who were already there. They also did not provide the expected change in leadership style. The final straw came in the form of complaints from highly-educated multicultural men who were barred from applying for certain management jobs, as these vacancies were reserved for women. The new KPN initiative for multicultural diversity in management, which was made public in 2014 along with the earlier cancellation of the women’s quota, subsequently came under fire for not being beneficial enough to women. Any future attempts to address that will likely result in another demographic feeling left out, and round and round they go without actually achieving something.


  1. Peter’s Inversion

The social justice overhaul of Marvel Comics quickly resulted in a drop in sales, but continues to crank out more failures. The competence of Marvel’s writers and artists is measured by their adherence to regressive-left identity politics in their stories instead of their ability to create stories that actually sell. The alienated fans stop buying new comics and the social justice warriors these comics pander to are more interested in complaining about comics than in actually reading them. Disney’s bankrolling of Marvel and the current success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe make commercial success of their comics irrelevant, for now at least.

The upcoming return of the X-Men to their heroic roots suggests that enough people in Marvel are fed up with forced social justice and forced diversity in their stories. I wouldn’t consider it a complete failure though. It proves that these stories don’t sell and that social justice warriors are not a profitable demographic, which can be used for future reference.


  1. Compulsive Incompetence/Percussive Sublimation

Brianna Wu started a career in identity politics to mask her incompetence at making a successful video game, but turned out to be incompetent in that field as well. She’s an incompetent professional victim as she’s too easy to debunk and an incompetent social justice ideologue as she steps out of line too often. Now that she’s going to run for Congress, she will likely make the same mistakes.

Compulsive incompetence normally requires the person in question to still be competent at the top of a hierarchy and then transfer to another hierarchy to find their level of incompetence there. An incompetent person transferring from one position of incompetence to another is called a percussive sublimation, but they are usually transferred by someone higher up in the hierarchy to reduce the damage they can cause. Wu’s case appears to be an exception to both patterns that the authors didn’t account for, but is not unique. Ellen Pao’s career shows a similar pattern.


  1. Auld Lang Syne Complex

Paul Feig has proven himself to be competent at making successful comedies, but his gender-flipped Ghostbusters reboot failed. The feminist ideology behind the movie and its marketing campaign backfired even further when Feig, some of the cast members and Sony accused the intended audience of sexism and misogyny for not liking the first trailer and the movie itself when they were released. Feig didn’t understand that a multimedia franchise that has been around for over thirty years has higher standards of expectation than he was used to. He might have had more success with a Ghostbusters parody, but an official Ghostbusters movie turned out to be his level of incompetence as a director and a writer. Last time I checked, he was still denying responsibility for his failure by continuing to blame the consumers for not liking the movie, dwelling on his and the cast’s past achievements to claim it can’t be their fault, and not thinking about what he or another director/writer could have done better.


  1. Side-Issue Specialization

Melissa Click wasn’t competent enough in communications and mass-media theory to predict the consequences of her public behavior caught on camera during the Mizzou protests, possibly due to prolonged exposure to echo chambers and safe spaces, but became an expert in media-related niches like Lady Gaga, Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight.


  1. Compulsive Alternation

This tactic is meant to confuse people by being inconsistent and is today more commonly known as moving the goalposts. Anita Sarkeesian has replaced chivalry with men either saving damsels in distress (objectifying women) or white-knighting (being good male feminists or feminist allies), effectively making the same actions good or bad with the eye of the beholder deciding the difference. The UN’s HeForShe campaign then confused the issue even further by reinstating the old standard of chivalry and presenting it as a feminist act. This is one of the many ways in which feminists blur their own line between masculinity and “toxic” masculinity to the point that the terms become interchangeable.

The example of feminists demanding absolute freedom from gender roles (usually only for women) and then defend Sharia law, one of the strictest definitions of gender roles for men and women, is one of the few examples that is noticed outside the men’s rights movement. One of the most common examples is feminists using feminism to justify openly hating men and boys, and then refer to the dictionary to deny that feminism is about misandry. The example of demanding men talk about their feelings and then tell those men to shut/man up the moment they start talking about feelings that don’t fit their narratives is not exclusive to the regressive left and can be found in most of the political spectrum.


