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In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed Paperback – Deckle Edge, September 6, 2005
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We live in the age of speed. We strain to be more efficient, to cram more into each minute, each hour, each day. Since the Industrial Revolution shifted the world into high gear, the cult of speed has pushed us to a breaking point. Consider these facts: Americans on average spend seventy-two minutes of every day behind the wheel of a car, a typical business executive now loses sixty-eight hours a year to being put on hold, and American adults currently devote on average a mere half hour per week to making love.
Living on the edge of exhaustion, we are constantly reminded by our bodies and minds that the pace of life is spinning out of control. In Praise of Slowness traces the history of our increasingly breathless relationship with time and tackles the consequences of living in this accelerated culture of our own creation. Why are we always in such a rush? What is the cure for time sickness? Is it possible, or even desirable, to slow down? Realizing the price we pay for unrelenting speed, people all over the world are reclaiming their time and slowing down the pace -- and living happier, healthier, and more productive lives as a result. A Slow revolution is taking place.
Here you will find no Luddite calls to overthrow technology and seek a preindustrial utopia. This is a modern revolution, championed by cell-phone using, e-mailing lovers of sanity. The Slow philosophy can be summed up in a single word -- balance. People are discovering energy and efficiency where they may have been least expected -- in slowing down.
In this engaging and entertaining exploration, award-winning journalist and rehabilitated speedaholic Carl Honoré details our perennial love affair with efficiency and speed in a perfect blend of anecdotal reportage, history, and intellectual inquiry. In Praise of Slowness is the first comprehensive look at the worldwide Slow movements making their way into the mainstream -- in offices, factories, neighborhoods, kitchens, hospitals, concert halls, bedrooms, gyms, and schools. Defining a movement that is here to stay, this spirited manifesto will make you completely rethink your relationship with time.
“It is worth allowing its subversive message to sink slowly in so it has a chance of changing your life.” — Bill McKibben, author of Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age and The End of Nature
“Take the time to read this important, excellently written book -- our future depends on the ideas it contains!” — John de Graaf, co-author, AFFLUENZA: The All-Consuming Epidemic, and editor,TAKE BACK YOUR TIME
“If you sometimes feel engulfed by the mad pace of modern life ---- IN PRAISE OF SLOWNESS could prove life-saving.” — Larry Dossey, MD -- Author: HEALING BEYOND THE BODY and REINVENTING MEDICINE
“Taking the time to read this may be the best decision an entrepreneur, manager, or anyone working full time, can make.” — Gary Erickson - Entrepreneur & CEO of Clif Bar Inc., and author of Raising the Bar
“A friendly and intelligent guide for harried types looking to change gear at home, work or play.” — Economist
“A persuasive case against mindless speed and an intriguing array of ways ‘to make the moment last.’” — Los Angeles Times Book Review
“A skillful blend of investigative reportage, history and reflection on time and our relationship to it.” — BookPage
“...a brilliant criticism of the culture of speed. Honoré is a proponent of the Slow movement, which encourages a deceleration of everything from cooking to business management, driving to talking styles-based on the belief that speed can produce disconnection from daily life.” — O, The Oprah Magazine
From the Back Cover
These days, almost everyone complains about the hectic pace of their lives. We live in a world where speed rules and everyone is under pressure to go faster. But when speed is king, anyone or anything that gets in our way, that slows us down, becomes an enemy. Thanks to speed, we are living in the age of rage.
Carl Honore has discovered a movement that is quickly working its way into the mainstream. Groups of people are developing a recipe for living better in a fast-paced, modern environment by striving for a new balance between fast and slow. In an entertaining and hands-on investigation of this new movement, Honore takes us from a Tantric sex workshop in a trendy neighbourhood in London, England to Bra, Italy, the home of the Slow Food, Slow Cities and Slow Sex movements. He examines how we can continue to live productive lives by embracing the tenets of the slow movement.
A challenging take on the cult of speed, as well as a corrective look at how we can approach our lives with new understanding, In Praise of Slow uncovers a movement whose time has come.
