The Expropriation of Time – How Revolution and Time are Linked

The standardization of time during the Industrial Revolution was perhaps a great step forward for capitalism. The diverse and plural systems of time made production hard to coordinate. With the ambition of more profit, standardization of all the means to make production efficient came with the terrain. This included the ideology of time itself.

Back track to the French Revolution. One of the advents of the revolution that are still with us today was the spread of the decimal system, as well as remaking of time. The Paris Commune used a revolutionary calendar briefly in order to undo the fascist (religious and nationalist) symbols in its society. It’s obvious that they understood how time is, the way it is structured and built, contained tendencies that would perpetuate it.

There seems to be something of importance here. Time is a tool, but the way that opposing ideologies require remaking, reinventing, and using concepts of time as the rule for society build on it. The view of time, as well as it’s enforcement, seems to be one of the most subtle features that structures society such as other less apparent fields, such as architecture and media.

Ideally, redesigning and fighting for “time”, such as the Labor movement, appeared to be popular. The socialist push for a re-structure of dignity and humanity was plenty obvious, but most of all, it is and should be understood as a movement to expropriate time. A 5-day workweek, 8-hour days should be reserved for work. The concept caught on. It took blood and sweat, but the fight for expropriation of time was won in the United States. Well, some least inroads at least.

In many countries, such as France, Spain, and Mexico (and others I am missing), the two-hour extended lunch break is sacred. Any politician attempting to change this conception is immediately demonized in the eyes of the people. In this case, though the structure of time is still the product of industrialization, people still have say over how to use it – or more accurately, when to use it. In the U.S., where the capitalist narrative has a strong hold over society, the opposite is true. Being a workaholic and someone that receives no sleep seems to be laudable and if not, admirable.

In this sense, it’s worth to take in several things: that looking into ways of structuring time will play an important role in defining a new society, and/or the way we use or build on current ideologies of time plays a role in perpetuating values that its society will live by.


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