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The Sociology of SpeedDigital, Organizational, and Social Temporalities$
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Judy Wajcman and Nigel Dodd

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198782858

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198782858.001.0001

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Simmel and Benjamin

Simmel and Benjamin

Early Theorists of the Acceleration Society

(p.13) 1 Simmel and Benjamin
The Sociology of Speed

Nigel Dodd

Judy Wajcman

Oxford University Press

This chapter brings a much-needed historical perspective to bear on current claims that our period is one of unprecedented acceleration. In fact, speed becomes identified with modernity in classical social theory. As early as 1900, Simmel describes how the acceleration of city life in the modern metropolis gives rise to a new temporality. His analysis of modern time-consciousness as one involving immediacy, simultaneity, and presentism is so prescient that we make the case for Simmel being the first theorist of the acceleration society. The case of Benjamin is more complex, but fascinating for the more nuanced conception of time that runs through his work, as expressed in his treatment of Baudelaire’s figure of the flâneur. Benjamin provides an intriguing counterpoint that both draws on and invites us to question some of the assumptions that underpin the work of Simmel.

Keywords:   speed, time, Simmel, Benjamin, acceleration, sociology, technology, social theory, money, city

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