Velocities of power

Beck, J. and Crosthwaite, P. 2007. Velocities of power. Cultural Politics. 3 (1), pp. 23-34.

TitleVelocities of power
AuthorsBeck, J. and Crosthwaite, P.
Abstract

The fairground injunction to “scream if you want to go faster” has become one of the defining imperatives of advanced capitalism, the ambivalence of that scream both calling forth acceleration and announcing a terror at its prospect. Commentators on the radical time–space compression achieved by the technological developments of recent decades are as conflicted in outlook as their predecessors have been in marking the utopian and apocalyptic promises of the heightened velocity of everyday life (see Bertman 1998; Gleick 1999; Scheuerman 2001, 2004). There is nothing new, of course, about the acceleration of processes and practices due to technological innovation and improvements in organizational efficiency, and there is a long history of both awestruck celebration and fearful criticism of the effects produced by the intensified speed of things. Yet speed itself – as an experience, a quality, a value, and a valence – is increasingly being identified as fundamental to an understanding of the distinctive forms of economic and political power, social and cultural life produced by the “developed” world (and threatened by the “developing” world – witness the anxiety provoked in the West by the rapidity of China's economic growth). As such, speed has become more than an observed fact of matter in motion and is increasingly becoming the condition within which the social operates.

In an essay written in 1998, art critics Jeremy Millar and Michiel Schwarz suggest that, “perhaps we are approaching an understanding of speed as a tool for cultural analysis, alongside subjects such as race, class, or gender” (1998a: 17). As they acknowledge, certain scholars – most notably Paul Virilio – have for some time advanced interpretive models organized around concepts of speed, velocity, and acceleration. It is true, though, that only in the last ten to fifteen years has a core …

JournalCultural Politics
Journal citation3 (1), pp. 23-34
ISSN1743-2197
Year2007
PublisherDuke University Press
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.2752/174321907780031034
Publication dates
Published2007

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