Accumulation and Acceleration


In recent years, the computerization of society has updated the promises and fears that the speed of trains, cars and planes already aroused in the 19th and 20th centuries. Technical acceleration creates the need for regulation and therefore for individual and collective preparation – but without necessarily providing the means to do so. Today, society and individuals, who have become “hypermodern” in the meantime, have the increasing need but decreasing ability to foresee and prepare for the stages ahead. Like a human body that comes to a standstill while moving by mechanical means in a projectile, they undergo a "confinement to the present" (François HARTOG), their dynamism deprived of direction. This vicious spiral gives the impression of ending politics as a possibility of shaping the future.

However, if the increase in speed is real, the expected time gain is less so. A car costs a great deal of working time, motorways can be clogged, e-mails are more numerous than letters... Instead of giving us free time, acceleration seems therefore to cause saturation and stress. To unravel this mystery, we must add to the time scale the spatial dimension in the broadest sense, i.e. the size and number of various objects. Indeed, if acceleration does not keep its promises, it is because we are simultaneously summoned to do or to have more: economic growth, extension of knowledge, multiplication of holiday photos, etc. These increases stem from the capitalist imperative of capital accumulation, whose anonymous, constraining and insatiable character were long ago pointed out by Karl MARX.

But accumulation is not only an economic obligation; it is also an ethical duty. Increasingly deprived of its traditional sources of meaning, namely the spiritual horizon and the physical and emotional bond to others, individuals – in order to give a reason for their lives – must at best fill it with objects, activities and sensations. "The search for intensity has replaced the quest for eternity" (Nicole AUBERT).

Haven’t the key words of this world become, therefore, intensification and excitement, like a ball that grows larger and denser as it descends the slope? This movement has consequences: More and more individuals flee in resentment, delirium or different types of rage, paralyzed by identity crisis or blowing up at scapegoats.

The vicious spiral of "always more and faster" also appears to be regressive in that it values the most addictive primary sensations (sweet, rhythmic, graphic). This regression is both supported and manifested through the current electrification of human life: by hindering the development of the younger generations and de-socializing adults, it could narrow the individual's field of consciousness.


Ière et IIème sessions : Accélérations et régulations

IIIème et IVème sessions : Accumulations et accélérations, l’emballement du monde

Vème session : Accumulations et accélérations : les emballement techniques et affectifs

VIème session : Accumulations et accélérations : Alternatives et remèdes

Mis à jour le
03 January 2017

Scientific officer


Les emballements techniques et affectifs