The Issues Of Time And Speed

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Issues of time and speed are central to Unger’s proposed re-organization of political institutions in Democracy Realized. In basic terms, Unger wants to accelerate politics so that lawmaking can keep up with the now rapid speed of economic and cultural life. For Unger, slow political time, in the form of traditional constitutional governance, is a conservative impediment to progress and a recipe for low political participation. Progressivism requires institutional innovation to become more responsive to the rapid changes in the economy that might call for legislative changes. Much like how entrepreneurial firms of the vanguard have become smaller and more flexible, political institutions should, according to Unger, become open and more innovative. I agree that the phenomenon of acceleration characterizes the present moment, in culture and economics if not politics. Communication and transportation have become considerably quicker, space has been abridged, and technological progress continues apace. Market reactions to new information are close to instantaneous, and there are few barriers to the flow of information, capital, and products. Time, which many theorists of social acceleration define as the eruption of the new, is moving faster, and the present, meaning the time period in which past experience reliable maps onto and predicts the future, is shrinking. This is the precise nature of disruptive innovation in economics and paradigm shifts in the sciences.
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