- Publisher : HarperOne; Annotated edition (September 6, 2005)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 321 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0060750510
- ISBN-13 : 978-0060750510
- Item Weight : 9.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.31 x 0.76 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #40,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #79 in Popular Culture in Social Sciences
- #82 in Personal Time Management
- #1,085 in Personal Transformation Self-Help
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Reviewed in the United States on December 11, 2022
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A word has to be given on what in this book is meant by “slow” and “fast.” Fast can mean fast, like driving cars dangerously fast (we get a chapter on that in the book), but generally speaking “fast” is a synonym for intensity and overworking. Take office workers (there is a chapter on that too) as example. Physically, they do not work faster than office workers in past generations. But because they are burdened with a much heavier workload, they have to work long hours past the time they should be back home. Forget 9 to 5. Now it is often 9 to 8 or even 9 to 10.
Similarly, “slow” does not have to mean slow in the physical sense of that word. Slow means working at a pace that is comfortable for you. You can still work hard and fast at what you do, but you should also work at a pace that is optimal for you and you should devote only as many hours to it as you feel comfortable.
Other than the introduction, the author does not talk much about where the cult of speed had come from. I find it regrettable because the topic is of interest to me. The author says that the cult of speed essentially emerged in the 19th century with the rise of factories and modern capitalism. Because workers were paid per hour and not per product, management wanted to squeeze as much productivity from them as possible by making them work even faster. A worker who makes thirty radios per hour gets paid as much as the worker who makes ten radios per hour, but now his bosses have three times as many radios to sell and make profit from.
Why I do agree that industrialization was no doubt a factor, I think that there is more to that story. I wish that the author had devoted more space to exploring this topic.
The bulk of the book is about different areas of human life and different people and groups who are fighting to slow things down. I won’t go over them all. There is not enough space for that. We get a discussion of such things as slower medicine, raising kids in a more relaxed manner, creating cities with less traffic, slower and better sex, slow cuisine and eating, etc. All of these things are interesting and they gave me ideas on how to slow down in certain areas of my own life.
The problem with this advice, and the author admits that this is a problem, is that all these “slow down” activities appear to be mainly for the rich and the middle class. For example, there is a chapter about slowing down in the office. It is not strictly about office work, but all of it is about white collar type of workplaces. How about slowing down at McDonalds or Walmart? I had a number of low-wage blue collar jobs in my life and I can tell you that if you go to see your boss and talk about slowing down, this probably is going to be your last day working in that place.
Another example, the author meets and talks a lot with the people involved in the slow movement. Without exception, all of them are white collar professionals. He attends workshops, clubs, meetings and gatherings. At no point does he meet there someone coming from the working class (i.e. poor). Or at least he never mentions it. All these people are middle class people.
Still, a lot of the advice in the book can be used by everyone. For example, the author talks about cutting down on TV and instead spending more time with friends and family. Yes, I know that when you come back home after a long day of work you are exhausted and want to crash on the couch and let your brain go for a walk while you watch some idiocy on the TV. Been there, done that. But if you actually make the effort to spend that time on meeting with other people (provided that these are people whom you like, of course), you will soon feel fresh energy and feel relaxed and happy.
Besides, even if the slow movement is a middle class thing, it might eventually trigger changes that will trickle down and spread out to all levels of society. Of course, opponents will immediately say that if you do that, the economy will collapse. The author does address this critique.
For one, obsession with speed is causing the economy hundreds of billions of dollars per year. Think about all the car accidents caused by speeding or all the health problems caused by stress and overwork. Not to mention that rushing often results in end product that is of shoddy quality, which in turn results in customer complaints, recalls and need for corrections that cost businesses more in the long run than had they taken things easy.
Also, slowing down would mean more time for leisure. Leisure will create new job opportunities. For example, if people spend less time driving and more time walking in a park, that will create demand for people to design, build and maintain parks. If people start going more to various workshops, then someone will have to run these workshops.
But the fact is that no matter how you slice and dice it, capitalism won’t be able to maintain current levels of profit and growth. But so what? What is so great about growth and profits anyway? Just look at the state of the world. For the past few decades we had steady growth and profits. Individual corporations might fail and go bankrupt, but overall they are making a killing and their economic, social and political power is steadily on the increase. So what? The ecosystem is dying, the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and we have to work ever harder to maintain the same standard of living. In the Bible there is a passage where Jesus says that Sabbath was made for the people and not the people for the Sabbath. Is the economy supposed to serve the people, or are we supposed to sacrifice our health and happiness for the economy?
