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The Quest for Authenticity

  • A cultural heritage often becomes a product for mass consumption. People value its "authenticity". Authenticity sells. Authenticity is a compelling marketing feature.
  • Subcultures pride themselves in knowing who the real originators, the "authentic" acts, were. There is veritable competition for authenticity: different acts competing to prove that they are more "authentic" than others.
  • Even restaurants capitalize on their "authenticity".
  • The appeal of authenticity is created by a multiplicity of cultural behaviors.
  • Schools educate students to the unique value of museums, where the authentic work of art can be viewed.
  • A new religion is called a "cult", which is a disparaging term, because they are not "authentic".
  • The Romans and the Chinese, among many other civilizations, looked back nostalgically at the original, authentic spirit of the nation, at the spirit that had created their present greatness.
  • Totalitarian regimes rediscovered authenticity for propaganda purposes, e.g. the Soviet Union used the authentic populist spirit to glorify the proletariat, and Nazism used the authentic medieval sagas to glorify the Teutonic race.
  • Institutions such as the Supreme Court exist to interpret the authentic intentions of a nation's constitution.
  • Hermeneutics strives to discover the authentic meaning of a text.
  • This worship of authenticity might derive from a simple equation of supply and demand: the authentic is rare outside its authentic context.
  • Or it might have to do with constructing an ideal point of reference and an absolute scale of values: performers can be ranked more easily and objectively by authenticity than by the vague and subjective notion of "greatness".
  • Nonetheless, authenticity is a moving target: the mainstream is the opposite of "authentic" but very often it is simply the "authentic" of a few days earlier turned into a mass product.
  • The copy, the bootleg (an illegal copy), the remix (an unfaithful copy), and the mash-up (an entire combination of copies) signals the emergence of a civilization that views authenticity as a value to be overthrown rather than worshipped.