The evolution of time is fascinating as research topic. Both in theoretical as well as empirical approaches. Beyond the precise measurement of time and the use of time in measuring working time, which intensified during the industrial revolution, we witness continued struggles over the length and the organisation of working time. The 30+X hours week working time could be reorganised into a 4-days week to improve work-life balances for millions of people. The effects are not only on employees directly concerned, but also on their families and/or households involved.
The changing perception of time (as being short of time) and its evolution over time needs huge surveys collected over time (known as “Time use studies”). Inequality over the life course remains an issue with a persistent gender bias. Unhealthy and excessive overtime work is still a problem, usually negated by upper ranks in hierarchies.
Let us start to imagine different concepts of time to maybe one day overcome the shortcomings of our current understanding and use of time. Usually, time is considered a linear concept, one day follows another day and so on. Time, depicted as an arrow or a horizontal axis in graphical representations, is helpful for most processes we observe. If our aim is to explain a social process which evolves over time, we could perceive time as running with different speed in, for example, urban and rural areas of the same country. The liberalisation of women or peace movements evolved or spread with different speed in different regions. The 60s became known for many women as the decade when the control of reproduction allowed different life styles. Concerning reproductive behaviour and divorce rates a break in series compared to previous periods is observable, reduction of reproduction and diffusion of divorce throughout societies. Instead of continuous time we might speak of discrete time, in for example decades like the 60s, 70s, 80s. In retrospect “social time” seems to have passed faster in one decade than the other. We might also imagine time as growing exponentially as time². Taking into account the slowing down and successive rise again of evolution over time, the time trend might look like a rising wave (time² + time³). In econometric models testing of such hypotheses is feasible, although it is more difficult to convince reviewers of an alternative theoretical model of time.
An investigation of trends of democratic behaviour over time would need to adjust for the potential and sometime measurable return of undemocratic practices for periods. A depiction of such “social time” of democracies as an upward rising line with periodic relapses is a plausible theoretical framework. Trajectories of inwards or outwards spiralling processes are already fairly complex trends for the process of democratisation as the phenomenon to explain or the modelling of a time trend to explain the level of democratisation reached so far. Challenges of time frames for independent and dependent variables in social processes might be questioned altogether to claim that time is a spurious occurrence of events much like a process of a so-called “Brownian motion” also named white noise. In fact, not being explicit about the concept of time applied in social analyses amounts to a severe neglect. Examples of such neglect are certainly all those cross-section studies, still pervasive practice, in social sciences or opinion polls. The linear concept of time, as a chronologically processing arrow of time, is a convention useful for synchronisation of action. However, this synchronisation is already debated more forcefully with more persons being unsatisfied with the use of synchronisation as a tool to regulate our “social time” and social processes. Time zones, summer and winter times challenge our day-to-day perception of everybody living at the same time, speed or intensity. Bedtime for me, wake-up call for others, or vice versa.

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