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Social Acceleration: A New Theory of Modernity

by Hartmut Rosa and Jonathan Trejo-Mathys Columbia University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 512 pages
AU$74.00 NZ$77.39
Product Status: Not Our Publication - we no longer distribute
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Hartmut Rosa advances an account of the temporal structure of society from the perspective of critical theory. He identifies three categories of change in the tempo of modern social life: technological acceleration, evident in transportation, communication, and production; the acceleration of social change, reflected in cultural knowledge, social institutions, and personal relationships; and acceleration in the pace of life, which happens despite the expectation that technological change should increase an individual's free time.

According to Rosa, both the structural and cultural aspects of our institutions and practices are marked by the 'shrinking of the present,' a decreasing time period during which expectations based on past experience reliably match the future. When this phenomenon combines with technological acceleration and the increasing pace of life, time seems to flow ever faster, making our relationships to each other and the world fluid and problematic. It is as if we are standing on 'slipping slopes,' a steep social terrain that is itself in motion and in turn demands faster lives and technology. As Rosa deftly shows, this self-reinforcing feedback loop fundamentally determines the character of modern life.

Translator's Introduction
In Place of a Preface
Part 1. The Categorial Framework of a Systematic Theory of Social Acceleration
1. From the Love of Movement to the Law of Acceleration: Observations of Modernity
2. What Is Social Acceleration?
Part 2. Mechanisms and Manifestations: A Phenomenology of Social Acceleration
3. Technical Acceleration and the Revolutionizing of the Space-Time Regime
4. Slipping Slopes: The Acceleration of Social Change and the Increase of Contingency
5. The Acceleration of the "Pace of Life" and Paradoxes in the Experience of Time
Part 3. Causes
6. The Speeding Up of Society as a Self-Propelling Process: The Circle of Acceleration
7. Acceleration and Growth: External Drivers of Social Acceleration
8. Power
Part 4. Consequences
9. Acceleration
10. Situational Identity: Of Drifters and Players
11. Situational Politics: Paradoxical Time Horizons Between Desynchronization and Disintegration
12. Acceleration and Rigidity: Attempt at a Redefinition of Modernity
Conclusion: Frenetic Standstill? The End of History

When I first picked up this book, I was looking forward to a leisurely reading on obscurantist Heideggerian bullshit. I was wrong. But once I got over my deep disappointment that the book was, in fact, intelligible and not littered with ramblings about Dasein, I began to appreciate the book for what it was.

Hartmut Rosa is professor of sociology and political science at the Friedrich-Schiller-Universit?t Jena. He is the author of Alienation and Acceleration: Towards a Critical Theory of Late-Modern Temporality and coeditor, with William E. Scheuerm