Skip to main content
Select Source:








Time is a dimension of our experience and our activity, but this dimension does not correspond to a simple physical reality. The concept of time is imposed on us by our experience of changes: the physicist and the biologist must introduce a parameter t to account for the evolution of natural phenomena.

Analysis of our experience and the requirements of science show that two fundamental aspects must be distinguished in the concept of time: (a) the sequence, and more precisely, the order of the changes; (b) the duration of the changes or of the period between them. The interlocking of order and duration defines the process of the change. We experience a great number of series of changes that are apparently autonomous—time of the seasons, time of day and night, time of human life, time of activities, and so forth.

History of the psychology of time. The psychology of time begins with Kant. Prior to him, the reality of time had not been questioned, even though philosophers disputed its nature. Kant declared that our notion of time is not imposed by a noumenal reality but by the activity of the mind: it is one of the forms of our sensibility.

In the nineteenth century, in a departure from Kant’s essentially rationalistic approach, men became concerned with the actual study of the sense of time and with perception of time, and no longer merely with the time of phenomena. A psycho–physics of time was developed by comparing estimates of duration with the measurements given by chronometers.

Henri Piéron, in 1923, was the first to define the psychology of time in a behaviorist framework, through the objective study of human behavior in relation to time. This point of view was developed by Pierre Janet (1928), who raised the question of our adaptation to time. Jean Piaget (1946) studied the development of the notion of time in the infant. Paul Fraisse (1957) provided a general analysis of temporal behavior.

Temporal behavior. The psychology of time is defined by studying temporal behavior, i.e., by our adaptations, at first to the sequence and duration of changes and later to the multiplicity of changing series in which we live.

These adaptations take place on two levels. The first is common to animals and man; through learning, activities become synchronous with series of changes. The second is peculiar to man, who is able to make symbols correspond to the various aspects of the changes. Society teaches these symbols to man, who uses them to represent the changes to himself, to orient himself within them, and also to control them.

Adaptation to sequence and order

Adaptation to sequence in conditioning. From the moment of their birth, organisms are subject to changes, and in particular, to their own internal changes. Stimuli precede the recurrence of needs and the means for satisfying them, which are reinforced by their reduction. Those stimuli that regularly precede need reduction become conditioned “signals.” The organism then adapts to the sequence. The signals orient his activity toward the future. The infant smiles at the bottle at first, then at his mother preparing the bottle, and so forth. Some months later, he will cooperate in getting dressed, his movement anticipating the subsequent action.

This Pavlovian type of conditioning is accompanied by an instrumental type of conditioning. The newborn child cries at annoyances in his first days, but he soon learns to make use of his crying to call for and evoke the action of others: he anticipates. At the age of about one year, the child adds to this behavior the act of designating what he wants by means of gestures and then by words. [See Learning, articles on Classical conditioningandinstrumental learning.]

Perception of sequence. To the physical sequence there corresponds a perceived sequence. The process of learning language reveals that the child is very soon able to repeat longer and longer ordered series of phonemes. This perception of an ordered sequence is spontaneous; it does not correspond to any superimposed contruction. Thus, it is always harder to repeat a series of digits in reversed order or in any order other than the one in which it was perceived. [See Language, article onlanguage development.]

The natural organization of the sequence is facilitated if the stimuli are of the same nature. For example, if we are presented visually with three digits in succession and if at the same time we are presented audibly with three other digits, we can only reproduce these stimuli by first repeating the visual series and then the auditory one, or vice versa (Broadbent 1958). [Seegestalt theory.]

The lower limit for the perception of sequence depends on the inertia of the sensory receptors: it is 10 ms. for hearing and touch and 100 ms. for sight, if the stimulations occur at the same site (Pieron 1945). Trained subjects can perceive two sensations of the same or different natures (sound and light, for example) as a sequence when they are separated by an interval of only 20 ms. (Hirsh & Sherrick 1961); an interval of 60 ms. is necessary for untrained subjects (Hirsh & Fraisse 1964). [Seehearing; senses; skin senses and kinesthesis; vision.]

The upper limit of the perception of sequence in the case of two stimuli has been determined by using rhythmic forms. This limit is about two seconds (Fraisse 1956). Beyond that, the sequence is no more perceived but is constructed.

