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: second part / first part

BY: Professor M. C. K.

Department of Sociology & Anthropology

Trinity University

715 Stadium Drive

San Antonio, Texas 78212




A sociological exploration on the subject of Time with the thesis that most of the times of our lives have a cyclical quality. This article takes the reader just about everywhere, from circadian rhythms to the implications of historical ignorance.

taken from "A Sociological Tour Through Cyberspace".,

(for the text with pictures and full names go to the source) .





First Part:
















































































 Although the concept of a group often brings to mind spatial connotations, such as the different neighborhoods of a city or the "turfs" of street gangs, groups can also be understood as temporal systems. Members of work groups, for instance, cross the temporal boundary between family and work when they "punch in" at the company time clock. They are reminded of the pressures of group existence through such exhortations as "don't waste time" and "time is money." Mothers attempting to get all family members to the dinner table for a shared meal are attempting to reaffirm family solidarity through establishing the centrality of family time boundaries. It is the group that creates "time to get serious," "born-again experiences," the pressures of deadlines, and the daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal flows of activities. As E. D. observed in The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, it "is the rhythm of social life which is at the basis of the category of time."

P. S. (Sociocultural Causality, Space, Time, 1943) noted how human life is an persistent competition for time by various social activities and their often conflicting motives and objectives. With R. M., he illustrated the significance of associating a group activity or event with a temporal setting, thereby reaffirming the centrality of the group to the individuals who observe its temporal demands as well as coordinating activities that promote group solidarity and/or productivity. "They arise from the round of group life, are largely determined by the routine of religious activity and the occupational order of the day, are essentially a product of social interaction" ("Social Time: A Methodological and Functional Analysis," The American Journal of Sociology, 1937:621).

And what conceptual scheme is to be used for analyzing these temporal patternings of social life? Consider the following elements that Robert Lauer (Temporal Man) and others have focused on:


* temporal patterning, whose elements include periodicity, tempo, timing, duration, and sequence. For instance, consider the extent to which group times specify daily, weekly, monthly, and annual cycles of activities.

* temporal orientation: the group's rank-ordering of the primacy of the past, present, and future;

* and temporal perspective: the positive or negative value placed on the past, present, or future by the group.



It's hard to believe that only about a century ago most towns in this country had their own time. The hands of the clock in the town square would be synchronized with cosmos, "high noon" being established when the sun being at its highest point for the day. But owing to technological innovations (particularly the railroads, whose schedules of arrival and departure times required greater temporal uniformity) and enhanced interdependencies between social members, "standard time" emerged. This replacement of local time- reckoning with supralocal standards of time marked a fundamental change in our relationship to time: human activity was to be increasingly oriented to social as opposed to natural times.



 The day that starts bad, ends bad.

--Old Mexican saying

Even though human activities have become increasingly divorced from the natural rhythm of day and night, society still often specifies that certain things should be done during certain times of the day. Consider, for instance, our temporal socializations during the school day. Students are taught that certain subject matters are to be studied during specific times of the day. "Johnny, put away those crayons! Art time is over and math time has begun." Querie: Are there certain times of the day when we are best able to do math, social studies, music or art? Consider looking at the mean grades given to students who take the same course with the same instructor but at different times of the day.

Individuals vary considerably in terms of their preferred times of the day. During the Fall and Spring terms of the 1986-87 academic year, Trinity University undergraduates (n=166) were asked: "In general, do you consider yourself to be a `morning person' (11% so identified themselves), an `afternoon person' (17%), an `evening person' (41%) or a `night owl' (41%). Majors in the arts, humanities and social sciences were significantly more likely to be "night people" than those majoring in business, economics, and the natural sciences.

For your "Trivial Pursuit" files: Why is midday called "noon"? Fasting Christians were permitted centuries ago a snack at the ninth hour after sunrise, a time called "Nones," usually occurred around 3 p.m. But the most devout got hungry and had an early snack. In the 12th century, such fudging stabilized at midday and became "noon."



In "Night as Frontier" (American Sociological Review,43,1979:3-22), M. M. developed the parallels between the colonization of space and the colonialization of time, night-time that is. "Many of the factors that stimulated expansion into the dark are the same as those that led to expansion across the land. ...Demand push operates when over-population and crowding begin to impel people toward new areas. That push is complemented by supply pull, the lure of the untapped resources in areas beyond established areas."



Do you know why it's hotter in the summer than in the winter? Because in the summer we have an extra hour of daylight, which we take away in the winter.


Debates over daylight savings time continue around the world. Widespread opposition in Mexico, for instance, postponed its nation-wide implementation until 1996. Many viewed such alteration of their time as a exercise of centralized power. When Colorado first experimented with Daylight Savings Time newspapers were filled with hostile letters to the editor. One person complained that the government had no business fiddling with "God's time" and hinted that the principle of separation of church and state had been violated. Another griped how the extra hour of sunlight was burning up her yard (Chance, Paul. 1988. "Got a Minute?" Psychology Today Nov.:59-60).

Blame our "Spring forward, Fall back" ritual on the Brits. Although B. F. toyed with the idea in a 1784 essay, credit is generally given to W. W., a British builder and astronomer, who campaigned in 1907. W. suggested that the clock be moved ahead by 80 minutes in four 20-minute increments during the spring and summer months. The benefits, he reasoned, would be extra time for recreation, less crime, and higher energy savings as people would use less fuel for lighting. But it took world war to finally put the time change into practice, and even then it didn't stick. Congress adopted year-round daylight-saving time for a two-year trial period that began Jan. 6, 1974. But it only lasted one season, once again a victim of public complaints. From 1975,the number of months falling to daylight-saving time was reduced until 1987, when Congress passed an amendment to the Uniform Time Act that made daylight-saving time run a full seven months.



In his The Seven Day Circle: The History and the Meaning of the Week, E. Z. develops how the history of the week is a story involving religion, holy numbers, planets, and astrology--hence our shortened labels for Saturn Day, Sun Day, and Moon Day (see also B. H.'s "Origins of the Seven Day Week"). Some numbers are considered desirable, lucky, or holy in many nations. The number seven is one of these. This is one reason why there are seven days in the week (in fact, in many languages the word for week is synonymous with the word for seven).

Much of our lives is centered and structured around a weekly pattern. Indeed, as P. S. observed, the week is "one of the most important points in our `orientation' in time and social reality." As children, we learn the meaning of the weekend before we learn the meaning of a month. There are clear phenomenological differences between Friday time and Monday time; we are not biologically hardwired nor naturally triggered to feel knotted stomachs on Sunday evenings. When Trinity University students were asked what their favorite day of the week was, 25% said Thursdays, 37% said Fridays and 22% Saturdays.

Is it not the case that each day of the week has evolved to have its own "flavor"? (see Global Psychics page on superstitions associated with each week day) I've often thought about how early Boomers may have been socialized toward such weekday distinctions. Consider, for instance, the lessons of one of their most popular after-school television programs, "The Mickey Mouse Club." Do you remember how the days went?


* On Mondays, Fun with Music Day, the sequence opens with Mickey playing an upright piano. Realizing he has an audience, he leaps up and addresses an unseen group of children:

Mickey: Hi, Mouseketeers!

Children: Hi, Mickey!

Mickey: Big doings this week - adventure, fun, music, cartoons, news - Everybody ready?

Children: Ready!

Mickey: Then on with the show!

