From Publishers Weekly
According to Potter (coauthor of Nation of Rebels
), the cost of modernity's dismantling of traditional frameworks of truth and meaning has forced meaning and authenticity to become individual searches that are private and consumercentric. Potter's lively cultural analysis combines an astute analysis of foundational antimodernist thought (in particular Rousseau) with savvy surveys of mass culture to flag the pitfalls and ironies of the modern obsession with authenticity in its every incarnation (authentically punk, spiritual, environmentally conscious) from our jeans to our celebrities. Potter champions a mitigation of modernity's negative, alienating effects rather than a rejection of modernity, and his characterizations of antimodernists can be dismissive to the point of oversimplifying a large and varied spectrum of dissent from the status quo. But in redeeming modernity from primitivists, apocalyptic doom-mongers, and more subtle critics, the author offers a shrewd and lively discussion peppered with pop culture references and a stimulating reappraisal of the romantic strain in modern life. (Apr.)
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We live, Potter argues, in a world dominated by the prepackaged and the artificial, the fraudulent and the fake. Growing out of this increasingly bleak cultural landscape is a movement centered on the notion of authenticity: the honest, the natural, the real. That’s all fine and good, Potter says, except for one thing: we don’t have a clue what we mean by authenticity, and even if we did, we wouldn’t know how to find it. That is, the quest for authenticity is a hoax—there is no such thing. Authenticity is an exclusionist notion, defined, by what it isn’t, not by what it is, and, for the most part, so-called authentic lifestyles are just as artificial and contrived as the rest of modern culture. It’s a fascinating approach to a fascinating subject, and Potter bolsters his argument with examples drawn from pop culture, history, and other sources. Written in a lively style that invites the reader to argue with the author, the book, at the very least, will turn the reader’s eye inward, and make us take a good, long look at the way we present ourselves to the world. --David Pitt