The driving cultural force of that form of life we call ‘modern’ is the desire to make the world controllable. Yet it is only in encountering the uncontrollable that we really experience the world – only then do we feel touched, moved and alive. A world that is fully known, in which everything has been planned and mastered, would be a dead world.
Our lives are played out on the border between what we can control and that which lies outside our control. But because we late-modern human beings seek to make the world controllable, we tend to encounter the world as a series of objects that we have to conquer, master or exploit. And precisely because of this, ‘life,’ the experience of feeling alive and truly encountering the world, always seems to elude us. This in turn leads to frustration, anger and even despair, which then manifest themselves in, among other things, acts of impotent political aggression. For Rosa, to encounter the world and achieve resonance with it requires us to be open to that which extends beyond our control. The outcome of this process cannot be predicted, and this is why moments of resonance are always concomitant with moments of uncontrollability.
This short book – the sequel to Rosa’s path-breaking work on social acceleration and resonance – will be of great interest students and scholars in sociology and the social sciences and to anyone concerned with the nature of modern social life.
The pace of modern life is undoubtedly speeding up, yet this acceleration does not seem to have made us any happier or more content. If acceleration is the problem, then the solution, argues Hartmut Rosa in this major new work, lies in “resonance.” The quality of a human life cannot be measured simply in terms of resources, options, and moments of happiness; instead, we must consider our relationship to, or resonance with, the world. Applying his theory of resonance to many domains of human activity, Rosa describes the full spectrum of ways in which we establish our relationship to the world, from the act of breathing to the adoption of culturally distinct worldviews. He then turns to the realms of concrete experience and action – family and politics, work and sports, religion and art – in which we as late modern subjects seek out resonance. This task is proving ever more difficult as modernity’s logic of escalation is both cause and consequence of a distorted relationship to the world, at individual and collective levels. As Rosa shows, all the great crises of modern society – the environmental crisis, the crisis of democracy, the psychological crisis – can also be understood and analyzed in terms of resonance and our broken relationship to the world around us. Building on his now classic work on acceleration, Rosa’s new book is a major new contribution to the theory of modernity, showing how our problematic relation to the world is at the crux of some of the most pressing issues we face today. This bold renewal of critical theory for our times will be of great interest to students and scholars across the social sciences and humanities.