* For Guest Star Day on Tuesday, Mickey appeared once again playing the piano. This time, it's a grand, and he's nattily attired in a tuxedo.

Mickey: Hi, Mouseketeers!

Children: Hi, Mickey!

Mickey: Got guests comin' and everything. Everybody neat and pretty?

Children: Neat and pretty!

Mickey: Then, take it away!

* Wednesday finds Mickey dressed as the Sorcerer's Apprentice from Fantasia, riding onto the stage on a rambunctious flying carpet. It's interesting to note in the dialogue that follows that Mickey refers to the day as being Stunt Day, although it was actually Anything Can Happen Day.

Mickey: Whoa, boy! Whoa, steady! Hi, Mouseketeers!

Children: Hi, Mickey!

Mickey: Wednesday is Stunt Day, Mouseketeers, so hang on, anything goes! Ya ready?

Children: Ready!

Mickey: Then let the show begin!

* For Thursday, Circus Day, Mickey is dressed in a band costume and plays the slide trombone. This is the shortest of the introduction scenes.

Mickey: Hi, Mouseketeers!

Children: Hi, Mickey!

Mickey: Well, today is, ah, oh, ah...

Children: Circus Day!

Mickey: Right! Okay, Mouseketeers, all together now...

Children: On with the show!

* The final opening sequence is for Talent Round-up Day on Friday. Mickey appears dressed as a cowboy, twirling a lariat as he speaks to the audience.

Mickey: Yee-ee, Yee-ee! Hi, podners!

Mickey: This here's our roundup day, so you all pretty nigh ready?

Mickey: Sure enough!

Mickey: Let's get on with it!


Among the weekly rhythms (and myths of daily differences) we find:


* rich international folklore concerning each day's traits, such as how individuals' temperaments are shaped by the day on which they are born or how Fridays, because it was the day of Christ's crucifixion, are associated with misfortune;

* a distinctive week cycle of births, whether vaginal or cesarean, with Monday peaks and weekend troughs;

* weekly cycles of lethal heart attacks, with Mondays being the deadliest day, according to a 1980 study reported by University of Manitoba researchers. In their long-term follow-up study of nearly 4,000 men, they found that 38 had died of sudden heart attacks on Mondays while only 15 died on Fridays. Further, for men with no history of heart disease, Monday was particularly dangerous. While there were an average of 8.2 heart attack deaths for Tuesdays through Sundays, Mondays were three times as lethal.

* weekly cycles of violent crime;

* in France, automotive lemons are referred to as "Monday cars;"


Certainly one driving force behind these weekly cycles is the rhythm of working (or "week") days and days of the weekend. Speaking of manmade times that have come to accrue a sense of "naturalness" and to compartmentalize a very clear set of "appropriate" social activities, the weekend is one of the most obvious.

Yet this special time for familial, religious, leisure, and consumptive activities is a historically-recent creation. According to W. R. in Waiting for the Weekend, the Oxford English Dictionary finds the earliest recorded use of the word in an 1879 English magazine. Battles over the precise meaning of this time continue. Through the eighteenth century when the workweek concluded on Saturday evenings, not only was Sunday the only weekly "day off" but was to be a day of moral restraint (no merriment please) and religious ritual. This was the legacy of the Reformation and Puritanism; Sunday was the weekly holy day, a time designed to displace Catholicism's numerous saints' and religious festival days. But then there is the fact that work time and play time was more blurred in the past, unlike their strict segregation nowadays. The workplace featured a number of recreational activities. R. notes how trade guilds often organized their own outings and singing and drinking clubs.

In 1926, H. F. closed all of his factories on Saturdays--not to increase time for moral reflection or personal development but to increase consumption. But it was not until the Great Depression that the two-day weekend became firmly fixed, and that was to remedy the shortage of jobs.



Another Month Ends All Targets Met All Systems Working All Customers Satisfied All Staff Eager and Enthusiastic All Pigs Fed and Ready to Fly. --Entry in Weekly Schedule of New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Like the days of the week, each month has a rich folklore tradition of associated beliefs shaping the course of human activity. Take a look at the Les tres riches heures du Duc de B. at the Paris Webmuseum. Each month has its own portrait featuring the activities of the peasants and aristocracy. Is it not interesting how varied the monthly activities are even for the peasants, especially compared with nearly indistinguishable monthly activities of the contemporary post-industrial "peasants" working in fast food franchises and malls?

For events associated with each day of the month in addition to material on Black, Women's, and Lesbian and Gay History Months click here.

As portions of the day and week have taken on their own separate meanings and activities, so too do we see differing rhythms of the month (even though they are generally less significant to our lives than the seasons in which they are grouped). There are, for example, times of the month to pay bills or to summarize economic activities of the previous four weeks.



In examining the natural rhythms of life,, a number of seasonally-related phenomena were observed, such as: 

* Since the turn of the century, wills are most frequently made in the spring-in the months of April, May, and June.

* When examining college student reports of relationships concluding with boyfriends and girl friends, Z. R., C. T. H. and L. P. found the large majority of breakups took place during May/June, September, and December/January.


What annual social rhythms can you think of that cannot be accounted for by biometeorological factors?




Here we consider such rhythms as the liberal-conservative cycles studied by political scientists, the boom-bust cycles detected by economists, the rural-urban migration cycles measured by demographers, and the cycles of nostalgia and utopianism analyzed by sociologists.

The Longwave and Social Cycles Resource Centre

Wm. M.'s Time Page

US Economy: Business Cycle Indicators

The Coming Collapse

Foundation For The Study Of Cycles




In Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th Century: Vol. III The Perspective of the World, F. B. develops the various endless periodic movements shaping human life. The combination of these movement forms what he calls the conjuncture, affecting economics, politics, demographics, crime, artistic movements, and popular culture. Of these he writes:  

These conjunctures, just like the tide, carry on their backs the shorter movements of more short-term waves. Each can be studied during its upward trend, peak and crisis, and downward trend, and then how its phase synchronizes with the other social movements. For instance, historians have observed how economic declines can encourage cultural explosions. In describing the creative surges spawned by the collapse of cultures, H. I. writes: 

With a weakening of protection of organized force, scholars put forth greater efforts and in a sense the flowering of the culture comes before its collapse. Minerva's owl begins its flight in the gathering dusk not only from classical Greece but in turn from Alexandria, from Rome, from Constantinople, from the publican cities of Italy, from France, from Holland, and from Germany (Innis, 1951:5).

In speaking of the surge of creativity in war-ravaged Lebanon, C.R., president of Lebanon's state-run television system, reflected in 1982: "A political shock is always pregnant with cultural achievement. When simply walking down the street becomes a matter of life and death, people start to ask themselves very fundamental questions. And what is culture if not expressions of man's questioning himself about his ultimate destiny"?



So how are these various rhythms experienced by the individual?  

* they provide a sense of temporal order, giving people a framework for making social life predictable. As Mark Twain put it: "Time is nature's way of preventing everything from happening all at once." The antithesis: the feelings of suspension, of being somehow "lost" during a vacation when without a schedule.

* contributing to time's ability to shape a sense of social order are the temporal boundaries marking the beginning and conclusion of a social performance. Enter, for instance, the power of temporal deadlines, which demand not only the culmination of social projects but, like the life reviews of those on their deathbeds or students' crammings for final examinations, also demand summative reflections as to the net meaning of the entire social enterprise. Individuals are classified in terms of how they react to such timetables. Among the more notable types are the procrastinators .

