This Essay Has Been Re-Routed

Sorry for the inconvenience.  The now-completed essay can be found here.

17 thoughts on “This Essay Has Been Re-Routed

  1. hey, this is actually really interesting!
    i think in the future i might try to actually read the content of what you are posting

  2. I’m 3/4 finished reading.

    I love the post. I would like to see it in parts on my blog. In the early days of my blog, when more on the left commented, they would complain if something is too long.

    See this.

  3. Usually I’d like shorter posts on my blog. The discussion will be between you and me anyway.

    Notice the right adds or changes words, to make points. I said revolutions are a process, and Speedy G says circular process. I find that interesting.

    • All right, I changed it over at your blog. And yes, the Right does like to change the meaning of things. Revolutions are processes, and can be more or less violent, accelerate rapidly, or slow to a halt. Each revolution has its own dynamic.

  4. It’s a really interesting juxtaposition you expose here between microtime and macrotime. The division of calendar time into separate days is an organic one, as you point out; the accumulation of days into weeks is not. Different cultures adopted weeks of different lengths, but I suspect that all of them had something to do with organizing work. The Bible is explicit in the Ten Commandments: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work…” I understand that the Soviet Union adopted a 5-day week for awhile, then moved to a 6-day week. Part of the reason must have been to disrupt the association of the day off with religious observance, but the scheme was explicitly organized around standardizing work days and rest days.

    Regarding the calculation of small time increments, here’s Alfred Crosby on the invention of the mechanical clock (from The Measure of Reality: Quantification and Western Society, 1250-1600):

    “Most inventions are improvements or adaptations of previous devices, but the mechanical clock was, in its key mechanism, truly original. Time had seemed to most people an unsegmented flow. Therefore, experimenters and tinkerers wasted centuries attempting to measure time by imitating its flowing passage, that is, the flow of water, sand, mercury, ground porcelain, and so on — or the slow and steady burning of a candle out of the wind. But no one has ever devised a practical way of measuring long periods by such means. The substance in motion grows gelid, freezes, evaporates, clots, or the candle perversely burns too fast or too slow or gutters out — something goes wrong. Solving the problem becomes possible when one stops thinking of time as a smooth continuum and starts thinking of it as a succession of quanta… The answer technologically (not philosophically) was the escapement… This ‘simple’ oscillating device regularly interrupts, in thousands upon thousands of repetitions a day, the descent of the clock’s weight, ensuring that its energy is expended evenly.”

    I’d think it would be relatively easy to conduct time-and-motion studies on workers performing specific tasks by means of variously sized hourglasses, the number of Ave Marias recited, etc. Maybe mechanical time, calculated by performing mathematical additions and multiplications on very small quanta, prompted a similar shift in thinking about how workers perform tasks over time: less as continuous performance and more as a sequence of discrete quanta of activity.

    • Thank you for your astute and observant comment. You’re totally correct, by the way: in one of my other entries, I recall how the famed modernist architect Le Corbusier, who for some time worked in the Soviet Union, explained the change in the work week:

      In the USSR Sunday has been suppressed, the rest period of the fifth day has been introduced.

      This rest period comes by turns; every day of the year, one fifth of the population of the USSR is at rest; tomorrow, it is another fifth, and so on. Work never stops.

      Committees of doctors have drawn the curve of the intensity of productivity in work. The curve goes down sharply at the end of the fourth day. The economists said: it is useless to be satisfied by a mediocre output during two days. Conclusion: the rhythm of machine age production is five days; four of work, one of rest.

      So while you’re probably correct that this was partially informed by the desire to wean the population off of religious observance, there was a strong scientific component as well.

      If you’re interested in the Gilbreths’ time-and-motion studies, their books are available at the Online Archive, as well as some early silent film footage of them recording the activity of works.

  5. Consciousness about the modern nation-state, I assume follows consciousness about micro time units. The modern nation-state is not a kingdom, empire etc. that was part of feudalism. Modern capitalism needed the nation-state, as well as provided the seeds of its destruction, negation of the negation.

    Colonies were taken in times, when national consciousness was a new idea.

    I hope I’m on track.

    • I would say that the space of the nation-state is part of the concrete space of capitalism. So is the continued antithesis of town and country, as well as divisions within urban space. The concrete space of capitalism is filled with contradictions, the accumulated debris of dead epochs, abandoned railroad towns alongside major highways. It is the space of non-synchronicity, of uneven development. These contradictions were created by capitalism built upon the foundations of precapitalism, and indeed these internal antagonisms sow the seeds of capitalism’s destruction, opening up new vistas of possibility for the future.

      But a unified regime of abstract time was very important for the legislation and coordination of the modern nation-state. This became increasingly important as the state stepped in to try and industrially develop their territories, creating continuous lines of production and transportation and circulation to maximize their GDP.

Leave a Reply