My new book, The Making of Modern Cynicism, is out!


[x-posted to C18-L]

Well, speaking of the Enlightenment and its failures, my book on Cynicism has finally been released by the University of Virginia Press.  Here’s the publisher’s description and information:

Once describing a life of exile, self-denial, physical rigor, and mastery of one’s desires, cynicism now describes a life of political quietism, passivity, and moral indifference, representing not a weakening of ancient philosophic norms but rather their inversion. In The Making of Modern Cynicism, David Mazella asks: how did ancient Cynic philosophy come to provide a name for its modern, unphilosophical counterpart, and what events caused such a dramatic reversal of cynicism’s former meanings? He traces the concept of cynicism from its origins as a philosophical way of life in Greek antiquity through its successive transformations in the early modern and Enlightenment periods and into the nineteenth century when it took its distinctively modern, unreflective form as a variety of disenchantment, disbelief, or distrust.

Sampling a wide variety of literary, philosophical, and historical writings, Mazella documents the transition of the cynic from an ascetic philosopher to any person whose “faded belief or curdled trust had left him unfit for attachments to others.” Even more important, Mazella questions why cynicism should provoke such hand-wringing from cultural critics when it has been a stable, recognized, even routine feature of modern politics for the better part of 150 years. Arguing that modern cynics inspire powerful reactions by envisaging a future without hope of meaningful change, he then suggests that we address popular cynicism in more effective, less moralistic ways. Rather than dismissing cynicism as an irrational attitude of distrust or fatalism, or chiding cynics for their persistent disbelief, Mazella contends that analyzing cynicism can reveal the unacknowledged limits of current political argument, a crucial first step toward developing the kinds of reasoned persuasion necessary for more meaningful and substantive forms of political change.

Many of you on this blog have been hearing about this book for quite some time.  Thanks for all your help and encouragement during the writing of this.


Best wishes,


[h/t to for the image]

UPDATE: Since web traffic occasionally comes here, I thought I’d post links to reviews:


Molly Anne Rothenberg, “Why We Need Cynicism Now,” Eighteenth-Century Theory and Interpretation Vol. 50 (2009) Supplement


Kevin Berland Review (Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer, N.S. Vol. 25, Numbers 1-2 (March 2011), 45-49



7 responses to “My new book, The Making of Modern Cynicism, is out!

  1. How would you feel about doing a book event, Dave? I’d love to read it anyway, and there are probably others here who do, too!

  2. I agree with Carrie. I was going to post my kudos to you and express my desire to read the book in my “off” time in the summer.


  3. Dave Mazella

    Thanks guys. I’d be happy to do it, if there’s interest.



  4. Laura Rosenthal

    I would be happy to participate. I’m glad it’s finally out! Congratulation.

  5. Laura Koltutsky

    Congratulations Dave! Have a great time in London.

  6. Thanks, Laura. See you when I get back.


  7. Pingback: Annals of Cynicism, pt. 352 « The Long Eighteenth