Cynical Reason Today:
A Selected Bibliography

Compiled by Ralph Dumain

Probably on 7 August 2000, I wrote the following for the inauguration of this web page:

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.

I was wrong, however, about Sloterdijk. The oft-quoted extract I reference is the summation of what he usefully has to offer. Sloterdijk has become quite popular in the anglophone world, and his subsequent work exemplifies the charlatanism already embedded in this one. For an extensive early critique, see:

Wilson, Neil. “Punching out the Enlightenment: A Discussion of Peter Sloterdijk’s Kritik der zynischen Vernunft,” New German Critique, No. 41 [Special Issue on the Critiques of the Enlightenment], Spring-Summer 1987, pp. 53-70.

The literature on this subject has considerably expanded in the 21st century, presumably to no-one’s surprise. Both the phenomenon and its analysis have become even more layered. Useless bromides against cynicism persist, but also more delineated historical analyses and critiques. Both are represented here. For the latter, see especially Ansgar Allen, below.

26 September 2023

Allen, Ansgar. Cynicism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2020. (Essential Knowledge Series)

1 Prelude: The Problem with Deviance
2 Reject All Disciples: Ancient Cynicism and Fearless Speech
3 Deface the Currency: Ancient Cynicism beyond the Pale
4 Fear the Mob: Antique and Medieval Idealizations
5 Drain the Barrel: Early Modern Malcontents
6 Unchain the Sun: Enlightened Philosophers and Libertines
7 Live the End Times: The Many Faces of Modern Cynics
8 Coda: The Inevitability of Cynicism
Further Reading

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.

Bracht Branham, R.; Goulet-Gazé, Marie-Odile; eds. The Cynics: The Cynic Movement in Antiquity and Its Legacy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.

Caldwell, Wilber W. Cynicism and the Evolution of the American Dream. Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2007.

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.

Curran, Kieran. Cynicism in British Post-War Culture: Ignorance, Dust and Disease. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

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)

Jitrik, Noé. “Complex Feelings about Borges,” in The Noé Jitrik Reader: Selected Essays on Latin American Literature, by Noé Jitrik, edited by Daniel Balderston, translated by Susan Benner (Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2005), pp. 1-26. See also Borges as cynic .

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.

Lipovetsky, Mark. Charms of the Cynical Reason: The Trickster’s Transformations in Soviet and Post-Soviet Culture. Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2011.

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.

Navia, Luis E. Philosophy of Cynicism: an Annotated Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995.

On the Greek & Roman Cynics.

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

Rose, Arthur. Literary Cynics: Borges, Beckett, Coetzee. London: Bloomsbury, 2017.

Schreier, Benjamin. The Power of Negative Thinking: Cynicism and the History of Modern American Literature. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009.

Shea, Louisa. The Cynic Enlightenment: Diogenes in the Salon. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.

Stanley, Sharon. The French Enlightenment and the Emergence of Modern Cynicism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Steinmüller, Hans; Brandtstädter, Susanne; eds. Irony, Cynicism and the Chinese State. London: Routledge, 2016.

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

Taylor, J. D. Negative Capitalism: Cynicism in the Neoliberal Era. Winchester: Zero, 2013.

Yurchak, Alexai. Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005.

(7 August 2000, rev. 15 Dec. 2001, 31 Dec. 2005, 28 Jan. 2008, 17 July 2011, 26 September 2023, 1 October 2023

What Is Cynical Reason? Peter Sloterdijk Explains

Cinika Racio Difinita
(Esperanto translation by R. Dumain)

Review of Peter Sloterdijk's Critique of Cynical Reason,
by Michael Miley

Cynicism as a Form of Ideology
by Slavoj Žižek

Globalization, Internationalism, and the Class Politics of Cynical Reason
by Teresa L. Ebert

Karl Marx vs. Cynical Reason: On Suppositions of Naked Self-Interest

Borges as cynic
by Noé Jitrik

Irony, Humor, & Cynicism Study Guide

Ideology Study Guide

Thinking Critically About Critical Thinking: A Guide

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Uploaded 7 August 2000
Text revised & appended 26 September 2023
Last update 1 October 2023
Previous update 26 September 2023

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