Chic Authenticity

hoax

“The quasi-biblical jargon of authenticity, with its language of separation and distance, of lost unity, wholeness, and harmony, is so much a part of our moral shorthand that we don’t always notice that we’ve slipped into what is essentially a religious way of thinking. The ease with which we talk about our alienation from nature, or the alienating nature of work, or the suburbs, or technology, is part of this language as well, hearkening back to our ongoing sense that we are fallen people.” (Andrew Potter, The Authenticity Hoax, Harper Perennial, 2011, p. 12)

“The search for authenticity is about the search for meaning in a world where all the traditional sources-—religion and successor ideals such as aristocracy, community, and nationalism-—have been dissolved in the acid of science, technology, capitalism, and liberal democracy. We are looking to replace the God concept with something more acceptable in a world that is not just disenchanted, but also socially flattened, cosmopolitan, individualistic, and egalitarian.” (idem, p. 12)

“Conspicuous authenticity raises the stakes by turning the search for the authentic into a matter of utmost gravity: not only does it provide me with a meaningful life, but it is also good for society, the environment, even the entire planet. This basic fusion of the two ideals of the privately beneficial and the morally praiseworthy is the bait-and-switch at the heart of the authenticity hoax. This desire for the personal and the public to align explains why so much of what passes for authentic living has a do-gooder spin to it. Yet the essentially status-oriented nature of the activity always reveals itself eventually.” (idem, p.126)

“Conspicuous authenticity is in a sense a successor form of status seeking to the old conspicuous consumption that we’re all familiar with. This idea that you demonstrate how rich you are or what good taste you have by having a big house, or having a nice car, having expensive clothes and so on. Over the last 30-40 years as we’ve become wealthier as a society, it’s become less socially acceptable to just simply show off how rich you are, and what we do now is we show off that even though we have all the stuff — a nice house, a nice car — we’re not really spiritually connected to any of it. And so what we do is we engage in practices and experiences and consumption hobbies that I call conspicuous authenticity.” (Andrew Potter’s interview “A change in showing off wealth status”, MarketPlace, April 29, 2010)

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