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slowness movement

The slowness movement is a grassroots reaction to the hectic pace, overwork, and lack of leisure typical of modern life. The movement can be traced back at least to the early twentieth century, when John Gerdner coined the term "New York-itis" to describe a lifestyle characterized by "edginess, impulsiveness, impatience, aggressiveness and quick, fast movements."

Carl Honore, author of In Praise of Slowness: How A Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed , explains that the root of the modern race against the clock rests in the Western concept of time: "...if you look at the deeper question, and you cut through things like urbanization, consumerism and technology, you come to what might be the kind of the nub of the problem, which is our relationship with time. Eastern cultures -- Chinese, Buddhist, Hindu -- think of time as circular, cyclical, so things are always coming and going, whereas in the West we have this very functional, rigid notion that time is linear, flying remorselessly from points A to B. There is no sense of renewal and rebirth, and time is always draining away. The idea that time is linear in the modern era is perhaps best crystallized in the famous aphorism by Benjamin Franklin 'Time is money.' And how do we look to make the most value for our time? By speeding up, by trying to do more and more with less and less time."

A rebellion against fast-paced life has been growing in the last few decades. In the 1980s, the "slow food" movement began in response to a proposed McDonalds restaurant on the Spanish Steps in Rome. Subsequently, the "slow cities" movement extended the movement's slow-down mandate more broadly. Cities in Italy may be officially designated as slow and display the movement's snail logo if they meet certain "quality of life" criteria, including standards for neighborhood preservation, pedestrian-orientation, and respect for the environment.

The slowness movement in North America has led to some surprising results. Some companies that have implemented elements of the slow approach -- such as shorter work weeks, nap or meditation rooms, and more vacation time -- report not only the expected increase in employee satisfaction but substantial boosts to productivity as well.

This was last updated in January 2006

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