* time is the container of not only our social actions but our emotions as well, evidenced in our temporal feeling rules. The holiday season, for instance, can often elicit depression among those who sense that they are supposed to feel joyous and yet feel they aren't.

* out of the normal rhythms of various social activities arise socially expected durations. When durational expections are violated, individuals experience a form of temporal frustration called impatience.

* temporal commitment = social commitment. To what extent does the time individuals spend in a particular role shape their self-understanding of what they think are their most important social activities? "I'm spending ten hours a day doing this-- it must be really important to me."

* temporal oppression. The greater the social control the more likely the timing of one's activities are programmed by society. In E. G.'s "total institutions," such as prisons and nursing homes, the timing even of such biological processes as eating, sleeping, and defecating is socially dictated.

* temporal conflicts. Because of our numerous role obligations, many of which make potentially limitless temporal demands ("Acme Widgets expects you to give 110%), individuals often feel they are role failures, feeling guilt and stress as a result. The premier example is the working mother, who is torn in two directions by the demands for full-time commitment by both her children and employer.

* temporal scarcity. One consequence of temporal conflicts is the growing sense of time's finiteness. The lack of time seems to rank among Americans' top concerns, echoed in a 1989 Time magazine cover story, "How America Has Run Out of Time," wherein cited were the results of a H. survey showing the amount of leisure time enjoyed by the average American having shrunk 37% since 1973 and how, over the same period, the average workweek including commute time having increased from under 41 to nearly 47 hours.




D. S.'s Longitude (1995) is an engaging story how how the Navigation Problem, that is knowing one's longitude, was ultimately solved by thinking in time. If one always knows what time it is at some agreed-upon zero-meridian (Greenwich, England, where else?) as well as one's own time (by setting the local clock to noon when the sun was directly overhead), then the following calculation can be made: one hour of difference in time equals 15 degrees of longitude separation.

This idea of knowing where we are by using time has evolved considerably, from measuring where we personally are in space to where we are both in our personal and collective endeavors. There are, for instance, the micro-measures of scheduled time: At Oxford's slacks factory in Monticello, Ga., a new system clocks every worker's pace to a thousandth of a minute. The workers, mostly women, are paid according to how their pace compares with a factory standard for their job. An operator who beats the standard by 10% gets a 10% bonus over her base rate. If she lags 10% behind the standard, she has 10% knocked off her wages.

Time is also employed to gauge where our society is in history. Think about the various clocks that we have running: 

* Since 1947 the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has included a "doomsday clock," ticking a countdown to nuclear oblivion. Between 1947 and 1994, the hands have been moved thirteen times.

* The Census Bureau has its population clock. What time is it? It's half past 267 million Americans, thank you.

* The Census Bureau also brings you its Economic Clock.

* The United Nations Development Program maintains a Poverty Clock, tallying the increase since January 17, 1996, in the number of people who live on less than one dollar a day around the world. Time as of November 11, 1997:

* In New York: "Our National Debt: ... Your Family Share ... The National Debt Clock.

* The United Nations Development Program's Poverty Clock ticks off the number of people around the world who are living on less than one dollar a day.

* Among the digital timepieces of the Millennium Institute are those marking the number of species becoming extinct each day and the number of years until one-third will be lost.

* Digital Doomsday is a "digital indicator of the threat to cyber-rights everywhere.

* The Teen Pregnancy Clock. Every 26 seconds another American adolescent becomes pregnant; every 56 seconds an adolescent gives birth.

* In 1993 there appeared in Times Square an electronic billboard that tallies the number of gun-related homicides.

* In Los Angeles: "Smoking Deaths This Year and Counting"

* World POPClock




I've been on a calendar, but never on time. --Marilyn Monroe

One basis of social life is the predictability of others' actions. One way that this is obtained is through the social creation of regulated rhythms and temporal boundaries for specific social activities. From the perspective of individual actors, these periods are understood (and internalized) to be "appropriate times;" culture and society specify not only how things are to be done but when.

This is the essence of what J. R. refers to in Time Wars as "calendrical power." These specified times not only specify the timings of various activities but also become the bases of in-group solidarity and identity. As E. Z. concluded in "Easter and Passover: On Calendars and Group Identity" (American Sociological Review 47 [April 1982]:288),

The calendar helps to solidify in-group sentiments and thus constitutes a powerful basis for mechanical solidarity within the group. At the same time, it also contributes to the establishment of intergroup boundaries that distinguish, as well as separate, group members from "outsiders."

Not surprisingly, changes in group solidarities have historically brought demands for calendrical reform, as can be seen in the Calendar Reform Homepage.

Calendar Land

One World Global Calendar

Calendar Leap Day

Leap Year/Leap Day @ February 29 LEAP DAY - LEAP YEAR 1996

Perpetual Calendar Ecclesiastical Calendar: Enter a Year...

Today Date and Time

The Chinese calendar dates back to what would have been March of 1953 B.C., when Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn all rose with the crescent moon. It must have been an impressive conjunction for they chose it as their Year Zero. Those in the West have no Year Zero: 1 B.C. is immediately follwed by A.D.1.



As is the case for all social endings, the conclusion of a calendrical year brings reflection, comparison, and anticipation. Increasingly it seems there the "Best Ofs" and "Worst Ofs." The year's end brings the National League of Junior Cotillions list of the 10 best- mannered people of the year. Newspaper articles of late December and early January feature box scores of crime rates, rainfall totals, and host of economic measures. And there are "milestone" summaries of who of note had died.

 Chinese New Year



Yahoo - Society and Culture:Holidays

Yahoo - Society and Culture:Holidays:Children'sDays



Return to Times of Our Lives Index Page




Social institutions are the broadest organizers of individuals' beliefs, drives, and behaviors. Evolving to address the separate needs of society (e.g., the military institution out of the need for defense; the family out of the social needs for procreation, socialization, and intimacy), social institutions are free-standing social units with their own inner dynamics and rhythms. Like separate musical scores, each has its own melodies, harmonies, and rhythms. The more powerful a given institution is in any given society, the more likely its times influence everyday life. Many researchers (see, for instance, the Foundation For the Study of Cycles) have detected cyclical patterns of historical change in these chronosystems.

At the personal level, these institutions come to control the social rhythms of life in a process called entrainment. As described by J. McG. and J. K. in Time and Human Interaction: Toward a Social Psychology of Time (Guilford Press, 1986):  

In biological study, the term "entrainment" means, roughly, that an endogenous body rhythm has been "captured," and modified in its periodicity and its phase, by an external cycle with a rhythm near to the one the body rhythm would have had (in its "natural" endogenous form) had it not been thus captured and modified. ...[T]he particular biological cycles most often used to exemplify entrainment are the circadian rhythms that become entrained to the day-night cycle of life on this planet...It is such temporal entrainment of social and organizational behavior--as distinct from the entrainment of physiological and psychological processes--that is of central concern within a social psychology of time.(pp. 43,48)



What is the meaning of family time? Unlike the past, it rarely is interwoven with work time as when families would together farm or operate some small family feed or grocery store. When we nowadays think of family time it is more in the realm of leisure time. And perhaps this intersection is what underlies many of the problems now besetting the institution.

