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The Authenticity Hoax: How We Get Lost Finding Ourselves
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The Authenticity Hoax: How We Get Lost Finding Ourselves

3.26 of 5 stars 3.26  ·  rating details  ·  322 ratings  ·  52 reviews
What does it mean to be authentic? For many, the search for the authentic provides a powerful source of meaning in a secular age, allowing a person a unique personal identity in a world that seems alienating and conformist. This demand for authenticity—the honest or the real—is one of the most powerful movements in contemporary life, influencing our moral outlook, politica ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published April 13th 2010 by HarperCollins e-books (first published March 27th 2010)
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Buck
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
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
elisabeth
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
...more
Cat
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
Emily
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
...more
James
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
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
...more
Topher
The opening genealogy of the 'authenticity' concept is good (particularly the explication of Rameau's Nephew); it echoes closely Charles Taylor's philosophical investigations (even using 'The Malaise of Modernity' as the first chapter title). Sadly, Potter soon separates himself from Taylor, and goes stupidly, harmfully wrong.

Taylor says we are dissatisfied with modernity because we have divorced ourselves from any shared moral horizon that could give meaning to our individual decisions. It's a
...more
Douglas Wilson
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.
Tracy
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
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.
Crabbygirl
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
adllto
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
...more
Jon-Erik
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
Adam
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
...more
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
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.
John Sargant
Think of this book as explaining why white people like "stuff that White people like".
Johnny
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
Walk-Minh Allen
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
...more
Umar
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
Andrew
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
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
...more
Squirrel Circus
I can say with some conviction that this book is the closest I will EVER get to exploring philosophy with a capital "P".

The more accessible sections of the book look at concepts like "authentic" Italian restaurants...do they exist? CAN they exist? Pop culture riffs include Mad Men and Matrix references, alongside "vintage" Levi's, the question of whether Avril Lavigne can or cannot actually ride a skateboard, and "fictional" memoirs a la Oprah's book club.

When one of the dust jacket reviews ca
...more
Liz
meh okay not earth shattering. I think the critique of the obsession with authenticity and its manipulation by business to sell us things is a good premise but the author doesn't really suggest any alternative besides accepting that things are the way they are and that true authenticity doesn't exist. I agree that the concept of authenticity can be turned against us but I also think jaded and passive acceptance of current economic practices due to the instability and untrustworthiness of the not ...more
Luke Echo
This is an interesting assemblage of cultural theory put to work against the sort of "Anti-Progress" movements today. But a lot of the argument relies on particular (and arguably) misrepresentative statements of the positions he wishes to attack.

Potter seems thoroughly for progress but yet fails to analyse the pro-progress position from the baseless liberal position. That is after the modern and post modern intellectual revolutions have undermined the sources of meaning in life they has also un
...more
Christopher
Somewhat thought provoking and interesting but ultimately flawed in it's argument against all authenticity. It leaves out the need or want for some type or kind authenticity. For certain things and people (like myself) who value authenticity it is a necessary evil. Without some delineation between right or wrong, good or evil, true or false what does any of it mean? What side do I take? What am I? What is the point of anything? I may not have that answer but I have to believe it exists. That som ...more
blackness
I enjoyed the book mostly because it sets itself against the majority of the popular thinking on the subject and quest for authenticity. Some of the chapters were very interesting, but many of them kind of got off on wandering side-trails and kind of bored me.

But I really enjoyed the historical intro to his ideas of what the quest for authenticity originate.

Overall I liked the questions he posed a lot, but the book itself left a little to be desired. Seems a bit long and drawn out; it might have
...more
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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
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