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The Authenticity Hoax: How We Get Lost Finding Ourselves

3.31  ·  Rating Details  ·  375 Ratings  ·  59 Reviews
One of Canada's hippest, smartest cultural critics takes on the West's defining value.

We live in a world increasingly dominated by the fake, the prepackaged, the artificial: fast food, scripted reality TV shows, Facebook "friends," and fraudulent memoirs. But people everywhere are demanding the exact opposite, heralding "authenticity" as the cure for isolated individualism
Hardcover, 308 pages
Published April 6th 2010 by McClelland & Stewart (first published March 27th 2010)
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Sep 03, 2010 Buck rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The new IKEA catalogue just arrived in my mailbox. The cover shows a pair of tykes sunk in matching EKTORP armchairs ($499 each). One kid is reading a storybook; the other appears to be dozing, with her bare feet resting fraternally—or I guess sororally—on the outstretched legs of her sister. Surmounting this tranquil scene is the slogan ‘Hooray for the everyday’. This is a gutsy choice of mottoes, not least because it echoes The Simpsons’ Up with People parody, ‘Hooray for Everything’. Since I ...more
Oct 18, 2011 elisabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So good news, I am not the only one who thinks she's a fraud. Bad news, we're all lame. Andrew Potter's The Authenticity Hoax: How We Get Lost Finding Ourselves explores what it means to be authentic, and what Potter thinks is that it is basically just Jones' trying to keep up with Jones', driven by a need to feel special and good and right, and fuelled by nostalgia for an ideal past that never was.

I Loved it.

It's a philosophy book, I guess. But one that does not cause rage-induced seizures. Pot
Jun 17, 2010 Cat rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book because NPR interviewed the author, and I found one of his ideas very compelling: that the pursuit of "authenticity" (whether Slow Foods, yoga rituals, or isolated tourist destinations) had become a contemporary form of conspicuous consumption. This observation is limited, and Potter's book relies on straw man arguments, distraction, and rhetorical gusto. I will give him credit for a few strengths: he writes very well, and he provides clear and cogent introductions to some major ...more
Dan Pecchenino
While this book contains many useful and easy to read glosses of philosophers, it is essentially just a defense of consumerism and middle brow culture. His basic advice is for us all to stop looking for meaning in our lives and to embrace the ease and comfort modernity has afforded us. That is fine as far as it goes, but it seems to me that in adopting this stance one runs the risk of stigmatizing all difference as merely "authenticity hunting." Whatever potential may be lying dormant in the cos ...more
Dec 12, 2012 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is kind of like a scholarly presentation of Stuff White People Like with Thorstein Veblen’s “Theory of the Leisure Class” supplying intellectual ballast and organizing things. Potter analyzes “authenticity seeking” as a distinctly modern form of consumption driven by retro-romanticism and ordinary status competition. On this view, “authenticity” is a kind of credential or positional good with no underlying relationship to the many categories of goods, services, and experiences it is su ...more
There are many revelations about today's adult population's search for authenticity in The Authenticity Hoax. He wishes politicians weren't afraid of going off-message or of telling the style consultants to take a hike. He describes the fake, artificial, inauthentic suburbs offering a mere imitation of real living to people brainwashed by advertising. To quote Potter, "To cement their role as the midwives of the American dream General Motors, Standard Oil, and a few other companies bought the st ...more
Jul 12, 2010 Emily rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If you enjoy books with sentences like "In this view, liberalism is a narcissistic and even nihilistic philosophy, having no conceptual room for values or allegiances that extend beyond the whims or desires of the self" (page 210) THEN THIS BOOK WILL ROCK YOUR WORLD!!! If that bored the living crap out of you or you just plain old said, "Huh?", then I think you are cool and I hope I have saved you some valuable reading time by giving you this heads up.

I'm not even kidding! This book is totally
Mark Dickson
I'd separate this book into sections, roughly: (1) fairly interesting and relevant to the authenticity discussion, (2) fairly interesting and not relevant to the authenticity discussion, and (3) seething, roiling vitriol.

While frequently enjoyable, this book ultimately frustrates. In an age in which we're very concerned about "originals" and "actuals" and "authentics", we want to know why a reproduction--even if executed perfectly--somehow feels like a sham.

