Originally published November 6, 2017
Here are two excerpts:
As soon as there is a division in the self, of the kind generated by seeking self-knowledge, attributes like authenticity become a problem. The idea of anyone claiming ‘I am an authentic person’ involves a kind of self-observation that destroys what it seeks to affirm. This situation poses important questions about knowledge. If authenticity is destroyed by the subject thinking it knows that it is authentic, there seem to be ways of being which may be valuable because they transcend our ability to know them. As we shall see in a moment, this idea may help explain why art takes on new significance in modernity.
Despite these difficulties, the notion of authenticity has not disappeared from social discourse, which suggests it answers to a need to articulate something, even as that articulation seems to negate it. The problem with the notion as applied to individuals lies, then, in modern conflicts about the nature of the subject, where Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, and many others, put in question, in the manner already suggested by Schelling, the extent to which people can be transparent to themselves. Is what I am doing a true expression of myself, or is it the result of social conditioning, self-deception, the unconscious?
The early uses of ‘sincere’ and ‘authentic’ had applied both to objects and people, but the moralising of the terms in the wake of the new senses of the self/subject that emerge in the modern era meant the terms came to apply predominantly to assessments of people. The more recent application of ‘authentic’ to watches, iPhones, trainers, etc., thus to objects which rely not least on their status as ‘brands’, can therefore be read as part of what Georg Lukács termed ‘reification’. Relations to objects can start to distort relations between people, giving the value of the ‘brand’ object primacy over that of other subjects. The figures here may be open to question, but the phenomenon seems to be real. The point is that this particular kind of violent theft is linked to the way objects are promoted as ‘authentic’ in the market, rather than just to either their monetary- or use-value.
The article is here.