The Human Cost of Speed
by Stephen Bertman
April 1998, 288pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-275-96205-0
$41, £31, 36€, A56
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-2413-5
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

This cogent analysis of the human costs of society’s accelerated pace proposes daring solutions—and picks up where Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock left off.

The rampant illnesses of our society—including the disintegration of the family, the degradation of the environment, unlimited commercialism, and unrelenting stress—are familiar to us all. For the first time, Stephen Bertman attempts to explain these disparate, overwhelmingly negative phenomena with a single, unifying principle: that the accelerated pace of American society is eroding the essence of our most fundamental values. In 1970, Alvin Toffler identified a psycho-biological disease he called future shock caused by too much change in too short a time. Now Bertman daringly diagnoses an even more serious condition, hyperculture, a chronic warping of morals and ethics caused by America’s addiction to speed. The treatment, he argues in this book, will require nothing less than a drastic slowdown—we must reassert control over the technologies that now dominate us in order to insure a humane future for our children and ourselves.

We live, according to Bertman, in a society ruled by the power of now, a power that gives us instant gratification even as it demands our instantaneous obedience. As a result, we have adapted our lives and values to match the speed-of-light electronic technologies that surround us. But, in so doing, we have paid a high price in spirit and mind. Cut off from the wisdom of the past and too rushed to consider the consequences of our actions, we are caught up in a culture of sensationalism and transience in which the very definitions of personal identity and democracy are being transformed. Hyperculture dares to suggest that the cure for our condition lies not in an information superhighway or third wave information revolution, but in the radical and painful process of decelerating our lives enough to reclaim them. It is a daunting challenge, to be sure, but one on which our happiness and even our survival depend.


"There is erudition, an excellent bibliography, and much food for thought in this book, and it does resonate with problems in American society."—Choice, 00/00/00

"The book is easy to read and has a broad sweep. . . . Students and thoughful psychologists interested in communication, stresses related to time pressure, cultural change, and the effects of technology on human behavior and cognition should find useful ideas here."—Perceptual and Motor Skills, 00/00/00

"Impressive in its command of details and description, this book accurately describes the revolutionary social changes wrought by modern culture, and especially the instantaneous culture of electonic communication."—Time's News, 00/00/00

"Bertman weaves a critical, compelling, and most significant for the sociologist, multi-level analytic argument about the human dimensions of living an accelerated life. He offers insightful, thoughtful, and conservative strategies for restraining our technology, retaining our history, and regaining our senses. This book could be used as a supplemental reading in Introductory Sociology or Social Problems courses that have a social change orientation. This book could also be easily integrated into courses such as American Society, Social Movements, Technology and Society, Social Change, and Social Theory and portions could be integrated into Family or Social Psychology courses."—The Great Plains Sociologist, 00/00/00

"If you don't have as much time to read as you wish you had, you must buy this book. Sit down, read it slowly, carefully, and thoughtfully, and discuss it with those you live, love, and work with. Professor Bertman has his hand on the dangerously rapid pulse of a society spinning wildly out of control and rushing perilously away from the values, rituals, sacredness, and simple joys essential to health and healing. Unless we heed his carefully researched warnings about the risks of our mass hyperactivity, we may end up dying before we have ever fully lived."—Paul Pearsall, PhD, Author, The Heart's Code

"Stephen Bertman focuses attention on the speedup of social and technological change that is disrupting people's lives everywhere. His book should open readers' eyes both to the urgency of the problem and to potential solutions."—Edward Cornish, Editor, The Futurist and President, World Future Society

Stephen Bertman writes some of the most powerful prose I have ever read, and in ^IHyperculture^R surpasses all his previous efforts. This is a profound book about a profound problem facing the modern world.—George C. Roche, III^LPresident, Hillsdale College

With an impressive command of the myriad details, Stephen Bertman identifies the main features of the revolutionary transformations that are taking place on our time-compact globe. Then, with the sensitivity of a scholar of classical and modern civilizations, he outlines an agenda for securing a continuity of humanness in the storm of change.—J. T. Fraser^LFounder, International Society for the Study of Time

The effects of hyperculture...are powerful, thoroughly alarming and hardly understood, though experienced by all of us. Calling attention to the mechanisms and processes by which American society is being driven into frantic, and often purposeless, motion is a public service.—Herbert I. Schiller^LProfessor Emeritus of Communication, UC San Diego^LAuthor, ^ICulture Inc.^R and ^IInformation Inequality^R

True, no one can predict the future, but a few gifted minds can extrapolate past trends....Bertman gives us a wise and insightful book.—Richard D. Lamm^LGovernor of Colorado 1975-1987

Stephen Bertman has written a thoughtful, provocative analysis of the importance of cultural memory. It has large implications for parents, teachers, museums, libraries, and the mass media. I certainly hope it reaches a large popular audience.—Diane Ravitch^LAuthor of ^IThe Troubled Crusade: American Education, 1945-1980^R
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