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

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 08:59 authored by Nicholas HookwayNicholas Hookway
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).


Publication title

M/C journal : A Journal of Media and Culture








School of Social Sciences


Queensland University of Technology * Creative Industries Faculty

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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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  • Open

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Expanding knowledge in human society

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