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Sloterdijk Cynicism the Twilight of False Consciousness

Sloterdijk Cynicism the Twilight of False Consciousness

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Published by Charmof Thereal
philosopher peter sloterdijk assesses the current political situation in which cynicism is the dominant mode of false consciousness.
philosopher peter sloterdijk assesses the current political situation in which cynicism is the dominant mode of false consciousness.

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Published by: Charmof Thereal on Jul 30, 2010
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01/16/2013

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Cynicism: The Twilight of False ConsciousnessAuthor(s): Peter Sloterdijk, Michael Eldred, Leslie A. AdelsonSource:
New German Critique,
No. 33, Modernity and Postmodernity (Autumn, 1984), pp. 190-206Published by: New German CritiqueStable URL:
Accessed: 12/05/2010 17:52
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CynicismTheTwilightofFalseConsciousness*
byPeterSloterdijk
Times arehard,butmodern.ItaliansayingAnd indeed one nolongersawanyonestand-ingbehindeverything.Everythingturned con-tinuallyabout itself. Interestschangedhourly.There were no moregoals... Theleaders losttheirheads.Theywere drainedto thedregsand calcified...Everyoneinthe landbegantonotice thatthingsdidn't workany-more...Onepathleftopenwas topostponethecollapse...FranzJung,DieEroberungerMaschinen,921.Thediscontentinculture has assumed a newquality:itappearsasuniversal,diffusecynicism.The traditionalcritiqueofideologystandsby helplessly.It cannotfind the lever that wouldenlightenthiscyni-callyalertconsciousness.Moderncynicismpresentsitself as that stateofconsciousness which followsnaiveideologiesand theirenlighten-ment.In itlies the realreason for thecompleteexhaustion ofideologycritique,forthelatter hasremainedmore naive thanthe consciousnessitsoughtitexpose.Itswell-behavedrationalitydid notfollow the twistsand turns ofmodernconsciousnesstoward acunning,multi-facetedrealism. The usual listofformsoffalseconsciousness-lie,error,ideology-isincomplete.The currentmind-set demandsafourthaddition:cynicism.Speakingofcynicismmeanstryingto finda newentranceintotheoldbuildingofideology critique.Itisnotcustomarytodesignatecynicismasauniversal anddiffuse
*WiththepermissionoftheUniversityofMinnesotaPress,we areprintingherethefirsttwochaptersof PeterSloterdijk'stwo-volumeKritikerzynischenernunftFrankfurtam Main:Suhrkamp,1983).ThecompletetranslationwillbeforthcominginMin-nesota'sTheoryandHistoryofLiteratureseries.
190
 
PeterSloterdijk191
phenomenon;inthe commonconception,cynicismisnotdiffuse butstriking,notuniversal,butperipheralandhighlyindividual. Theunusualadjectivesindicatesomethingofitsnewappearance,which atthe same time makesitexplosiveand unassailable.Theancient world knows thecynic (better: kynic)as a bird that fliessolo,aprovocative,stubborn moralist.Diogenesinthetub iscon-sidered thearchetypeof thisfigure.In thepicturebook ofsocialcharacters he creates distance with hismockery,abitingandevilindividualist whopretendsnot to needanyoneand whoislovedbynoone because no oneescapesunscathedhiscrudelyunmaskinggaze.His socialorigins pointtoan urbanfigurewho receivedhiscuttingedgeinthebustle of theancientmetropolis.Onecould characterizehim asthe earliestexampleof a declassedorplebeianintelligence.His'cynicial'turnagainstthearroganceand the moral secrets of anestab-lished,highercivilizationpresupposesacity settingwith allits suc-cesses andshadows.Onlyinthecity,under thepressureofpublicspeechand agenerallove-hate,can thecynic clearly emergeas thenegative profileof thecity.Andonlythecitycanacceptthecynic,whodemonstrativelyturnshisbackonit,asoneofitseccentrics,who attestto thecity'spenchantfordeveloped,urbanepersonalities.Thefertilegroundforcynicisminmodernityis tobefound notonlyinurban culturebutalsoin thecourtlysphere.Both are diesofan evilrealismthroughwhichpeoplelearn the crookedsmile ofopenim-morality.Inboth, urbane,intelligentmindsaccumulateaworldlyknowledgewhich moveselegantlybetweenbarefacts and conven-tionalfacades.From theverybottom,thedeclassed,urban intelli-gentsia,andfromthetop,theheightof consciousstatesmanship,seriousthinkingisinvadedby signals attestingto a radical ironizationof ethics andofsocial convention. Itisasifthegenerallaws wereonlymeant for thestupid,whilethoseinthe know smile with fatal clever-ness. Moreprecisely:thepowerfulsmilethisway,whilethekynicalplebeiansburst outinsatiricallaughter.In the vastspaceofcynicalknowledgetheextremes meet:EulenspiegelmeetsRichelieu;MachiavellimeetsRameau'snephew;the loudCondottieriof the RenaissancemeettheelegantcynicsoftheRococoperiod;unscrupulousentre-preneursmeetdisillusionedoutsiders;jaded systemstrategistsmeetadvocatesof refusalwithout ideals.Sincebourgeois societybegantobridgetheknowledgeofthoseatthetopandthose at thebottom,ambitiouslyproclaimingtogrounditsworldviewentirelyonrealism,the extremes have beencoalescing.Todaythecynicappearsas amassfigure,anaveragesocialcharacterintheelevatedsuperstructure.Thisisthecase,notonlybecause ad-vanced industrial civilizationproducestheembitteredlonerasa mass

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