  1. Caesarian Transference

This behavior is named after a scene from William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, in which Caesar distrusts Cassius for looking lean and hungry. It describes the act of judging someone’s competence or incompetence by a part of their physical appearance that has nothing to do with their job. Feminists and social justice warriors do this all the time by dismissing statements, facts or arguments they can’t refute on the grounds that these were said by men (“mansplaining”) or white people. If a white man says something irrefutable or inconvenient: double whammy!


Shockingly relevant

The beauty of The Peter Principle is that it’s easy to recognize some public figures and people you know personally in the many described cases and symptoms of incompetence. However, some parts of the book have become outdated. For an example, some of the described tactics to prevent unwanted promotions could get you in trouble with HR or fired immediately if tried today.

The authors also theorize that Sigmund Freud came close to discovering the Peter Principle, but attributed his discoveries to sexual frustration. The failures of communist nations are not described, which isn’t strange when you consider those weren’t fully known in the 1960s. However, the Marxist ideal of a non-hierarchal society is described as unobtainable and inconsistent as the ruling principle of that society is based on two hierarchies: one of needs and one of abilities. Another conclusion drawn by the authors is that equalitarianism is the fastest way to get too many employees to their levels of incompetence.

The social shaming that women can directly and indirectly inflict on men who decline promotions is described as well. For this reason, the authors only recommend this tactic to single men. Early in the book, they state that there are some eccentrics who avoid hierarchies as much as possible. Could these eccentrics and promotion-declining men be precursors to MGTOW?


Where the Peter Principle is wrong

The authors came close to predicting social justice warriors by theorizing what could happen if the education system dumbs down to save students who fail from the embarrassment of repeating a year and to save the school from bad grade averages. They predicted that this lowering of standards would leak out into universities and then into all of society, a process they call hierarchal regression. They provide several solutions for this, such as letting failing students repeat the year in another class with a more expensive sounding name, but one of them will absolutely not work.

The authors describe improvement of image by means of side-issue specialization (Peter’s Placebo) as harmless. One example they give is an incompetent mathematics teacher teaching about the virtues of mathematics and letting the students figure the actual mathematics out for themselves as homework. Anyone else reminded of this clip from The Simpsons episode Girls Just Want To Have Sums?




They also describe an incompetent school principal who improved his reputation by setting up a rigid and elaborate system to manage traffic flows in the building, patrolling the building for students and staff violating his traffic rules and becoming an expert in managing traffic flows in school buildings. This sounds a lot like the kind of micromanaging of every aspect of society that the regressive left likes to do, annoying and/or demonizing people in the process. And then you realize where all those overzealous HR employees, diversity advisors, consent-class organizers and other moral busybodies are coming from.

Identity politics turn incompetence into victimhood and competence into privilege. It is said that those who can’t do a certain thing, teach it instead. Incompetent teachers and professors who shield themselves from their own incompetence with identity politics end up teaching possibly greater incompetence to their students. These students then can’t handle the simplest aspects of everyday life. The result is that they can’t study anything useful and instead go for worthless degrees in gender studies or sociology that are, at best, conversation topics at Starbucks if they aren’t too busy serving coffee. At this rate, it’ll be a matter of time before we get university students who can’t even achieve that and degrees in underwater basket weaving and feminist dance therapy become reality.

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<span class="dsq-postid" data-dsqidentifier="157084 https://www.honeybadgerbrigade.com/?p=157084">20 comments</span>

  • See, here’s another problem that I have with many men’s rights advocates. They have taken up this bashing of “social justice warriors.” I think that it is wrong to bash such a concept, as I see nothing wrong with fighting for social justice. It is ironic, as well, since men’s rights advocates are trying to fight for a more socially just world for men. Given that, it would not be inappropriate to call men’s rights advocates “social justice warriors,” as well. I think that criticisms from the men’s rights advocates should be targeted towards the specific groups, like the feminist movement, rather than putting many different groups under this heading of “social justice warriors.” (some of which it might not even be a good idea to criticize, at all)

    • Advocating social justice =!= social justice warrior.

      The term SJW, to me, refers to the corruption of social justice that has much more in common with far-right bullshit than not.

      • I hear ya, but I still think that men’s rights advocates should stop bashing the concept of a social justice warrior. If fighting for social justice is not the same as being a social justice warrior – well, it can still be misleading to people.

        • Well, you could use that argument to say that anti-feminist shouldn’t be used, because it gives a lot of people the wrong idea of being against women’s rights.

          I’ll say that a lot of anti-SJWs have gotten into a cycle of endlessly bashing SJWs as clickbait and not doing much positive. It gets tiring. And a lot are just a little too friendly with the authoritarian right for my liking.

