As the flip side of acceleration, lateness and slowness disrupt the relentless logic of the modernizing project by critiquing the harnessing of attention that is a hallmark of modernity's high-speed society. This article debates three prominent modes of lateness around 1900 that interrogate modernity and its prioritization of mobility and speed: first, the moral interpretation of lateness as a stigma (Friedrich Nietzsche, Thomas Mann); second, the psychic view of lateness as a condition of perception (Georg Simmel, Franz Kafka, Robert Walser); and third, the psychoanalytic interpretation that turns lateness into a generative principle of cultural change (Sigmund Freud, Robert Musil, Mann). The article then returns to the current debate on acceleration and the question of whether our “Age of Innovation” is characterized by a fundamental devaluation of the past in favor of an ever-accelerating present. Arguably, the fears about the mal du siècle and the loss of cultural connectivity have been a constant companion of modernity.

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