The Politics of Authenticity

The Politics of Authenticity:Radical Individualism and the Emergence of Modern Society

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An examination of authenticity as a revolutionary concept

In this acclaimed exploration of the search for “authentic” individual identity, Marshall Berman explores the historical experiences and needs out of which this new radicalism arose. Focussing on eighteenth-century Paris, a time and place in which a distinctively modern form of society was just coming into its own, Berman shows how the ideal of authenticity—of a self that could organize the individual’s energy and direct it toward his own happiness—articulated eighteenth-century man’s deepest responses to this brave new world, and his most ardent hope for a new life in it. Exploring in particular the ideas of Montesquieu and Rousseau, Berman shows how the ideal of authenticity was radically opposed to the bourgeois, capitalistic idea of “self-interest.”

Reviews

  • Marshall Berman is one of our liveliest and most generous interpreters of Marx ... brimming with ideas and romance. He can help us learn to create ourselves while we try to change the world.

    The Nation
  • Berman’s writing is scholarly but jargon-free, anchored in modern references but with a strong sense of history, and animated by a generous sympathy. He represents what’s best in the Marxist tradition.

    Christopher HitchensThe Village Voice
  • We must admire Marshall Berman’s audacity ... Berman persuasively argues that Marx’s theory of alienation can best explain the awful consequences of capitalism, even when workers toil at computers rather than assembly lines.

    The New York Times