I read several books on authenticity last autumn. Below is from Andrew Potter’s The Authenticity Hoax: How We Get Lost Finding Ourselves, which is representative of the book as a whole—thought provoking stuff with the occasional reactionary junk:
[Lionel] Trilling suggests that the way authenticity “has become part of the moral slang of our day points to the peculiar nature of our fallen condition, our anxiety over the credibility of existence and of individual existences.” What he is highlighting here is the biblical texture that permeates the whole discourse of authenticity: in the beginning, humans lived in a state of original authenticity, where all was harmony and unity. At some point there was a great discord, and we became separated from nature, from society, and even from ourselves. Ever since, we have been living in a fallen state, and our great spiritual project is to ﬁnd our way back to that original and authentic unity.
What led to this apparent separation was nothing less than the birth of the world. Characterized by the rise of secularism, liberalism, and the market economy, is the reason we have lost touch with whatever it is about human existence that is meaningful. Once upon a time religion, especially monotheistic religion, served as the objective and eternal standard of all that is good and true and valuable, and we built our society (indeed, our entire civilization) around the idea that living a meaningful life involved living up to that standard.
The search for authenticity is about the search for meaning in a world where all the traditional sources — religion and successor ideals such as aristocracy, community, and nationalism — have been dissolved in the acid of science, technology, capitalism, and liberal democracy. We are looking to replace the God concept with something more acceptable in a world that is not just disenchanted, but also socially ﬂattened, cosmopolitan, individualistic, and egalitarian. It is a complicated and difﬁcult search, one that leads people down a multitude of paths that indude the worship of the creative and emotive powers of the self; the fetishization of our premodern past and its contemporary incarnation in exotic cultures; the search for increasingly obscure and rariﬂed forms of consumption and experience; a preference for local forms of community and economic organization; and, most obviously, an almost violent hostility to the perceived shallowness of Western forms of consumption and entertainment.
Richard Todd’s The Thing Itself - On the Search for Authenticity, other than being first-person non-fiction, stayed closer to treating authenticity as straight-forward provenance—with all the other stuff just being vigorous capitalism.