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What is the Slow Movement?

By Matthew F.
Updated May 23, 2024
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The Slow Movement is a cultural attitude shift toward a slower speed of life. It is not about doing everything at a slow, deliberate pace, but at a doing things at the right pace. According to followers of the Slow Movement, life is lived too quickly and culture is expected to move too fast. The shift began in 1986, and has incorporated many related movements.

The Slow Movement started with the Slow Food organization in Italy in 1986. Founded by Carlo Petrini, Slow Food began a resistance movement against McDonalds and other fast food chains. Slow Food stressed the importance of the bioregion — an area of land relied on for natural food from animals, plants, and seeds. Petrini began the movement in protest of the unhealthy foods served at fast food restaurants. He fought for the resurgence of national foods and cultural cuisines—particularly relevant in his home country, Italy.

Slow Travel soon emerged as an accompanying movement. This organization stresses the slowing down of the act of traveling. A fast pace in travel will miss the details that make traveling worthwhile. A slow pace will encourage art, nature, and culture. This Slow Travel movement was subsequently complimented by movements in many other slow areas: Slow Design, Slow Sport, Slow Shopping, and Slow Work, among others.

The Slow Movement gained an important ally in 1999 with the establishment of The World Institute of Slowness. This institute, founded by Geir Berthelsen, supported a more enriched life via the Slow Movement. The philosophy of the World Institute of Slowness encouraged care, love, nearness, reflection, and togetherness.

The World Institute of Slowness was soon followed in the Slow Movement by Cittaslow in Italy. This movement encouraged a cultural slowing down of life in cities and towns, originally throughout Italy. After converting more than 30 cities in Italy, Cittaslow has moved through the rest of Europe, from the United Kingdom, to Germany, Austria, Norway, and Spain.

The main tenet of the Slow Movement since its inception, however, has been the slowing down of food preparation and eating. Organic and regional foods have remained very important in over 50 countries, including chapters in over three dozen of the United States.

Supporters of the Slow Movement do not stress a jump to the past, but a slowing down of life in a modern world. They argue for an increase of quality, in food, work, retail, and life, by a decrease in speed. The Slow Movement philosophy calls for a more enjoyable life through improvements in every venue of living, from sex to parenting to medicine.

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Discussion Comments

By anon998712 — On Aug 11, 2017

A good book to start with is "In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed" by Carl Honore.

By backdraft — On Oct 03, 2012

This slow movement sounds really interesting. Can anyone recommend a good book or writer that can give me a deeper introduction to the subject?

By ZsaZsa56 — On Oct 02, 2012

@BAU79 - I agree with you up to a point but I don't think that anyone is claiming that the slow movement will change the world, or that everyone who tires to slow down suddenly stops having a negative impact on the world and the culture.

It is about small choices, and contentious choices. If we all just tried to do a little better it would make a difference. And if we try and fail, at least we did something. Right?

By BAU79 — On Oct 02, 2012

I completely support the idea of the slow movement in principle and I have made changes in my own life to reflect this. But I wonder how practical it is as a true alternative or a as a motivator of systematic change. At the risk of sounding like a hopeless critic, isn't the slow movement basically a lot of patting yourself on the back?

Like I say, I am not averse to the movement, I just cringe when I hear how self congratulatory and stupidly optimistic it can be. I want this to work and I think we all want this to work. That involves being honest with yourself and committing to the hard choices.

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