Issue #28 January 2020

Manufacturing Authenticity: How We Yearn for the Real and Fall for the Fake

Pavel Filonov — “White Picture” — (1919)

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Pavel Filonov — The Heads (1925)

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Pavel Filonov — The February Revolution (1924–26)

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Martijn Visser has an LLM in philosophy of law from the University of Leiden, Netherlands, and is finishing his MA in philosophy at the University of Nijmegen, Netherlands. At the moment, he is on exchange for his research in Leuven, Belgium.


Boltanski & Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism, London: Verso 2007. See in particular chapter 7: The Test of the Artistic Critique (p. 419–482).


It must be noted that almost all of these sociological and economical critiques are at least partially inspired by the writings of German romanticist thinkers. See for example Schillers 6th letter from Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen for a striking ‘Marxist’ analysis of labour, alienation, and individuality, dating from 1793(!).


Although Adorno wrote a very well-known critique of the existentialist and especially Heideggerian concept of authenticity (see his Jargon der Eigentlichkeit), it is my assumption that in the end both existentialism and critical theory addressed similar problems, albeit from different perspectives.


For a beautiful and accessible example of this way of thinking see Adorno’s essay on free time (Freizeit).


Cited in: Boltanski & Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism, p. 477.


See in particular chapter 4 (Rendering Authenticity) of: Pine & Gilmore, Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want, Boston: Harvard Business School Press 2007.


Boltanski & Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism, p. 446.


This example was brought under my attention by a smart essay on Lana Del Rays ‘authentic inauthenticity’ in the Dutch magazine Vrij Nederland by Doortje Smithuijsen, who analyses this phenomenon in a very similar way, although she settles on a different conclusion, see:


Other examples might be our omnipresent suspicion regarding the ‘well-intended’ raisings of charity funds, every kind of outspoken idealist ambition of a company that is supposedly ‘not aimed at making money’, the ‘genuinely’ expressed concern of politicians for the public interest, or any other form of real ‘altruism’.


Boltanski & Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism, p. 453.


The recent explosion of stoic self-help books and our obsession with meditation and mindfulness can hardly be called surprising in this regard. For an interesting critique of mindfulness as a practice which stifles activism and makes people (instead of a certain culture) feel responsible for their stress, depression and other mental illnesses see Ronald Pursers McMindfulness: How Mindfulness became the New Capitalist Spirituality (2019).


Baudrillard, Simulation and Simulacra, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2017, p. 6–7.


January 2020


A Decolonial Feminism

Timofei Gerber in conversation with Françoise Vergès

Existentialist Hero vs. Ordinary Language Man: Iris Murdoch Confronting Sartre and Wittgenstein

by Eve Y. Lin

Bringing People Closer: Cicero, Hierocles, and Cosmopolitanism

by Will Johncock

Manufacturing Authenticity: How We Yearn for the Real and Fall for the Fake

by Martijn Visser