With the rise of corporations like Google, the workplace has increasingly been colonized by nonwork experiences to the extent that we are not even allowed to feel alienation or discontent at the office because we can play Ping-Pong, ride a Segway, and eat organic lunches from a menu designed by celebrity chefs.This is probably true in the sense that the amount of Segway-riding at work has increased from none to some, but surely the kind of work environment described here is still extremely rare. Most of what they say feels true, albeit not entirely surprising. Does New Age spirituality need any more bashing? But there's some better stuff in there too:
A naïve belief in authenticity eventually gives way to a deep cynicism. A conviction in personal success that must always hold failure at bay becomes a corrupt stubbornness that insists on success at any cost. Cynicism, in this mode, is not the expression of a critical stance toward authenticity but is rather the runoff of this failure of belief.Cynicism, they imply, has at least two modes, one good one bad. It can express a critical stance toward the cult of authenticity (good) or be the mere runoff of a failure of belief (bad). The bad kind of cynicism is complacent, dishonest, and uncharitable. The good kind asks questions and evaluates, but is not purely negative.
Baggini focuses on what is good about cynicism. As he says: "The cynic, after all, is inclined to question people's motives and assume that they are acting self-servingly unless proven otherwise," and "They [i.e. cynics] are realists who know that the world is not the sun-kissed fantasy peddled by positive-thinking gurus and shysters." He acknowledges that one can take this too far, but defends the tendency of cynicism to help us avoid cons and fantasy. Fair enough.
I see cynicism as coming in many forms. The whole of economic theory seems basically cynical: people are all basically self-interested and motivated by desire for profit. That's a cynical view. And if it turns out that people don't behave so as to maximize their profits, then profit is reinterpreted as utility, and it is posited that whatever they did must have been done in an attempt to maximize their utility. That's a pretty cynical move. Marx is cynical about religion (among other things). Schopenhauer is cynical about love. Nietzsche is cynical about morality. Freud is cynical about motivation generally. All reductionism is a form of cynicism. And all of these forms of cynicism appeal to us (including me) partly because there seems to be so much truth in them.
But none of them seems wholly true. And it's the exceptions that are interesting. Human life would scarcely be worth thinking about if the cynics were completely right. We have to acknowledge the truth in what they say if we are to avoid naivete and fantasy. But everything really valuable and interesting seems to me to belong to the extra part of life, the part that resists reduction, the non-self-interested, the non-rational, the non-consequentialist, the non-biological or mechanical. And I suppose it's just that kind of gooey sentiment that is perhaps most likely of all to breed cynicism. Oh well.