The first institutional time system, or "chronosystem," that we're conditioned by is the family. It is here that we receive our first temporal socializations, specifically, learning how to synchronize one's biological processes with social timetables of others (the feeding schedule becomes the first social constraint). Later the child learns how different activities have their own temporal demands, and it is here that we can see how time is employed by institutions to demarcate their sphere of coordination and control.



One strategy of sociologists is to take a life-cycle approach to family systems, following a couple from courtship and marriage through the death of one spouse. This approach sensitizes us to the various timetables of family life and how they have changed historically: 

* the timetables of courtship. There are, for instance, normative times for dating relationships to become "serious" emotionally and sexually. And do we not tend to smirk at engagements of two weeks or ten years in length?

* the age differences of spouses. One measure of gender bargaining power in a relationship is the age advantage of the male. Over the course of the twentieth century, this advantage has declined from 4 to 2 years, despite the second marriages of males to their "trophy" wives.

* the timetables of first marriage. In 1890 in the United States, males first wed at an average age of 26.1 years and females at 22.0. By 1959, these ages had declined to 22.5 and 20.2, respectively. In 1994, they had increased to 26.7 and 24.5.

* when the first child arrives. In the recent past, society frowned on those born outside of marriage and on births occurring within nine months of "shotgun weddings." Three highly publicized contemporary fertility phenomena involve children having children, the sizable percentage of women having children outside of marriage (now the case in three out of ten births, with the greatest rate among women 20-24 years of age), and the midlife births of career women sensing their "biological clocks." The pregnancy rate for Americans 15 to 19 years old stands at 96 per 1,000, compared with 14 per 1,000 in the Netherlands, 35 in Sweden, 43 in France, 44 in Canada, and 45 in England and Wales. According to a National Survey of Family Growth, of the nearly 16.5 million births to ever-married women that occurred from 1983 through 1988, approximately 5.8 million, or 35 percent, were unintended. Of those, about 30 percent were unwanted, and the other 70 percent were mistimed (wanted at a later time).

* when the last child arrives. In 1960, the average age of an American mother upon the birth of her last child was 26.1 years. With fertility treatments, women as old as 61 have given birth in the 1990s. Such timings determine such things as when the "empty nest" period intersects the mother's biography (also affecting this event is the lengthening period of children remaining with their parents: by the early 1990s, one out of three single men between the ages of 25 and 34 was living with one or both parents).

* when one's spouse dies. Whereas for most of American history one spouse had died before the youngest child left home, owing to life-expectancy increases the average age at which a female is widowed has increased from 53 years in 1890 to over 66 years currently.




A 1987 survey (K., P. W., and S. L. N. 1987. "Time Together Among Dual-Earner Couples." American Sociological Review 52:391-400) of wives from dual-earner couples say they and their husbands spend: 

* 44 minutes daily watching television together

* 36 minutes daily in homemaking and personal care

* 33 minutes daily eating meals together

* 12 minutes daily talking with each other


The same year on ABC's "20/20" (Oct. 30, 1987) the observation was made about how, without many role models outside of their generation, contemporary dual-career couples are receptive to the recipes and advice of numerous experts. There are self-help manuals, such as The Working Relationships--a work book employing many corporate planning techniques to running a marriage, recommending such activities as defining short-term and long-term goals in a personal relationship, staging annual summits that set aside 48 hours to concentrate on such subjects as love, home, and creating a "priority action plan." One problem, of course, is applying hard, rational, bureaucratic management principles to a relationship traditionally (at least for the past two or three generations) based on romantic and spontaneous ideas. But lives have become so busy, so hectic, that there is a need for structure and organization in order to even get by. And then add on top of this what is perhaps the most unpredictable, most spontaneous, most time-demanding, and least organizable of all social elements: young children.

Click here to see spousal differences in time spent in the household division of labor.

A major research tradition in spousal time involves the relationship between the length of marriage and the marital satisfactions of men and women. Things not working out? Nowadays, because of the destigmatization of divorce and the rise of no-fault divorce laws, people have more of an "out" (or at least more of a legal out--desertion rates were high in the past) than was the case. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the following was the percentage of all divorces by duration of marriage in 1987:


< 1 YEAR 4%

1-4 YEARS 34%

5-9 YEARS 26%

10-19 YEARS 25%

20+ YEARS 12%



During the 1970s, the the midst of increasing female participations in the labor force, psychologists came up with the concept of "quality time". This philosophy behind this notion, allaying the guilt often experienced by working mothers, was that it is not the quantity but quality of time parents spend with their children that counts. It came to be thought that if enough special attention was given in a designated, structured amount of time--much like structured business time, where goals are set and then individuals strive to meet them--the amount of time between parents and children would have no bearing on the quality of bonding between them. Good thing. According to P. L., B. S.'s successor in the best-selling "how-to" manual for child-raising, claims that the average time spent between parents and children has dropped 40 percent in the past twenty years (ABC newsmagazine, Aug. 18, 1994).

This type of time is difficult to schedule for it arises from spontaneity. "Just as parents can't dictate the terms for special moments with their children, they can't always predict when their children will most need them" (Parents, 1983). But children's time is on a schedule of its own and frequently doesn't mesh with that of their parents'. Thus, quality time occasionally is not achieved simply because children aren't conscious of the need for "quality time"--they don't realize that they are supposed to experience it.




I will always remember a sign that hung directly under the clock in one of my middle school classrooms: "Time Will Pass But Will You?" A haunting thought for the perpetual clock-watchers of the room.

Of the spectrum of social functions provided by education, one of the most central is its inculcation of social rhythms. It is here that the young child is first subjugated to the universalistic time demands of the broader society and comes to have his/her rhythms of the day, the week, and the year shaped by the obligatory student role. In the instance of homework assignments, as W. E. M. observed in Man, Time, and Society, "the school may extend its temporal control even beyond its physical boundaries and formally allotted hours, with consequent problems for the child and therefore for adults of temporal allocation among family, school, and play or peer-group activities" (1963:24).

The rhythms of this institution, as we will see, echo broadly across many facets of both self and society. At the personal level, they shape individuals' identities and sense of self- worth. At the social level, the time individuals spend in educational systems is used as a means for sorting and certifying them in terms of their adequacy for work roles: greater school time translates into a higher status level entry into the work world. Ironically, society has not kept pace in redesigning jobs to take advantage of its increasingly educated workforce, leading to over-education and underemployment, worker alienation, and boredom. From the social level, schools can also be understood as an abeyance mechanism, a holding pattern designed to keep the young out of an already crowded workforce.

For most American youngsters, school is the major source of lessons about bureaucratic time--lessons in that genre of social rhythms which, if observed, allow one to survive and thrive in American adult society. For the educational neophyte, the shift from the more spontaneous times of family life to the thoroughly structured times of school is a difficult transition indeed. Consider the following lessons:


* the necessity of being punctual. Lateness is defined as being "tardy," a punishable offense. Further, school times are totally arbitrary. Lunch time for my elementary school son begins precisely at 11:51 a.m.

* how time can be used as both punishment (students "do time" or are placed in "time out" for failing to conform to rules) and reward (as when "released" early for having done a good job).

* the importance of being "on time" in terms of one's educational biography. Schooling is rigidly age-based. Age 10 and still in the second grade? Loser. "Skipped" a grade? Winner. Finished college before you are thirteen? You make the newspaper. Educational timetables instill long-range thinking, providing individuals with a normative path that takes one from early childhood to early adulthood.

