This article examines the relationship between time, governance and political participation through a critical engagement with the ‘acceleration thesis’. Whilst the acceleration thesis argues that the ‘shrinking of the present’ is a condition of contemporary governance, others have viewed it as dysfunctional to the democratic process and effective policymaking. By drawing on a wide range of literature and through the use of illustrative examples, this article argues that slow and fast politics have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the practice of governance and democratic participation. In turn, questions are raised about how public organisations and others might manage temporality and change in an ‘accelerated polity’. The article concludes by calling for further research into the ‘politics of time’ and its effects on public policymaking and political participation.