compiled by Ralph Dumain

This is the master theoretical text, the philosophical book for our time:

Sloterdijk, Peter. Critique of Cynical Reason. Translation by Michael Eldred; foreword by Andreas Huyssen. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987. (Theory and History of Literature; v. 40)

The books below pursue the theme of contemporary cynicism along two lines: theoretical analysis of cynicism on the one hand, and books dealing with the cultural and political dimensions of cynicism in contemporary American society, on various levels of theoretical and political sophistication. This latter category encompasses books from the full range of political and religious vantage points, even those that call for positive thinking and shutting out the cynical attitude regardless of the circumstances responsible for it. The main theoretical successor to Sloterdijk in the English-speaking world at this moment is Bewes. I assume that Marcus can also be included in this category. I have not personally examined most of the books that seek to solve the issues of civic virtue, but all positions, including the most disingenuous, pompous, and ridiculous, themselves constitute specimens of the philosophical issues involved. Chaloupka gives the best overview and critique of this genre that I have seen, and, while he writes clearly and can be easily read by a general audience, is also very much inspired by Sloterdijk. Chaloupka, though he himself proposes affirmative recommendations for a renewed political life, is also astute enough to recognize the other proposed cures as themselves part of the disease.

Arnett, Ronald C.; Arneson, Pat; foreword by Julia T. Wood. Dialogic Civility in a Cynical Age: Community, Hope, and Interpersonal Relationships. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999. (SUNY Series in Communication Studies)

Bewes, Timothy. Cynicism and Postmodernity. London; New York: Verso, 1997.

Cappella, Joseph N.; Jamieson, Kathleen Hall. Spiral of Cynicism: The Press and the Public Good. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Chaloupka, William. Everybody Knows: Cynicism in America. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999.

Cutler, Ian. Cynicism from Diogenes to Dilbert; foreword by Yiannis Gabriel. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2005.

Ebert, Teresa L. "Globalization, Internationalism, and the Class Politics of Cynical Reason", Nature, Society, and Thought, vol. 12, no. 4, 1999, pp. 389-410.

Goldfarb, Jeffrey C. The Cynical Society: The Culture of Politics and the Politics of Culture in American Life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

Goldman, Robert; Papson, Stephen. Sign Wars: The Cluttered Landscape of Advertising. New York: Guilford Press, 1996. (Critical Perspectives)

Kanter, Donald L[ucky]; Mirvis, Philip H. The Cynical Americans: Living and Working in an Age of Discontent and Disillusion. San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, 1989. (The Jossey-Bass Management Series)

Kerbel, Matthew Robert. Remote & Controlled: Media Politics in a Cynical Age. Boulder: Westview Press, 1995.

Lerner, Michael. The Politics of Meaning: Restoring Hope and Possibility in an Age of Cynicism. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1996.

Loeb, Paul Rogat. Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in a Cynical Time. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1999.

Marcus, George E., ed. Para-sites: A Casebook Against Cynical Reason. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. (Late Editions; 7)

Mazella, David. The Making of Modern Cynicism. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2007. Contents.

Purdy, Jedediah. For Common Things: Irony, Trust, and Commitment in America Today. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1999.

Stivers, Richard. The Culture of Cynicism: American Morality in Decline. Oxford, UK: Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1994.

(7 August 2000, rev. 15 Dec. 2001, 31 Dec. 2005, 28 Jan. 2008, 17 July 2011)

Irony, Humor, & Cynicism Study Guide
(includes the following links and more:)

What Is Cynical Reason? Peter Sloterdijk Explains
Review of Peter Sloterdijk's Critique of Cynical Reason, by Michael Miley
Karl Marx vs. Cynical Reason: On Suppositions of Naked Self-Interest

Ideology Study Guide

Thinking Critically About Critical Thinking: A Guide

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Uploaded 7 August 2000
Last revised 17 July 2011
Previous update 28 January 2008

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