Posts Tagged ‘capitalism’

In “Technics and Civilization,” Lewis Mumford states a case for the mechanical clock being the birth of technology – of standardization, punctuality, and even modern capitalism.

To own a watch was a decadence only the bourgeois could afford, and it was seen as a symbol of success.

Say what? Of success – really? We have become literal slaves to time. Even Mumford could see in the 1930s that the ideas of adding time and saving time, though abstract and socially constructed, are treated as if they are absolutely real. That is not to say the consequences of “time” or “saving time” are not real, in fact that is the point I’m trying to make.

Ever list “time management” as a skill in a job interview? I know I sure have. Ever sit back and think what that means, exactly? That you are particularly good at organizing all the hours of your day so that you can be as efficient as possible? Does being especially efficient make me happy? No. While I can understand that being organized leaves me more time – pun intended – to do what does make me happy, I always feel the dark cloud of time, accessibility, and technology hanging over my head.

Has technology robbed us of all the joy in life? Okay, even I admit that was a little melodramatic – but think about it! We grasp onto these new inventions like they are a cure for a terminal illness while we’re in our death throes. Do we ever stop and think about what it might mean to us as a society?

I honestly do not know how I would manage my life without technology, and especially keeping track of time – I wholeheartedly admit it – but it is this idea that I have to “manage” my life in the first place that bothers me.

An interesting video including audio of the infamous Zimbardo of the Stanford prison experiments speaking about personality characteristics he’s theorized are associated with certain orientations to time:

Critique of “Technics and Civilization” p. 12-18 by Lewis Mumford:

This was a particularly interesting reading and a great reading to introduce in week two of our Communications and Technology course. I speak only for myself of course, but I can imagine most people having their minds blown to truly think about this “product” of time that is created by the machine that is the clock. Of course, time is only a social construction – but that hasn’t stopped us from attaching such great meaning to time that it pervades every aspect of our lives. At least, it has stealthily made its way into nearly every aspect of my life, like a socially constructed ninja. I found the reading quite interesting, and thankfully, not so long that I couldn’t summarize it’s key components. It presents information in such a way that asks the reader to think critically.

Time: Stealthy like a Ninja! Image courtesy of



Mumford, L. (1986). The Monastery and the Clock. In Fernyhough, L. (Ed.), Comm 105: Communication and Technology. Course Package: Winter 2012, (pp. 1-4). Victoria, BC: Camosun College Bookstore. (Reprinted from The Lewis Mumford Reader, 12-18).