American culture, Professor Stivers argues, is a culture of cynicism. The pursuit of the mystical values of success, survival, happiness, and health has produced a corrosive and pervasive morality which is actually an "anti–morality". The result is a world in which there are norms without meaning, and everyday life is reduced to an empty struggle for power and satisfaction. This leads to boredom, unhappiness, anxiety, depression, addiction, susceptibility to religious cults, bizarre psychotherapies, widespread divorce, and damaged personal relationships.
The Culture of Cynicism not only lays bare the internal contradictions of American morality, but also charts the new forms it has assumed. It demonstrates compellingly that neither liberal nor conservative commentators on America′s moral decline have grasped what is really the case: that American morality itself is the source of this decline. What we need is not a "return" to higher moral standards, but a complete revision of America′s foundational ethics.
1. The Absence of Morality, or Morality Assumes New Forms.
2. Success Morality: From Economic to Political Ideology.
3. A Morality of Happiness and Health: Advertising as Liturgy.
4. From the Moral to the Technical: the Necessary.
5. From the Moral to the Normal: the Ephemeral.
6. From the Moral to the Visual: the Compensatory.
7. A Morality of Power, A Morality Without Meaning.
8. Against the New Morality.