* precise temporal realms for specific activities, leading to one-at-a-time monochronic thinking. Each subject matter receives its own niche in the flow of school hours. Here middle class students have a distinct advantage over their working class counterparts. The latter, being more likely to have grown up in temporally unstructured homes, do not understand time and feel powerless when placed within time-slotted school environments. Little Billy, for instance, has not finished his coloring during art time and feels resentment when told to put away his crayons for reading time.


Given the centrality of education to the institution of work and given several decades of declining standardized test scores, which are compared with international levels (in the mid-1980s, the United States ranked 49th in illiteracy out of 158 countries), it is not surprising that school times have become a matter of considerable political significance. According to a 1994 study by the National Education Commission on Time and Learning, American high school students spend only 41 percent of their school days on academic subjects and secondary school students spend only about three hours per day on core academics. In total, American students spend about 1,460 hours studying subjects like math, science and history during their four years in high school. Their Japanese, French and German counterparts spend 3,170, 3,280 and 3,528 hours, respectively.

In the state of Texas, this matter of the quantity of time devoted to academic matters in the public schools was to become the holy cause of several powerful individuals, most notably for businessman R. P.. In 1981, the 67th legislature passed House Bill 246, Section 21.101 of which specified that public school teachers be given precise times to devote to various subject matters. This was implemented in 1985 in Chapter 75 (of Title 19) of the Essential Elements of the Texas Legislative Code. Many educators were not happy with the breakdown, perceiving that language arts received the lion's share of time while the natural and social sciences were short changed. But even more significantly, one consequence was to be the segregation of subjects so as to ensure the teachers' new temporal accountabilities. Math, for instance, became divorced from science and social studies; connections between disciplinary endeavors were no longer being actively addressed because they could not be temporally measured. Such unintended developments were to be the seeds of the curricular plan's demise.



The school time gap, like the supposed "missile gap" of the 1960s, has become a favorite topic of media exposes. As of 1996, the average length of the school year in the United States is 180 days, compared to 186 days in Canada and 243 days in Japan. Internationally, Americans students are now perceived to be as temporally disadvantaged as were African-American students in Missippi in 1940, when their school year was but 124 days while that of whites was 160.

Given this self-imposed 180-day school year limit, coupled with increasingly crowded classrooms (guaranteeing greater variety in student learning rates within a class), complaints against the messages delivered and quality of teaching, and the exponential growth rate of knowledge, one can understand why American schools find themselves experimenting in chronoeducation in their race against time. With "block scheduling", classes have been lengthened, typically from 40 to 66 minutes. As the school day is no longer long enough to cover all subject matters, class schedules become "rotated" with students taking a given subject matter not only on different days of the week but different times of the day. Such shufflings are legitimated, in part, with the argument that given differences in the times when students are most alert and most receptive to certain types of knowledge (Is there a best time of day to take math? art? And how might schools accommodate students like those at this university, where four out of ten identify themselves as "evening people" and three out of ten as "night owls"?), the temporal playing field becomes leveled out.

In addition to these increasingly complex school times let's not forget the year-round schooling movement, backed by such proponents as San Diego's National Association for Year-Round Education. What does one do as a working parent with two children, one in elementary and the other in middle school, both on year-round academic calendars but different in their six-weeks-on/two- weeks-off cycle? Gone with this format is the academic rhythm of old (which was based on a 19th century agricultural-economic schedule), featuring the wonderful closure of a school year ending and the "clean slate" of a new school year beginning.

Well, if you managed your time correctly in primary and secondary school it could be college time. A new admissions strategy is to make an early application to one's first choice. The game goes thusly: one makes an early application to an institution and in exchange for the promise that one applies no where else one will be notified "early" about acceptance or rejection. By 1997, sizable proportions of the entering classes at the most selective schools were being so accepted: 50% at Harvard, 35% at Dartmouth, and 30% at the University of Virginia. One interesting consequence is that those who take advantage of the early admission process are more likely to be white and affluent. Those from minority and less financially secure families tend to apply later, desiring to compare financial aid packages, and thereby diminish their chances for admission as those from the early applicant pool fill the available slots (source: Ethan Bronner, "Early admission process alters colleges, to the regret of some,"New York Times, Dec. 26, 1997).



 In Time Wars, J. R. writes:

In our educational system, a premium is placed on how fast we can recite an answer or solve a problem. Pondering, reflecting, and musing might well be encouraged in other cultures but play little or no role as modes of thought in the American educational system. Keeping up requires quick absorption of material and even faster recall. Children are taught to compete with the clock in classrooms across the country. Exams are cued to time deadlines and achievement is measured by how many answers can be completed in the time allotted. Our society is unwavering in its belief that intelligence and speed go together and that the bright child is always the fastest learner.




All mankind is of one author, and is of one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another.

--John Donne, Devotions

Consider the variety of ways religion involves time. There are the escapes from daily routines during Holy Weeks or observances of the Sabbath, the Book of Hours of the Middle Ages, the religious rituals marking the various phases of one's biography (e.g., the baptismals following birth, the transitions into adulthood such as the bar mitzvahs, marriage ceremonies, and the funeralizations following death), the "born again" experiences engendered by religious faith, and the saints associated with each day of the Catholic calendar. The first historians were strongly religious individuals. The precision and reliability of our clocks stems from medieval monks' concerns with praying on time. A key temporal legacy of early Christianity to the West is a linear conception of time, from which such ideas as that of progress and evolution evolved. As Richard Morris (Time's Arrows: Scientific Attitudes Toward Time, 1985:11) pointed out:  

The early Christian writers stressed the importance of individual historical events that would not be repeated. History, they said, did not move in cycles. On the contrary, there had been a Creation at a particular point in time. Christ had died on the Cross but once, and had been resurrected from the dead on but one occasion. Finally, at some point in the future, God's plan would be completed, and He would--once and for all- -bring the world to an end.

And then, of course, there's our squirreliness over the millennium.



Religious time is set up against profane time, time as wear-and-tear, time as decay, time as death. The time frame of ultimate existence and of moral truths must be of a different realm, and this is the sacred. Not only does this supramundane orientation to time make death a transition instead of an ending, but allows religions to conceptualize and integrate the net sum of human activity. Our separate endeavors, as well as those of our ancestors and successors, are but unrelated discrete events, much like the separate notes of music, unless there's some overarching frame of reference to integrate them into some harmonic whole. Part of the religion's role is to give this broader temporal perspective to everyday life, to provide the sense of coherency and comprehensibility to both personal and social experiences, and to place generations now alive in context of those dead and those yet to be born.

One way humans have attempted to participate in this sacred time is by replicating the activities of one's ancestors. What is sacred is the order that links our activities with an overarching meaning. Sacred time is the collapse of the past and future into an eternal now so that the heroics of our ancestors and our descendants are forever part of the present (as opposed to profane time, which is time as decay or entropy). To accurately repeat the rituals of one's ancestors, as in a traditional ceremonial dance, is to participate in sacred time. In this sense, the expeditions of T. H. and the duplication of the voyages of the Godspeed (the ship carrying tradesmen and farmers to Jamestown in 1607) and the Mayflower, while supposedly being scientific and historical enterprises, are -in fact- religious rituals. In addition to religious ritual, religious artifacts also play a role in this connecting of the generations. To further achieve this sense of continuity (the experience A. H. captured in Roots), Catholics often pass down through generations of family members such things as baptismal robes, confirmation veils and coffin crucifixes, while Jews pass down the Talit, Tefillin, Kiddush Cup and Menorah. The family Bible is not only passed on, but is often the place where family genealogical records are maintained.