Potter's thesis is that this question
Douglas Wilson
May 27, 2010 Douglas Wilson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: culture-studies
This was, in many ways, a wonderful book. The author is writing from a secular standpoint and so his solution to the problem he describes is pretty thin, but he doesn't spend most of his time trying to sketch a solution. Most of the book is a description of the problem, and here he is far more insightful than a host of Christian writers, copy-cats, knock-offs, and wanna-bees. In Christian terminology, our lust for authenticity is one of our central idolatries.
Anita Dalton
Reasonably interesting look at how it is a quest for a more authentic life often leaves us feeling dissatisfied. I'm still digesting it but ultimately I think I agree with the notion that excessive identification with a specific notion of being, like health veganism, crunch granola mommies, and similar, lead to self-absorption and makes social contact difficult. But I'm still thinking about whether or not I agree wholly with the author's perspective.
This was a fun interesting read although I did get bogged down somewhere in the middle due to trying to read it during nightshift instead of when I was properly awake. Andrew Potter's premise is that modern society and its comforts have led us to a place where we fear we have lost "authenticity". We yearn for a time long ago when we played outside, drank pure water, didn't worry about melanoma when we are out in the sun, ate foods not contaminated by chemicals. I suppose what we are really yearn ...more
Jan 13, 2014 Crabbygirl rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
sometimes you read a blurb about a book which excites/intrigues you, but when you finally get it - it's nothing like you thought it would be. this was such a book. i pushed my way through - it's MY choice for this month's book club, after all - but found little cohesion between his chapters on history, philosophy, art, and plagerism. i thought the 'hoax' of authenticity was now - not a continual presence in human development. and the author had a broader definition of authenticity... more aligne ...more
Aug 05, 2010 adllto rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sophies
Finally finished what is more a modernist commentary on postmodern philosophy and culture studies text. That said I enjoyed it because it wasn't superficial, not that you'd expect anything less from a former PhD student in philosophy at the University of Toronto. I think this quote summarizes well his presentation and thesis.
The search for the authentic has failed millions of well-intentioned people over the years, leading them into both sin and betrayal. It is a sin because it displays an utter
Good philosophy books are less about a punchlist of interesting facts that you glean—say, that people who buy organic food are full of shit—from them than they are food for thought. Honing your philosophical knives is the product instead. It's fair to say that The Authenticity Hoax does just that, but it's not clear to me that this book should be a philosophy book. As a history book, or as a book about consumer culture, it is lacking. Potter's general description of the "authenticity hoax" is ac ...more
Jun 02, 2010 Adam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
He does a good job with the basic premise of the book (the search for authenticity is an unproductive one) but he gets side tracked with modernity and consumerism. Ultimately a strong beginning doesn't vindicate this book which has some great insights, but his conclusions are disappointingly shallow and nihilistic.

He advocates a sort of complacent consumerism as an (ultimate?) good and the meaning of life as some willingness to adapt to "progress" or the future. I found his line of thinking, esp
Derek Simon
One of the more disappointing books I have ready in a while. I enjoyed Rebel Sell, and this sounded like an interesting thesis. Unfortunately, I found it poorly executed. The book was more like a series of loosely connected essays on the vaguely defined (but apparently very dangerous) concept of "authenticity", which apparently includes a wide range of evils including local food, facebook and cultural tourism. It ended up reading like a slightly more intellectually sophisticated version of an ol ...more
May 17, 2016 Dessa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadiana, nonfiction
"Here is a short but somewhat representative list of brands, people, products, or services that have been marketed or promoted in recent years on the grounds that they are authentic: Italian cuisine, Chinese cuisine, Ethiopian cuisine, American cuisine, Canadian cuisine, Coca-Cola, Bailey's Irish Cream, distressed jeans, distressed guitars, skateboards, skateboarding shoes, books, independent bookstores, typewriters, chainsaws, Twitter, crowdsourcing, blogs, comments on blogs, ecotourism, commun ...more
Rachel Olsen
If I could give it 3.5 or maybe even 3.75 stars (if I were in a particularly good mood and slightly caffeinated) I would, because it definitely contains some thought-provoking ideas that have lingered in my mind.
Stephen Burns
Sep 23, 2015 Stephen Burns rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nice follow up to his National Bestseller THE REBEL SELL. Here, Potter examines the post modern quest for authenticity, and exposes great swaths of it as being nothing more than simple status seeking. (i.e. organic food) There are points throughout the book where Potter's cynicism is too evident, and his arrogance becomes tiresome. (There are people who involve themselves in causes for more reasons than just status seeking. Some people actually mean well.) That said, and the best compliment I ...more
John Sargant
Oct 23, 2010 John Sargant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Think of this book as explaining why white people like "stuff that White people like".
Feb 12, 2015 Johnny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While being a well-written and easy to read work of contemporary philosophy, Authenticity Hoax leaves little room for optimism. How do we strive for authenticity in a consumer culture where everything seems to have been manufactured and reproduced for profit? Andrew Potter utilizes the philosophical wisdom of various historical minds to advance his own view, often disregarded context. I would recommend this book because more than anything, it challenged me to think through and around the issues ...more
Justin Dillehay
Sep 22, 2015 Justin Dillehay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Organic food. Samuel Adams. Mud-floors. Vintage Levi’s. What do they all have in common? According to philosopher Andrew Potter: authenticity. People eat, imbibe, walk on, and wear these things in an effort to be “real.” Potter views this so-called authenticity as a reaction to modernity, describing it as a “rejection of the various tributaries of mass society’s current, including the media, marketing, fast food, party politics, the Internet, and—above all—the program of free markets and economi ...more
Walk-Minh Allen
Apr 07, 2013 Walk-Minh Allen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title of this book was certainly provocative to me because when I first saw it, it planted the seed of doubt in my mind about the meaning of a common word that I had once taken for granted: "authenticity".

