We live in economic uncertainty, Western nations are gradually drifting into the direction of fascism, divided by social fragmentation, trapped by lowest-common denominator mass cultures that seek only to fulfil our desires for the latest technologies, so is it any surprise that there has been what Joe Kennedy calls a “quixotic cultural lurch away from what is taken to be postmodern flippancy” to a new seriousness?
Now and then it becomes possible to observe our cultural life revising itself. In Authentocrats, (a snappy title despite my innate mistrust of neologisms), Kennedy takes on the cult of authenticity. He looks back to the postmodernists’ suspicion of authenticity and how it emerged in the new millennium as a degraded, secular religion that came to dominate our cultural landscape. The intensity and potency of this cultural lurch is evident throughout contemporary thought and life.
Kennedy’s argument and sources used are personally satisfying in that he traps under the microscope so many subjects that I intuitively mistrust, but have never considered part of the same cultural malaise: ‘gritty’ Bond and The Lord of the Rings films, Game of Thrones and Scandic-Noir on television, the seemingly endless sprawl of melancholic nature writing and narcissistic, pseudo-subversive psychogeography in literature.
In Authentocrats, Kennedy not only pursues this nihilistic thread of western culture, but also confronts the pervasive argument that our social realm is split along class lines, between ‘authentic’ provincials and urban ‘elites’ living in cultural and political bubbles. He shows how such an identity framework is overly simplified, a convenient way of packaging a system in distress. Although suspicion about authenticity is nothing new, and Kennedy acknowledges his debt to Adorno in particular, his cogent analysis offers readers a profound way to engage with our current cultural and political perspective.