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Living Authentic: 'Being True to Yourself' as a Contemporary Moral Ideal


Hookway, NS, Living Authentic: 'Being True to Yourself' as a Contemporary Moral Ideal, M/C journal : A Journal of Media and Culture, 18, (1) pp. 1-9. ISSN 1441-2616 (2015) [Refereed Article]


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Copyright 2014 the author(s) Licenced under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

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From reality television and self-help literature to exhortations to be "true to yourself," authenticity pervades contemporary culture. Despite their prevalence, cultures of self-improvement and authenticity are routinely linked to arguments about increasing narcissism and declining care for others. Self-improvement involves self-based practices geared to help realise the "improved" and "better you" while authenticity is focused on developing the unique, inner and "real" you. Critiques of both self-improvement and authenticity culture are particularly evident in a sociological tradition of "cultural pessimism" (Hookway, Moral). This group of thinkers argue that the dominance of a "therapeutic" culture where the "self improved is the ultimate concern of modern culture" has catastrophic social and moral consequences (Reiff; Bell; Lasch; Bellah; Bauman and Donskis). Drawing upon Charles Taylor, I take critical aim at such assessments, arguing that ideals and practices of authenticity can be morally productive. I then turn to an empirical investigation of how everyday Australians understand and practice morality based on a qualitative analysis of 44 Australian blogs combined with 25 follow-up online in-depth interviews. I suggest that while the data shows the prevalence and significance of "being true to yourself" as an orientating principle, the bloggers produce a version of authenticity that misses the relational and socially-shaped character of self and morality (Taylor; Vannini and Williams).

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Vegetarianism; ethics; morality; sustainability; climate change; human-animal relations
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Sociology
Research Field:Social change
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in human society
UTAS Author:Hookway, NS (Dr Nicholas Hookway)
ID Code:99587
Year Published:2015
Deposited By:School of Social Sciences
Deposited On:2015-03-27
Last Modified:2016-03-17
Downloads:646 View Download Statistics

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