To even establish such intergenerational continuities requires that the identities of the dead be remembered. And, again, religion has been a major institution source of such recollections. The Jews, for instance, have the Chevra Kevod Hamet (Society to Honor the Dead). Churches maintain records of their baptisms, marriages and funerals. But it is the Mormon church which has perhaps gone to the greatest lengths in this country to preserve the memories of the deceased. Believing that you must "seek after your dead" to insure a reunion with them in the Celestial Kingdom, not only must your own dead be recalled, but (since no human can be less closely related to any other human than approx- imately fiftieth cousin) those of everyone else as well. The Genealogical Society of Utah houses this "family of men."

Biblical Timeline

Ecclesiastical Calendar: Enter a Year...

Easter in Cyberspace: A Christian Perspective

CBS's Mysteries of the Millennium

Ignatius Donnelly and the End of the World

Current Events and End Times Prophecy


Number of seconds till Millenium-2001

Kearl's investigations into Americans' faith in an afterlife


In the West, matters of science and religion are typically understood to be of two separate domains, one of the material world and the other of the immaterial. For an interesting attempt to fuse the temporalities of these two domains (and thereby reveal commonalities between Darwinism and creationism), see Dr. David Bryson's Anthropic Timetable, wherein the history of the universe is analyzed in terms of centuries taken to various powers: century5=birth of universe, century4=mid- Cretaceous, century3=human exodus from Africa, etc.




"Remember that time is money."


"For a businessman, time is money, but for an academic or artist, money is time."

--L. R.

If you want work well done, select a busy man -- the other kind has not time.

--E. H.

As can be gathered from the TimeWork Resources Page, of all institutions it may well be work times that have the most pervasive influence on cultural time systems. At a macro level, economic cycles are thoroughly interwoven with demographic and political cycles. At the individual level, since work provides the archetype of reality (with all other provinces of meaning being but modifications), work time has come to predominantly shape both biographical time and one's everyday timetables. A sampling of issues: 


* cycles of boom and bust. (Also see cycles' summary from Harvard, U.S. Business Cycle Indicators, and don't forget taking a look at the Consumer Price Index Page.

* how the economy can grow too fast or too slow. In 1994, on the eve of the Fed's raising the interest rate for the sixth time of the year, we were informed by economists that the rate of economic growth, 3 percent, was too fast and should be closer to 2.5 percent. Their logic is that if economies grow too fast supplies will become limited, which will lead to an increase in prices and--eventually--worker demands for increased salaries. In other words, speed causes inflation.

* how with the evolution of capitalism time metamorphized into a commodity, something to be wasted, shared, or saved.

* time as a basis of reimbursement across occupations and social classes--e.g., being paid by the hour instead of being salaried.

* the mobility time-tables of different professions and occupations (my hypothesis is the higher the social status of the occupation, the later one "peaks" in one's profession).

* industry type by degree of future time orientation (i.e., having 10-, 20-, even 30-year plans for the future).

* how time can legitimate a business, e.g. "Serving San Antonio Since 1896" vs. "Since 1991."

* the social movement for a thirty-hour workweek

* how companies can either grow too fast or too slow.

* temporal recognitions of various occupations and professions, such as National Secretary's Day.

* just in time manufacturing.

* the emergence of flex-time and alternative work schedules, correlated with the entry of women into the workforce.

* the history of the mandatory retirement controversy.

* "Whistle While You Work: Putting the rhythms of work to music. As work shifts from the physical to the mental, what are the songs of post-industrial laborers?

* and, of course, deadlines. Webster's Dictionary defines the word "deadline" as "a line drawn within or around a prison that a prisoner passes only at the risk of being instantly shot," but few people today recognize this "spatial threat" as the word's primary meaning, Professor Y.-F. T. observed during a centennial conference on "Chronotypes: The Construction of Time" (Stanford University, 1988). "Almost all the deadlines we know have to do with time," and the wristwatch has become our "symbol of enslavement," he said.



Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

--E.'s Observation

K.M. argued that the "raising of wages leads to overwork among the workers. The more they want to earn, the more they must sacrifice their time and perform slave labour in which their freedom is totally alienated...In so doing they shorten their lives" (1964:71). "Thus, even in the state of society which is the most favorable to the worker, the inevitable result for the worker is overwork and premature death, reduction to a machine, enslavement to capital" (p.73).

Nearly three-quarters of a century later, H. W. observed that "Despite an increasing age of entry into the labor force and a decreasing age of exit, men today work more years over the life cycle then they did in 1920" (1961:36). Taking note of the large number of rest days and holidays historically observed, he argues that the modern worker has achieved about the same amount of leisure as his counterpart in the Thirteenth century. According to archaeologists, hunters and gathers spent an estimated 3.5 hours/work per day.

Click here to see


* Americans' feelings about being rushed and bored

* Feelings of being rushed by age and sex

* Feelings of being rushed by social class and sex

* Cross-cultural studies of sleep time of employed men and women during days off


Academy of Leisure Studies

Leisure Studies WebPage

Nadya Labi's "Burning Out at Nine?" Article summarizing the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research findings how children's leisure time had declined from 40% to 25% of the day between 1981 and 1997.




Americans spend more of their leisure time shopping (5.7 hours/week, including travel) than any other activity with the exception of television watching (17 hours) and eating (7.9 hours) (data from an unpublished 1985-87 study by J. P. R. of the University of Maryland Survey Research Center). Consuming brings its own rhythms:


* the ever-expanding "Holiday Season," with decorated Christmas trees now appearing in late September in department stores;

* there are new consumptive "seasons," such as the "back-to-school," "prespring," and "prefall" seasons (the latter, starting in early June, representing anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of clothing stores' fall purchases, with designer shows in mid-February);

* the demise of holidays as they are collapsed into indistinguishable, roughly bi- monthly three-day sales periods (e.g., Presidents' Day Sales, Memorial Day Sales, Fourth of July Sales, and Labor Day Sales);

* as the market requires a continuous influx of new merchandise, different products have their own months for special sales;

* Sunday shopping and materialism's encroachment on the sabbeth (it was in 1972 when such NYC department stores as A&S, Macy's, Ohrbach's, Franklin Simon and Gertz first opened on the holiday despite protests from public sector);

* buying "on time," where over the long run one pays more in exchange for having the product now (in early 1996, credit card debt was up over 50% over 1994 levels);

* to get us to consume, Madison Avenue pushes several "time buttons." For instance, in late 1994 J. D. moved beyond the bourbon business and began advertising for its new beer, "J. D.s 1866 Amber Beer" (I guess that was a good suds year, promoting post-Civil War decompression). If sales are going down, one can always label one's product "Classic." Whereas the 1974 issue of Trade Names Dictionary listed 60 Classics, by the 1985-86 issue some 221 products were so listed, including Classic Pet Food.


* and finally there's the logic of video rental time: pay three times as much for a wretched release because it's "new" than for an old movie classic. and finally there's the logic of video rental time: pay three times as much for a wretched release because it's "new" than for an old movie classic.






small car

607 hrs. 24 min.

3,087 hrs. 42 min.

7,935 hrs. 54 min.

686 hrs. 16 min.

color television

96 hrs. 13 min.

846 hrs. 9 min.

681 hrs. 6 min.

