Cover image for Everybody knows : cynicism in America
Everybody knows : cynicism in America
Chaloupka, William, 1948-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xviii, 240 pages ; 24 cm

Format :


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Item Holds
HN90.P8 C545 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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We are now living in the midst of the most cynical era in American history. Disaffection from government institutions is at an all-time high. Ordinary citizens perceive political leaders to be more manipulative and jaded than ever. Skepticism pervades our cultural and social attitudes and interactions, and is prominently featured in the films we see, the books we read, and the media we experience. In this biting and controversial analysis, William Chaloupka scrutinizes the cynicism that is our common condition, examining both its uses in the politics of backlash and resentment and its surprisingly positive aspects.

Author Notes

William Chaloupka is professor of political science and environmental studies at the University of Montana. His books include Knowing Nukes, also published by the University of Minnesota Press.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

"[C]ynicism is... a way of life against belief or after its exhaustion," Chaloupka observes in this maddening treat of a book, adding that good reasons for cynicism go far beyond individual incidents (such as Watergate or Whitewater) to structural and systemic causes. Hearkening back to Diogenes, the Federalist papers and H.L. Mencken, Chaloupka, a professor of political science and environmental studies at the University of Minnesota, calls up a menagerie of different kinds of cynics and cynicism, never bothering to make his sketches and digressions fit together into a coherent whole. Along the way, he draws a fundamental distinction between "cynics-in-power"' and "wig cynics" such as the militia movement and others influenced by what Chaloupka calls a "jumbled, postrationalist, unreal aesthetic of weird causation." At first, Chaloupka seems to promise rigorous argument and clear explication, but this expectation is repeatedly dashed. Arguments start, examples interrupt, premises are restated and then he's off on a new tangent. This may well be deliberate. Eventually, readers are introduced to another strain, the life-affirming "kynic"Äcloser to the original GreekÄwho plays with rules, power and morality. The kynic is a figure more like Charlie Chaplin than Richard Nixon. Discussions of resentment, backlash and stoicism, drawing, respectively, on Nietzsche, Susan Faludi and the Coen brothers' film Fargo, simultaneously enrich the speculation and enhance the frustration of resolution denied. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. xi
Part I Cynicism
1. Socrates--Gone Mad: Diogenes and the Cynical Traditionp. 3
2. The Values Remedy: Community, Civility, and Beliefp. 15
3. Cynics-in-Power: Manipulations, Lies, and Empty Gesturesp. 27
4. Wig Cynics: American Antipolitics and Its Usesp. 41
Part II Cultural Crisis
5. A Brief History of American Cynicismp. 57
6. Federalists and Liberals: Setting the Stage for Cynicismp. 71
7. Why Americans Hate Politics: The Cynicism Trapp. 85
8. Medium, Media, Mediate: Television and Cynicismp. 101
9. Bush, Burned: The Patterns of Televised Politicsp. 115
10. The Uses of Backlash: Applied Cynicism 101p. 129
11. The Age of Resentment: Advanced Applied Cynicismp. 143
Part III Alternatives
12. Marge the Stoic: The Coens' Fargo and Civic Solutionsp. 157
13. "So What?": Another Side of Cynicismp. 171
14. Teachings of the Demonstration: Representation in the Streetsp. 185
15. Politics after Cynicismp. 201
16. Solutions and Conclusionsp. 213
Notesp. 227
Indexp. 237