Speed Limits


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Where Time Went and Why We Have So Little Left

Mark C. Taylor

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A leading thinker asks why “faster” is synonymous with “better” in our hurried world and suggests how to take control of our runaway lives

We live in an ever-accelerating world: faster computers, markets, food, fashion, product cycles, minds, bodies, kids, lives.  When did everything start moving so fast? Why does speed seem so inevitable?  Is faster always better?

Drawing together developments in religion, philosophy, art, technology, fashion, and finance, Mark C. Taylor presents an original and rich account of a great paradox of our times: how the very forces and technologies that were supposed to free us by saving time and labor now trap us in a race we can never win. The faster we go, the less time we have, and the more we try to catch up, the farther behind we fall.  Connecting our speed-obsession with today’s global capitalism, he composes a grand narrative showing how commitments to economic growth and extreme competition, combined with accelerating technological innovation, have brought us close to disaster.  Psychologically, environmentally, economically, and culturally, speed is taking a profound toll on our lives.

By showing how the phenomenon of speed has emerged, Taylor offers us a chance to see our pace of life as the product of specific ideas, practices, and policies.  It’s not inevitable or irreversible.  He courageously and movingly invites us to imagine how we might patiently work towards a more deliberative life and sustainable world.

Mark C. Taylor is professor and chair, Department of Religion, Columbia University. He lives in Williamstown, MA and New York, NY.


“Taylor's observant thought process inspires and promotes the kind of dramatic cultural change necessary to unplug and reflect.”—Kirkus Reviews

"Why is the pedal pushed to the metal in virtually every area of our lives? The reasons--historical, theological, technological, financial--are many, and no one has untangled them better than Mark Taylor in this remarkable book, his most important work to date.”—Jack Miles, author of God: A Biography

“With panache and flashes of brilliance, Taylor, a Columbia University religion professor and cultural critic, offers a philosophically astute analysis of how time works in our era: more is being squeezed into smaller and smaller bits of time, and everyone feels that they have less of it. . . . There is, appropriately, no quick fix, but Taylor provides plenty of provocative, learned ideas.” —Publishers Weekly

"Speed Limits is an insightful and provocative book that deserves the widest possible readership. But with one cautionary note: dear readers, please don’t rush through it."—Howard Segal, THES

“A detailed, personal account of the time that machines have given to us--and the time that we have given to them.”—George Dyson, author of Turing's Cathedral

“In this brilliant and important book, Mark Taylor explains why we live as we do and why we feel so rotten about it. More importantly, he peels back the dynamics that interact and intersect and gives us hope in our efforts to choose a different gear."—Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of The Googlization of Everything

“A major scholar’s culminating and engaging vision of how we came to be as we are. Taylor is like a doctor who does not yet have the cure but does have a diagnosis. He names what ails us.”—Jack Miles, author of God: A Biography

“This pathbreaking and transformative work helps us understand the origins and impact of the frenetic world we now live in, the root causes of our financial meltdown, climate change and the daily stress of the 24-7 economy.  Speed may not kill, but in this important book we learn that it can destroy the very human capacity for reflection and deep thought.”—Steven Cohen, The Earth Institute, Columbia University

“In this engrossing, beautifully written and erudite book Mark Taylor reveals how our complex economic, technological and social systems are subject to a devastating trend toward speed. Speed Limits will change your experience of the world—very much for the better.”—Juliet B. Schor, author of Plenitude

“In this stunning masterpiece, Mark Taylor brings together deep scholarship, clarity of expression, and frightening, daring vision. This is original thinking at its explosive best. Accessible and timely, Taylor’s Speed Limits is philosophy as it once was: energetic, challenging, life-transforming, and vital.”—Esa Saarinen, Aalto University, Finland

‘Speed Limits is a book written by an academic who has a wide understanding of the trends in the contemporary world and the predicaments which, sooner or later, humanity has to face.’—Ed Standhaft, Methodist Recorder.

“This astute account of the historical origins of the contemporary world's frantic desire to move faster also details the ways in which speed rules every aspect of contemporary life: the market, the world of finance, and people's personal worlds. Taylor urges a new mind-set, a transformation of values, and recognition that the current drive for speed cannot be maintained without disaster striking.”—CHOICE

‘Speed Limits cannot be dismissed as a quick and easy read. This erudite volume is the product of years of research… A tension runs throughout the book, and it is one echoed by many over the past decades, that speed is essential if financial, ecological and social meltdown are to be avoided. The message of this reviewer, to all who read this review, is: take time out now from whatever seems pressingly urgent and read the book itself.’—Frances Hutchinson, the Social Artist.

‘Taylor’s analysis will resonate with anyone who has felt overwhelmed by the storm of information that arrives through the proliferating digital interfaces, or by cultural and technological progress that seems to leave too little time for reflection or evaluation.’—Revd. Dr. Hugh Rayment-Pickard, Church Times.

“Taylor . . . engagingly tells the complex story of the acceleration of Western culture, mixing personal narrative with history and philosophy.”—Christian Century
ISBN: 9780300216790
Publication Date: October 27, 2015
408 pages, 5 3/4 x 8 15/16
24 b/w illus.
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