34 hrs. 18 min.

washing machine

66 hrs. 40 min.

528 hrs. 51 min.

90 hrs. 18 min.

29 hrs. 24 min.

men's suit

13 hrs. 16 min.

67 hrs. 18 min.

128 hrs. 48 min.

19 hrs. 48 min.

pork chops (2.205 lbs)

54 min.

1 hr. 32 min.

3 hrs. 42 min.

38 min.

daily newspaper (1 mo.)

1 hr. 27 min.

42 min.


1 hr. 28 min.

loaf of bread

13 min.

6 min.

46 min.

12 min.

Sources: Chicago Tribune, West German Consulate General, San Antonio Express-News (May 4, 1990). Note: Figures are based on national average prices and median incomes.

Similarly using work time as opposed to real prices, the 1997 Annual Report of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas examined the declining costs of living over the past century (W. M. C. and R. A.'s "Time Well Spent: The Declining Real Cost of Living in America" [pdf format]). For instance, whereas in 1916 it took the average worker 3,162 hours to earn enough for a refrigerator, 80 years later it took 68 hours.

R. S.'s Inflation Conversion Factors page (convert into 1998, 1997, etc. dollars)

Buy Nothing Day



As is the case with the temporalities of other institutions, the relationship between time and political systems is multifarious. So central is time to political life that one of the first acts of the French Revolutionary government was to create the Thermidor, an entirely new temporal reality symbolizing individuality, secularity and rationality. It featured a 10- day week (thereby eliminating Sundays), 10-hour days, and 100-minute hours. In 1929, again to curb religious observances, the Soviet Union created five-day weeks. Both temporal tamperings were to fail.




In his The Cycles of American History (H. M., 1986), A. S. observes American cycles of "reform," with renewed dedication to "public purpose," and "conservativism," featuring withdrawals to "private interest." Bursts of governmental energe have occurred roughly every thirty years (T. R. in 1901, F. D. R. in 1933, K. in 1961) alternating with the conservative restorations of the 1920s, the 1950s and the 1980s.

One force undoubtedly underlying such shifts is economic. K. P., in The Politics of Rich and Poor: Wealth and the American Electorate in the R. Aftermath (Random House, 1990), notes how these times of private interests lead to increasing inequalities, leading to depressions, Populism, and demands for wealth redistribution. Consider the parallels between the 1980s, the 1920s, and the Guilded age:



* conservative Republican Presidents who bring tax cuts that lead to a major redistribution of wealth, with high concentrations in hands of top 1% and especially to tenth of the top one percent.

* extremely pro-business eras featuring the themes of less government is better, greed is okay, and disbelief in labor;

* substantial reorganization of business and finance institutions;

* periods of economic disinflation featuring the bust of the commodities market (e.g., TX & LA oil) and boom in finances;

* two-tier economy with strong regionalism;

* record levels of debt and speculation.

Click here to see


* Americans' political leanings, 1952-92

* Intensity of Americans' partisanship, 1952- 92



More successful have been political attempts to implement daylight-savings time, but not without a battle. In 1996, after 70 years of local experiments, considerable controversy, and as a condition of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico finally went on daylight-saving time.

For the United States, it was the energy conservation needs of two world wars (R. called it "War Time") that provided the incentive to spring ahead an hour in April and to fall back an hour in October. But "Standard Time" often returned with peace. People complained, for instance, that the government was tampering with "God's time," that the extra hour of sunlight was upsetting livestock and burning yards! A Congressional two- year experiment with year-round daylight-saving time, beginning on January 6, 1974, lasted only one complaint-filled season. The months falling within daylight-saving time were reduced between 1975 and 1987, when Congress passed an amendment to the Uniform Time Act that gave most Americans the current seven month daylight-saving time.

In September of 1991, Soviets turned their clocks back an hour to correct a Stalin era mistake--officials had failed to return to winter time after six months of daylight-saving time. When the country reintroduced daylight-saving time and set clocks ahead an hour in the spring of 1981, summer civil time became two hours ahead of solar-based time.

DST page from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign


Other topics in political temporalities: 

* The inevitable life-cycle of the rise and fall of regimes, "injured by time" as Aristotle put it.

* How voter apathy derives from high expectations and perceptions of the slow pace of social change. For instance, some women complain about the pace of change in female rights in the workplace and some African-Americans complain about their pace of assimilation into the American mainstream.

* How needs for short-term payoffs (e.g., representatives having to have something to show their constituencies every two years) have damaged long-term political goals, undermining the values and institutions of stable democratic regimes.

The movement toward setting term-limits for elected officials. * The use of anniversary rituals to legitimate beleaguered regimes (e.g., the Shah's celebrations of Iran's 5,000th anniversary, or the bicentennial hoopla in this country in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate).

* The public-relations value of dispensing bits of time to special interest groups (i.e., National Realtors Week, Grandparents' Day, National Nursing Home Residence Day, National Family Week, and National Amateur Wrestling Week).


A. B. 's "I'm Dreaming of a White National Cheese Day: The Selling of the American Calendar"

Presidential Proclamation Days/Weeks




Science gives us the ultimate of temporal perspectives, ranging from the billion-year time frames for grasping the birth and death of the entire universe to the nanosecond frames for grasping the the birth and death of subatomic processes.

UCMP Geological Time Machine

Spacetime Splashes: Catching the Wave in E.'s Equations

I.D. and the End of the World

N.'s Timelines and Scales of Measurement List

National Science & Technology Week




The world of my young sons features two working parents, day care, Nintendo, shopping malls, microwave meals, and a suburban neighborhood filled with kids. They are raised to assume that if one pushes the right buttons the garage door will open or the television comes on, that Dad can be talked to--even though he is miles away--from Mom's car phone, that Grandma can be visited in two hours even though she lives 600 miles away, and that people have walked on the moon and returned home at speeds of 25,000 miles an hour.

Their grandparents were raised in a society of farms and small towns, in which children often worked to help support the family by milking the cows or selling loaves of bread for a dime apiece. They were raised to assume that the human voice can travel via radio waves, that some people have telephones but must wait until others are off the community line to place a call, that grandparents living 600 miles away can be reached in a day and a half by train, and that speeds of 200 miles an hour have been reached in airplanes.

Then there's the perspective of the boys' great-grandparents, who were born in the late nineteenth century when V. was the queen of England, or in the early twentieth century during the presidency of T. R.. Most people entered the world not in hospital delivery rooms but in the family home by the light of a kerosene lamp. Most were raised on remote farms on the plains and in the Far West, where they played with imaginary friends, socialized during weekend visits to town, and received their formal education from their parents.

Over the past few centuries humanity has witnessed the most dramatic and rapid cultural transformations ever known. So great, in fact, has this rate become that each generation now alive absorbs within its lifetime an amount of technological and social change that traditionally occurred over the course of many centuries. What are the social and psychological implications of such rapid rate of social change? How does it affect our orientations to the past and to the future?



Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

--G. S.

Whoever controls the past controls the future. Whoever controls the present controls the past.

--G. O.

[paraphrase] History is the playing of tricks on the dead.


History is the ship carrying living memories to the future.

