David Boyle

Authenticity Wars

Extract from Chapter 11 of Authenticity

We seem to be on the threshold of a new kind of humanism, that again judges the authenticity of things and ideas by whether or not they are human-scale, or enhance direct contact between humans, or made by fallible humans for fallible humans - rather than trying to squeeze humans into whatever shape is most convenient for the factory, machine or computer. It's a humanism that respects minute irregularities because they are a sign of human manufacture, and respect the energy that comes from artefacts made by hand.

The highest wisdom is to know yourself, said Erasmus. For the new humanists and the old, that's the key to everything - to go beyond virtual systems that can't recreate the complexity of the human spirit.

It's a new attitude that's discernable behind all this demand for authenticity - a new way of approaching business or culture or politics that's rooted in a very old way - and one that is tolerant of human failings. This isn't a humanism that puts mankind on a pedestal that people can never live up to, or which believes that humanity's shining light is so thrilling that no other species on the planet counts at all. It sees people as rooted in tradition and community and nature, as part of our humanity. That's the great truth at the heart of New Realism.

So authenticity may mean natural or beautiful, it may mean rooted geographically or morally, but behind all that it means human. It means that the full complexity of people are recognised, that their need for human contact is recognised, that their uniqueness and individuality is recognised too. And that seems to me to be an exciting prospect, not least because the old medieval humanism led to an explosion of art and understanding that levered civilisation out of medieval brutality. We need a similar Renaissance today.


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title: books by David Boyle
Broke Voyages of Discovery Money Matters Blondel's Song Leaves World to Darkness The Little Money Book Funny Money The Tyranny of Numbers