Can Slowness Save Us?

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In recent years, in the realms of self-improvement literature, Instagram influencers, and wellness gurus, an idea has taken hold: that in a non-stop world, the act of slowing down offers a path to better living. In this episode of Critics at Large, the staff writers Vinson Cunningham, Naomi Fry, and Alexandra Schwartz trace the rise of “slowness culture”—from Carl Honoré’s 2004 manifesto to pandemic-era trends of mass resignations and so-called quiet quitting. The hosts discuss the work of Jenny Odell, whose books “How to Do Nothing” and “Saving Time” frame reclaiming one’s time as a life-style choice with radical roots and revolutionary political potential. But how much does an individual’s commitment to leisure pay off on the level of the collective? Is too much being laid at the feet of slowness? “For me, it’s about reclaiming an aspect of humanness, just the experience of not having to make the most with everything we have all the time,” Schwartz says. “There can be a degree of self-defeating critique where you say, ‘Oh, well, this is only accessible to the privileged few.’ And I think the better framing is, how can more people access that kind of sitting with humanness?”

Read, watch, and listen with the critics:

How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation,” by Anne Helen Petersen (BuzzFeed)
How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy,” by Jenny Odell
Improving Ourselves to Death,” by Alexandra Schwartz (The New Yorker)
In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed,” by Carl Honoré
The Sabbath,” by Abraham Joshua Heschel
Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond Productivity Culture,” by Jenny Odell
Slow Down: The Degrowth Manifesto,” by Kohei Saito

New episodes drop every Thursday. Follow Critics at Large wherever you get your podcasts.

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