--Sir S.S., British poet and critic

The nature of collective memory and the processes of historical revisionism have intrigued me for some time. For instance, consider the proposition that it is at the age of nine when a public event creates a lasting impression on a person's memory. If this be the case then in 1998: * 98.5% of Americans are too young to remember the first time women could vote;

* 86% do not remember the ending of World War II (in fact 77% of living Americans were born after this watershed event);

* 79% cannot recall the 1954 Supreme Court ruling that began to outlaw racial segregation;

* 73% of Americans do not remember Russia's launching of Sputnik I;

* 68% do not recall the assassination of President Kennedy;

* 48% cannot remember the 1974 Arab oil embargo against the U.S.;

* and 45% are too young to recollect the American Bicentennial (in fact, slightly less than one-third of Americans were born since that event) .


For an example of the kind of inquiries that I am engaged in (pardon the academic prose) click here for explorations into the implications of historical ignorance.

Some Web sites capturing this idea:

Calendar Zone

440 International's Those Were the Days (a "this day in history" format)

History Channel's This Day in History

Today in History

Yahoo - Arts:Humanities:History:Today in History

Historical Recreations in Art from the National Museum of American Art

Kearl's History Page




Yahoo - Social Science:Women's

Studies:History:Women's History Month

National Women's History Project

Herstory: Une Exposition

Education First's Black History Month Website

The Universal Afrocentric Events Calendar

Cinco de Mayo.

This Week's Queer




Mexico's Cinco. de Mayo observances




Through their museums, monuments, historic districts, and street names, cities commemorate their heroes and preserve memories of their collective pasts. Of the urban renewal campaigns of the immediate postwar era, S. K. observed (in PBS's "America By Design: Public Places and Monuments," Fall, 1987):


Destroyed were old buildings which told us who we are, what we've been through, what we are apprised or allowed. They are a tangible record of our existence as a people. We erase that record bit by bit, and in so doing we deny ourselves the comfort of our collective past. We Americans have been enthusiastic destroyers. Our new towers deny tradition. There are no story-telling declarations. ...Most of us demand sign posts that remind us where we came from and that lead us toward our identity.

Currently, historic preservations are on the rebound. As cities become indistinguishable with their malls and national franchises, it is their pasts that make them unique.

National Trust for Historic Preservation Wichita, Kansas Western Heritage Tour



Just as individuals need a sense of order in their biographical experiences, there are both personal and social needs for individuals to transcend their own lives and to understand their own biographies within the context of those of their ancestors and successors. The experience of community, for instance, has a retrospective aspect, involving "a tradition carried from generation to generation...[wherein] the living acknowledge the work of the dead as living on in themselves forever" (M., 1949:160). Then there's the prospective aspect, described by B. R. as "making part of one's life part of the whole stream and not a mere stagnant puddle without any overflow into the future." The symbolic representations of such continuity are deeply woven into the fabric of religious symbolism (B., 1964), inculcating a trust in the continuities of life, of one's people, of one's works for others, and allowing one to see them comprising a long chain of meaningful being.

One way humans have attempted to participate in this sacred time is by replicating the activities of their ancestors. What is sacred is the order that links our activities with an overarching meaning. Sacred time is the collapse of the past and future into an eternal now so that the heroics of our ancestors and our descendants are forever part of the present. To accurately repeat the rituals of one's ancestors, as in a traditional ceremonial dance, is to participate in sacred time. In this sense, the expeditions of T. H. and the duplication of the voyages of the Godspeed (the ship carrying tradesmen and farmers to Jamestown in 1607) and the Mayflower, while being scientific and historical enterprises, may also be religious rituals. The Civil War Reenactors Home Page



The word "nostalgia" was coined by an Alsatian medical student from the Greek words for "home" and "pain." In short, homesickness. Nostalgia for older values may well represent a natural response to major social upheaval.

It seems as though retro has become the leit motif of popular culture in the 1990s. In 1992 there appeared in my mailbox the Pastimes catalogue featuring fifties-style bikes, models of autos from the 1920s on, models of WW II aircraft, Roman numeral clocks, Civil War vessels, sailing vessels in bottles, paper models of Wrigley Field, quilt designs, and Victorian rocking horses. "Adult rock"--e.g., the moldy oldies--fills the radio spectrum. The proliferation of "Classic" labels: Classic Coke, Classic Rock, Classic Dinners, Classic baseball fields, etc. Of the shows opening on Broadway in 1995, fully one-half were revivals. Television shows of the fifties and sixties have become big screen movies in the nineties. Have you wondered what is going on? Among the suspected forces:


*millennial dynamics, when forward looking has been put on hold until we pass the great threshold;

* the entry of the massive Boomer generation into midlife, a life-cycle time of retrospection, biographical assessment, and idealization of the past (a related thesis: the phenomenon involves generational reaffirmation, whereby dominant midlife generations assert the ethos of their early adulthoods in reaction to that of generations coming of age--hence the "Trumania" of the late 1970s when the Silent Generation hit midlife);

* a cultural backlash to the dramatic social upheaval and technological change which undermined Americans' psychic moorings.

Hype's Nostalgic Wave - A Continuing Search for Pop Culture Icons from the Past!

Digital Nostalgia

Yesterday USA and Heritage Radio Theater present old time radio shows


A. & A. Show

Nostalgia ChannelProgramming


Fifties Website Home Page

Rewind the Fifties The 50's

Lorraine's Sixties Page

Crunch - Cereal Box Collection



If men could foresee the future, they would still behave as they do now.

--Russian Proverb

The ability to predict what is going to happen (and, ideally, when and where), to anticipate challenges to one's intended goals, is the core strategy of human endeavors. From the divining from sheep entrails to the readings of computer-generated weather forecast simulations, humans have always attempted to plan for (and hence be able to affect the course of) future events. Of course, acting on such predictions has led to self-fulfilling prophecies and to unintended consequences.

When you think about it, an impressive portion of the labor force is involved in the business of futurology. There are, for instance, the:


* meteorologists, such as those who successfully forecasted the 1993 Midwest floods and made killings in the futures markets by predicting crop destructions;

* geologists who forecast earthquakes;

* the economists, those who, as the line goes, have supposedly given soothsayers a bad name. These folks extrapolate from their special collection of "leading indicators" to divine short- and long-term economic trends;

* political analysts who predict voter trends in forthcoming elections or the stability of foreign regimes;

* military strategists, who anticipate the actions of adversaries and allies;

* various stripes and breeds of social forecasters, such as the demographers whose forecasts show future needs for more schools, highways, or nursing homes;

* cultural forecasters who attempt to divine future trends in fads, fashions, and viewing and listening preferences;

* sports analysts and handicappers, who make the beginning-of-the-season projections of winning teams;

* and, of course, those involved in astrology (in addition to N. R., some 7% of Americans say they have altered their plans because of astrological reports) and other parapsychological projections.

Futureweb: Website of the Future Program at the University of Houston

Time magazine's "Visions of the 21st Century"

Messages from the Future Page

Predicting the future using internet Delphi methodology



With the conclusion of the Twentieth Century, it is fascinating to compare life now with what was prophesized by such writers as E. B.and H.G. W.. What faulty assumptions or unexpected developments account for their predictions that failed? What principles of historical processes permitted accurate extrapolations of the future?

Center for Utopian Studies--with links to 1893, 1934 and 1939 Worlds Fairs, and to works of A. W. and E. B.



You have undoubtedly heard the poem ascribing personality characteristics given the day one was born: "Monday's child is full of grace, ..." To what extent does the crisis of leadership in the United States owe to the birth days of recent Presidents? Click below to find out:


Fate determined by birthdate



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