Sharon A. Stanley analyzes cynicism from a political-theoretical perspective, arguing that cynicism isn't unique to our time. Instead, she posits that cynicism emerged in the works of French Enlightenment philosophers, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Denis Diderot. She explains how eighteenth-century theories of epistemology, nature, sociability and commerce converged to form a recognizably modern form of cynicism, foreshadowing postmodernism. While recent scholarship and popular commentary have depicted cynicism as threatening to healthy democracies and political practices, Stanley argues instead that the French philosophes reveal the possibility of a democratically hospitable form of cynicism.
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Introduction; Part I. The Enlightenment: 1. Enlightenment as disillusionment; 2. Unraveling natural Utopia; 3. The dark side of sociability; 4. The leveling power of commerce; 5. Hermits and cynics; Part II. The Present: 6. From Enlightenment to postmodernism; 7. Disenchanted democracy.
Stanley, Sharon A.
Sharon A. Stanley is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Memphis. She has written articles on the Enlightenment and cynicism for Political Theory, Eighteenth-Century Thought and Polity.