Authenticity is real. It is a repair process within the order of symbols, within the hyperreal, in which efforts to destroy the order of symbols are channeled into acts that strengthen and expand it.
What is authenticity? Once upon a time things seemed pretty real. Then, gradually, things started seeming totally phony. People asked “how are you,” but they didn’t really care what the answer was. People said, in a professional capacity, “I’m sorry for your loss.” People wore t-shirts made in factories with the word “AUTHENTIC” printed on them.
Some people were more sensitive to the phoniness than others. It was a lonely time for a special snowflake. The good news is that now, you, you yourself, the only one who sees through the facade, must go and find the real. It’s probably far away, in another place, if not in another time. It’s exotic and bizarre. It demands a great deal from you. There won’t be a Starbucks there.
Authenticity is the object of the quest defined above. It may be an illusion, like the Fountain of Youth or pirate’s gold, but the search for authenticity has real effects upon the world.
The above is my summary of the tale told by Jean Baudrillard: a golden age of reality, recently corrupted by the hyperreal, the order of symbols that no longer has any connection with reality and masks its absence.