Potter's main contention is that people are turning away from modernity, aka "reality", in favor of seeking a more authentic life or more authentic experiences, due to their belief that there was once a time when things were ideally peaceful, ordered and more morally centered. His argument
Sep 27, 2011 Umar rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book just felt like, "a glimpse into the gloomy lives of white people." I picked it up because I remembered Christian Lander's FORA tv talk about how white people have no culture...their culture is a shopping list. And then someone in the audience asked, "Whats the solution? How do we get our authenticity?" And Lander didn't answer, which echoes Potter's point about what people know about authenticity is, what it is NOT. At the same time, I also remembered the Cambridge scholar Abdal Hakim ...more
Tara van Beurden
I stumbled across this book while picking some other stuff up from the library. I’m always up for some sociology/anthropology etc, and this seemed interesting. It poses quite a fascinating question: in our demand for authenticity have we actually attracted the opposite? Moreover, what really is authenticity, particularly in our selfie, image conscious world? It’s a reasonable question in the world of pop culture and social media, where Kim Kardahian flashes her whole naked body to the world but ...more
May 16, 2016 Keri rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It only took one chapter to realize, here we go again: another angry white man who has decided that the age old question "who am I"that has been studied and pondered for our entire existence as human beings is really not relevant because the quest itself is imperfect and complicated so we should all just sit down and swallow our truth and not worry about taking care of our bodies or the planet in the meantime. Did I get that right, or do I have to read the whole book?
Feb 11, 2016 Hope rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The perfect book for an election year that seems to be hinging on declinism, 'authentic' candidates, and nostalgia for an idealized--and probably fictional--American past.

Late in the book, there's an example of a famous Japanese-Canadian scientist who wrote an op-ed decrying social and environmental changes since his childhood... except his family was interned during WW II, their property was seized, etc. and his children are manifestly better off in the less racist/unjust world of the 2000s. L
Jul 29, 2011 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Basically a defense of modernity against romanticism, post-modernity, and various extremisms. Very engaging, and funny at times. Good use of game-theory and a healthy skepticism towards anti-middle-class sentiment. Seems to like Fukuyama's futurology. His larger worldview, however, is, as he puts it, "Hobbesian monist", and therefore a kind of nihilism, which makes his outlook somewhat sad: he admits that the success of the modern system might lead to a kind of ennui and boredom, and says there' ...more
Gerard Brown
Jul 12, 2012 Gerard Brown rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very good read on a subject that's been on my mind for some time, why is there so much emphasis on 'authenticity' when we could do with a little more emphasis on, oh, I don't know...quality?
--Now finished comments:
This was good, but not great. Chapters on cultural tourism and politics felt like they were straining to make a case, and the most interesting reading was when Potter traced the roots of the idea of authenticity in Romanticism. In in the end, he didn't make the case for embra
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“The object of their desire, the “essential” core of life, is something called authenticity, and finding the authentic has become the foremost spiritual quest of our time. It is a quest fraught with difficulty, as it takes place at the intersection of some of our culture’s most controversial issues, including environmentalism and the market economy, personal identity and the consumer culture, and artistic expression and the meaning of life.” 2 likes
“The sharpest version of the argument that the Internet is bad for democracy comes from Cass Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago. In recent years, Sunstein has been fussing about the rise of what he calls the “Daily Me,” the way the Internet permits highly personalized and customized information feeds that guarantee that you will be confronted only with topics that interest you; they screen out those that may bore, anger, or annoy you. As Sunstein sees it, the Daily Me harms democracy because of a phenomenon called group polarization: when like-minded people find themselves speaking only with one another, they get into a cycle of ideological reinforcement where they end up endorsing positions far more extreme than the ones they started with.” 0 likes
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