In Saul Bellow’s novel, Seize the Day, the protagonist Tommy Wilhelm remarked that “cynicism was bread and meat to everyone. And irony too. Maybe it couldn’t be helped.” Irony became entrenched in the fifties, where the American economy flourished under the shadow of a potential nuclear war. Once the Cold War and the economic boom ended, the national self-definition was subverted until irony became the cultural currency. While irony served a valuable purpose in the works of great American writers like Barth, Coover, Burroughs, Nabokov and Pynchon, the commercial culture of the US filtered that into the national aesthetic as postmodern irony, resulting in David Letterman, The Simpsons, and rap, among other things. Continue reading Cynicism in the 90s and today
In this matchup, we have two still breathing Giants of European intelligentsia, who agree that ideology must be the critique of cynicism. However, but of course, like every other philosopher in the history of thought, they disagree on everything else. Continue reading Battle of the Giants of Cynical Reason
In this blog I trace cynical reason of 20th century American history as a phenomenon in two aspects: in the sphere of economics and in the sphere of cultural arts. Instead of complaining about the so-called poverty of contemporary politics or whining about the decline of contemporary morality, I insist on cynical reason as a dominant sentiment of the post-Fordist capitalist existence. In this respect, cynical reason extends further than the emotional or psychological response to the contemporary existence, and closer to a sociological analysis. Continue reading Tracing Cynical Reason in 20th Century America
Life without utopia is suffocating, for the multitude at least: threatened otherwise with petrifaction, the world must have a new madness. — Cioran, History and Utopia
There’s a fault line running in science fiction that predates it: the Great Optimism -Pessimism divide. The most obvious trope of each is the role of utopia/dystopia in the science fiction work, but that is slightly more complicated than it appears.
However, this proverb is far more profound than its attempt at cleverness. All three are actually interrelated and two of them are the dominant aspects of our modern times. The cynic is the average person, having become enlightened, but since none of her traditional beliefs or values are reliable, she sinks in a reflexive false consciousness. The fanatic is the reactionary who, in rejecting the secular wisdom of the Enlightenment, inadvertently recreates a secular version of his traditional beliefs or practices in fundamentalism. As for the troll? She merely avoids the pitfalls of either dead end by transcending the modern times in her utilization of cheeky humor and avoids the sin of seriousness in mocking either caricature. Continue reading Cynics, Fanatics, and… Trolls?
Smoke clove cigarettes? Wear ironic trucker hats? Skinny jeans? Horn-rimmed glasses with bug-eyed lenses? Graduated with a liberal arts major? Carry a shoulder-strap messenger bag? Soi disant exceptionally cultured, with at least one pop vice? Have at least one Republican friend, and describe him/her as your “one Republican friend?” Unwashed hair, but position said head on pillow at night to maximize cowlick? Yes, you’re a hipster. Continue reading The Hipster and Cynical Reason