chapter  3
31 Pages

The acceleration of inertia: towards a political economy of speed

Who says capitalism, says speed. Who says speed, says capitalism. From high theory to popular commentary, capitalism and speed tend to be seen as closely related – almost synonymous – terms. Capitalism encourages the social acceleration of time, while that acceleration in turn advances capitalism’s social integration. It is this relationship with speed that is often said to be capitalism’s great

merit; that while past social formations remained hopelessly tied to tradition and the reproduction of the past, capitalism encourages constant innovation, engendering the steady progress of human knowledge and power. Capitalism’s cheerleaders never tire of describing its dynamism:

As a matter of fact, capitalist economy is not and cannot be stationary. Nor is it merely expanding in a steady manner. It is incessantly being revolutionized from within by new enterprise … Any existing structure and all the conditions of doing business are always in a process of change. Every situation is being upset before it has had time to work itself out. Economic progress, in capitalist society, means turmoil.