Time and Revolution: Marxism and the Design of Soviet Institutions

By Stephen E. Hanson | Go to book overview

1
TRADITIONAL, MODERN, AND CHARISMATIC TIME

For people who live in modern liberal capitalist societies, time is an omnipresent force. Popular magazine articles and public administration courses alike stress the importance of proper time management, punctuality is taken as a sign of maturity, and one's first waking moments are often spent staring at the digital display of a buzzing alarm clock. But in our time-saturated culture it is hard to keep in mind that things were not always so. In fact, as recently as the late nineteenth century, the prospect of standardizing time measurement on a national scale aroused active political resistance; two hundred years ago, the vast majority of Europeans worked in an agricultural setting whose cyclically changing demands on human activity allowed for fairly extended periods of relative relaxation; before about 1450, the mechanical clock itself was practically unknown.1

The decisive transformation in social time perception accompanying industrialization in the West--conventionally labeled as the change from a traditional time sense to a modern one--has become a standard theme in sociology and comparative history.2 Many different definitions of traditional and modern time have been proposed, but perhaps the most fundamental distinction between the two conceptions of time is that in traditional cultures, by and large,

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