          • I don’t agree with that analogy, but I hear what you’re saying about the right. I tend to be more left on economic issues, and there doesn’t seem to be a home for people like me in the men’s rights movement.

          • Yeah, only scatterings of such here and there. I’m also seeing a rejection of SJWs and identity politics sprout up all over the radical left (the actual, economic radleft, not this neoliberalism BS).

            Most men’s rights places are fairly apolitical, but I sometimes wish there was more of a home. For now I just occasionally argue feminists from a left-libertarian view, and it’s not the usual stuff they’re used to.

    • Adding the prefix social to every government project is a socialist thing, the soviets did it and so do the european states today. There is a diatribe about this in a dog’s heart by Bulgakow (free online); he should know, he lived there.

      To me , that word has become an empty shell. I prefer Justice over Social Justice and Moral correctness over Political correctness. And being able to criticize ourselves is a beneficial, is it not?

    • The thing is, “social justice” is just a buzzword used to rehabilitate the image of a behavior that is not helpful at all.
      It’s a term invented to cover for its pracitioners’ advocacy being about resentment and revenge rather than reform and recovery.

      Justice is not about getting things for people or giving one group power over another. It’s a neutral thing… whereas “social justice” advocacy starts from the premise that some people can’t get something for themselves and the advocacy movement must get it for them, or that some people are guilty of benefiting from unmerited power and the advocacy movement must give their victims power over them… hence all of the shit about quotas and reparations owed by target groups who are generations separated from any wrongs to which the SJWs attribute wrongs they consider justification for such measures.

      It should not be confused with egalitarianism or opposition to discrimination. It’s not about either concept.

      • “It’s a term invented to cover for its pracitioners’ advocacy being about resentment and revenge rather than reform and recovery.”

        I’ll agree that this is the part of the motivation of the feminist movement, and that feminists don’t really want social justice, even though they say that they do, but I think that there are other groups, many of whom are on the left, who really do want social justice, like some of the anti-poverty groups.

        • There is such a big overlap between feminists and SJWs in terms of ideology, following and tactics that the terms have become interchangeable. They also show the same negative and hostile attitude towards men’s rights and men’s issues, so it’s not that strange that MRAs oppose both groups.

          • Well, yeah, with some of them there is the large overlap. However, I don’t think that’s true with all of them. I don’t think that, say, anti-poverty social justice warriors would have much of a position, one way or another, on the men’s rights movement.

          • There’s two approaches they can have to men’s issues: one acknowledges that men are affected because they are men, and the other denies it and attributes it entirely to capitalism/government/homophobia/racism/etc.

            Issues of the traditional left (again, not neoliberalism) are issues that mostly affect men – war, wage slavery, homelessness, etc. The feminist left focuses on that men are at the top and therefore men cannot be harming other men because they share a gender, and this is their main problem. They may be genuinely anti-war, but refuse to see the draft or the 99% of male war deaths as a men’s issue because it’s a mostly male government sending them off to war. They might be anti-poverty, but refuse to see the male homeless majority as a gendered issue of male disposability. This is also why you sometimes get the “intersectional feminists” arguing that they support men’s issues as in trans, black, gay, etc. men’s issues.

            That’s the biggest challenge if you ask me – though like I said, many on the radleft are turning against identity politics as a creation of neoliberalism – that they force everything into a specific model of privilege/oppression, whereas gender simply does not fit into that as neatly.

            Men in power simply don’t benefit other men at the expense of women – they benefit women at the expense of other men.

          • I agree with all of that, except, maybe, not the first sentence. You talk about the two approaches, but I think that it is some of both. I think that capitalism is a problem, and that capitalism does cause poverty. However, I also think that men are affected more than women because they are men, and that that is one of the reasons why there are more men who are homeless then women.

          • I agree. I was explaining how they see things – denying that male disposability plays a role, attributing it entirely to other systems.

          • What I meant by “one acknowledges that men are affected because they are men, and the other denies it and attributes it entirely…” was that the first one acknowledges this *in addition to* the other factors. Hence the “entirely” in the description of the second group.

          • I see what you’re saying, now. Then, let me revise my last post and say that I agree with everything that you posted.

        • That is not what I said at all.
          Feminists don’t want justice.
          Social justice warriors don’t, either. They want social engineering… which is not justice.
          Collectivism is also not justice.

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