Please, slow down.
Honoré begins with the state of affairs, a familiar summary of what he calls "the age of rage." Next he explores how humanity, more and more ruled by the clock, sped things up. He then looks at the possible underlying causes of our obsession with speed. The remainder of the book, which is fun to read, is devoted to the Slow Movement in its various manifestations. He defines Slow as more a state of mind than a rate of motion. You can be Slow and move fast. He defines Slow as: "calm, careful, receptive, still, intuitive, unhurried, patient, reflective, quality-over-quantity. It is making real and meaningful connections -- with people, culture, work, food, everything."
Honoré discovered a number of organized efforts to regain a sense of freedom from rush. In Austria, Honore visited the Society for the Deceleration of Time, and in Japan, the Sloth Club, which runs an organic cafe with T-shirts and coffee cups that proclaim "Slow is Beautiful." In his chapter on Food, he describes a meal with a Slow Food proponent in Italy. As it ends he is surprised to realize that without feeling bored or restless, he has spent four hours enjoying natural food prepared with expert care with companionable conversation and periods of silence. He moves on to Cities. There are about 50 towns in Europe involved in the Slow City movement. He observes that young people are responding positively to the slowing down in these towns. In the Mind/Body chapter, Honoré tells of skeptically attending a meditation retreat; now he makes meditation a part of his routine. He also looks into yoga, Chi Kung, and SuperSlow weightlifting with good results. The highlight of the chapter on Sex (titled A Lover With a Slow Hand) is his description of the tantric workshop he and his wife attended. Other chapters reveal the benefits of slowing down in medicine (better health care when doctors spend more time with patients); the workplace (productivity improves with fewer work hours and more vacation); leisure (more is needed, and watching TV is not leisure); and children. Hopefully, more and more people are becoming aware of the destructive pressure placed on children. In Finland, they take the Slow approach -- children don't enter preschool until age 6 and do not face high-pressure exams. Finnish students today rank highest in the world in performance and literacy. Families who cut out (or severely reduced) TV time noted that family relationships improved and the children slept better and did better in school. This book makes it clear that human beings are happier in Slow mode than Fast. For example, after all his experiments with Slow, Honoré reads a long bedtime story to his son; then he reads another story and he feels happy to continue reading, unaware of time. His son, instead of the usual demand for more, decides that he's ready to sleep. Honoré has reached his goal: to be able to read to his son without watching the clock.
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on December 11, 2022
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That former book is about the Slow Movement in academia. This present book is about the Slow Movement more generally. It shows through anecdotes and discussion how slowing down improves enjoyment of many aspects of life: food, living in a city, health, medicine, sex, work, leisure time, educating children.
"The central tenet of the Slow philosophy is taking the time to do things properly, and thereby enjoy them more."
I’m not sure it needs a whole book to preach the message “quality, not quantity”, but maybe that’s because it’s here preaching to the converted. Taking the philosophy at its word, I resisted the temptation to skim read. Not all the stories have continued along their initial slow paths in the intervening decade; nevertheless they add up to a convincing argument for living life in the slow, but high quality, lane.
The author briefly looks at how our obsession with measuring and using time started back with the earliest of mechanical clocks but more importantly how the "needs" of mass production really gave rise to a society where time and money came to rule over more subtle and profound human needs.
If you ever feel you are stuck on the treadmill read this book and find out you are not alone and that people like you are saying "enough is enough" and taking back control of THEIR lives!
Quite a middle class book I imagine. I found it interesting to consider how the science of time pieces have effected our world and lives so markedly. Definitely worth reading, although despite its subject matter I felt I was under pressure to get it finished so I could move on to other books I had earmarked to read.
I think the chapter on raising unhurried kids was particularly important.
Clearly aware of the scepticism with which his attitude is likely to be greeted in some quarters, Honore's direct, straightforward style prevents the book ever becoming prescriptive. Instead, his realistic approach offers a viable prospect of a more enjoyable, fulfilling lifestyle which can be achieved with a few simple adjustments to the way we do things. Inspiring.