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Document Details :
Title: The Politics of Authenticity
Subtitle: Charles Taylor's Authentic Self Revisited
Author(s): MOUREAU, Loïc , DE TAVERNIER, Johan
Volume: 72 Issue: 4 Date: 2011
The roots of the ideal of authenticity are old and complex. From Plato till today, the human mind underwent several transformations, ending up with a Self that tends to highly estimate ‘super-values’, like autonomy and rationality. However, the critics of modernity say that those ideals are not as dominant as we might think. Given the powerful mechanisms of the free market and the evolution towards radical autonomy, resulting in radical plurality, modern society lacks political courage, true authenticity and real communication. Trying to reply, Taylor defends the modern Self and its ideals. For him, authenticity is about ‘being true to oneself’, not just about ‘knowing the truth of the Self’. To be authentic, one needs to situate oneself against a kind of horizon. Rethinking individualism in a double narrative way means, first of all, to see our lives Aristotelian-like, i.e. directing ourselves towards certain goals, making our lives worth living. Secondly, it also means regaining the courage to break through the chains of radical pluralism and to speak out for our ideals. However, Taylor’s interpretation is not unproblematic. Confronting Taylor’s beliefs with those of Michel Foucault shows both resemblances and contradictions. At first sight, Foucault and Taylor seem to offer two incommensurable stories. Foucault focuses on a third-person identity, while Taylor is presenting a first-person identity. Nevertheless, a deeper analysis shows that their frameworks are different but not opposed. Morever, the later Taylor seems obliged to adjust his position on Foucault. After discussions with Paul Patton, Allison Weir and William E. Connolly, a status quaestionis on the controversy between Taylor and Foucault on authenticity, freedom, power and truth is presented. The article ends by presenting some important nuances about Taylor’s and Foucault’s political philosophies.