Academic journal article European Quarterly of Political Attitudes and Mentalities

Political Cynicism and Kynicism of Croatian Citizens. Profiles of Political Thinking and Behavior

Academic journal article European Quarterly of Political Attitudes and Mentalities

Political Cynicism and Kynicism of Croatian Citizens. Profiles of Political Thinking and Behavior

Article excerpt

Introduction

Cynicism (Greek κυνισµoς, kynismós, literally "dog-like") as a modern phenomenon usually bears a meaning of ironical arrogance, rejection, contempt, and scorn towards established moral values and aggressive conduct towards others (see HJP, 2013). In this sense, a cynic would be a person who openly, cold-bloodedly, and often scornfully displays distrust of human honesty, sincerity, and moral values and who acts insolently and without any moral scruples (ibid.). This kind of general view of the human nature is the core of the trait-approach to cynicism (e.g. Cook & Medley, 1954; Lepore, 1995). Other approaches usually coming from the field of social psychology broadly define cynicism as a negative set of attitudes toward particular social object(s). For example, organisational cynicism is conceptualized as the belief that the organisation in which the employee works has no integrity, the employee experiences negative affect towards the organisation and shows a tendency of undermining and criticising the organisation (Dean, Brandes & Dharwadkar, 1998). Similarly, holding politicians and politics as disreputable (Agger, Goldstein & Pearl, 1961), or having the conviction about immorality, hypocrisy, subordination of public interests to personal ones and the conviction about the incompetence of politicians are considered to be the core of political cynicism (Dekker, 2006; Eisinger, 2000; Schyns, Koop, 2007a; Schyns, Nuus, 2007; Pattyn et al., 2012). Later on, this kind of thinking may, due to the accumulation of negative experience, become generalised and applied to political institutions and the political system as a whole. Thus, political cynicism is often perceived as the consequence of corruptness of the existing system, negative campaigns, political scandals and a media image of politics permeated by such issues (Cappella, Jamieson, 1997; Goldfarb, 1991; Pharr & Putnam, 2000; Dancey, 2012) and it consequently often contributes to the loss of trust in democracy, political pessimism, withdrawal from political participation or leads to voting for ideologically extreme and populist parties and candidates (ibid., Peterson & Wrighton, 1998; Bélanger & Aarts, 2006; van der Brug & Fennema, 2007). However, recent studies show that the image of political cynicism is not so uniform or exclusively negative with respect to political behaviour. Different types of cynicism are discussed, such as the negativistic, alienated, and the critical one (Dekker, 2006) or Peter Sloterdijk's concept of cynicism established in the well-known philosophical study "Critique of the Cynical Reason" (1992). This concept was further elaborated and empirically tested by some authors (e.g. Chaloupka (1999), Rijkhoff, (2008), Blanusa, (2011), etc.). In our opinion, there are several good reasons for testing Sloterdijk's conceptualization. It introduces the more nuanced psychological description of cynical thinking, sensitive to subjective power position of cynical enunciation which has different political consequences. It gives a rich analysis of its historical roots and social phenomenology. It also gives an opportunity for further research of dynamics and relationships of different types of cynical reason. This paper should be considered as the first step of such research.

Sloterdijk considers the cynical reason to be a universal and diffuse phenomenon of the nowadays and a reaction to the nihilism of contemporary societies, derived from the loss of faith in stable and immutable values. According to him, such a situation is the consequence of the Enlightenment which, in a few centuries, terminated the dominance of Christianity in the Western world in the ontological, metaphysical, and moral senses. For a long time, enlightenment managed to maintain the idea of a unique rational subject which functioned as a substitute for previous truths and ideals. However, in the end, through its main weapon - the critique - it merely destroyed all the ideals in which people believed and according to which they structured and organized their lives, and made them perceive their lives as miserable, grey, and depressing (ibid. …

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