Truth be Sold — On Truth in the 21st Century and Beyond

How the truth divides us and can reunite us

Anyone who reads the news and follows the discussions on social media can hardly help but conclude that nowadays we only believe in our own truth. The result: a society without solidarity and a declining trust in politics and media. In this book, philosopher Rob Wijnberg brings a powerful corrective to the information war of our time and shows us that truth is still alive and well.

Original title
Voor ieder wat waars. Hoe waarheid ons verdeelt en ons weer kan samenbrengen
Rob Wijnberg

Our collective understanding of truth allows us to label fake news – and to observe that in these times it appears all but meaningless. With an eye to restoring solidarity for the challenges ahead, Wijnberg examines truth’s changing social functions throughout history. To reignite the progressive imagination, he reimagines progress with a concrete future based on solidarity and information, not as a commodity, but a public good.

Wijnberg charts in four stages what he calls the ‘privatization of truth’, or truth’s transformation from a collective good to an individual commodity. The first shift occurred in the transition from premodern times to the Enlightenment, when truth no longer represented transcendent salvation but objective progress. When this progress led to the horrors of the 20th century, however, truth shifted to the realm of personal subjectivity.

Since the 1980s, driven in part by the attention economy and media, truth has been an individual commodity. With it, our ability to reimagine a progressive future has crumbled. If we are to actually make the material transition a sustainable future requires, truth must become a social consensus that reflects how the world can be fundamentally better – beyond ‘de-growth’.

  • A new book by bestselling author Rob Wijnberg, for the readers of Rutger Bregman

  • On the collapse of truth as a common good, and a hopeful restoration of progress

  • Combines an examination of truth’s changing social function throughout history with a concrete vision for the future

  • A lively and compelling argument against labelling our society as ‘post-truth’

Year of publication

Page count

De Correspondent

Channa van Dijk

Rights sold
Beck (Germany)
Sample translation available

An enthusiastic plea for believing in progress and a positive view of humanity that can help us through the climate crisis and other troubles.

Rob Wijnberg
Rob Wijnberg (b. 1982) is a philosopher and the founder of the Dutch news website 'De Correspondent'. He was Journalist of the Year in 2013 and has written six books, including 'Nietzsche en Kant' lezen de krant (Nietzsche and Kant Read the Paper, 2009) and 'En mijn tafelheer is Plato' (And My Guest Today is Plato, 2010), which together have sold more than 125,000 copies.
Part ofNon-Fiction
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