Between these limits lies an optimum for the perception of sequence: an interval of about 600 ms. to 800 ms. This interval corresponds to that for spontaneous motor activity, to that for word association (Wundt [1873-1874] 1886, p. 322), to the spacing of the conditioned and unconditioned stimuli for optimal learning, to the time for which a series of two stimuli appears most natural, i.e., not too slow or too fast (Frischeisen-Kohler 1933), and to the time for which counting permits the most precise evaluation of the duration (Davis 1962).

Complex sequences. Perception of sequence is easy when the stimuli belong to a single series of changes. It is no longer so when two orders of succession have to be discriminated. For example, if two runners stop successively but the one that stops first in time is the one that goes the shortest distance spatially, a child of five will confuse the spatial order and the temporal order of the stops (Piaget 1946, p. 90).

Likewise, a child of five cannot organize two series of sequences experienced simultaneously, as for example the successive levels of liquid in a vase that is being emptied and the successive levels in another vase that is being filled at the same time (Piaget 1946, p. 7).

The coordination of complex sequences implies logical constructions and operations, to use Piaget’s vocabulary, that are possible for children only from age seven, approximately. [Seedevelopmental psychology, especially the article ona theory of development; Infancy.]

Estimating duration

Delayed conditioning . If a time interval separates the conditioned stimulus from the unconditioned stimulus, the conditioned reaction tends gradually to take place after an interval that is nearly equal to the interval between the two stimuli, as Pavlov showed as early as 1907. The conditioned reaction adapts to the duration, which acts as a second conditioned stimulus.

The activity of the animal can also take duration into account in operant conditioning. A rat that is reinforced at regular intervals only begins to respond toward the end of the interval (Skinner 1938). He can even be trained to space two responses at a given interval (Sidman 1956). It should be emphasized, however, that delayed conditioning of a defensive reaction is hard to obtain, no doubt because the animal cannot control his reaction spontaneously except in the case of double avoidance (Ruch 1931). The relative length of a confinement in the first branch of a T maze can also be a signal for taking the left or the right path (Cowles & Finan 1941).

Perception and estimation of duration . Man is able to estimate directly the duration of an event, with a precision that can be checked either by comparing two intervals or by reproducing the period.

If perception is an immediate discrimination reaction to a present stimulus, it may be asked whether it is possible to speak of perception of a duration. The answer is positive. Within the limits of the psychological present (Fraisse 1957), we may assume that the duration of an event is “present” for several seconds. Within these limits there is an interval of indifference of 700 ms., corresponding to the optimum sequence. Shorter intervals are overestimated, longer intervals underestimated.

Beyond a few seconds it is better to speak of estimation of time rather than of perception of it, since more complex processes, of which not too much is known, then enter into the picture. While there are certainly physiological recordings, e.g., from delayed conditionings, it is out of the question that the frequency of the heartbeat or the respiration should be direct factors, since no author has been able to find a correlation between these variables arid the estimated duration. Undoubtedly, a central process is involved. This biological estimation depends on the general level of biological activity. Thus, in experiments with sensory deprivation, duration is greatly underestimated (Vernon & McGill 1963). Michel Siffre (1963), who lived in a completely dark cave, isolated from the world and without any timepiece, estimated his stay of 58 days as having lasted 33 days.

Recent research on animals and human subjects (Fraisse 1963) shows that in general, stimulants (mescaline, thyroxine, caffeine, amphetamine) cause an overestimation of time, and inhibitors (quinine, barbiturates) an underestimation. On this point, however, our knowledge is still rudimentary.

Thus, many psychological variables alter the estimation of time. For durations of less than two seconds, the variability of reproduction is of the order of 10 per cent; for periods of several minutes, it rises to 20 to 30 per cent. Using the method of absolute judgments of duration, it is hardly possible to discriminate more than three stimuli, and the amount of information transmitted is less than two bits (Hawkes 1961).

Psychological factors in estimating time . We know that we can make major errors in estimating durations. Two sets of variables have been studied in particular.

The nature of the activity. Convergent results (Fraisse 1963) show that the more complex an activity is and the more it requires the attention of the subject, the shorter the time seems to be. Thus, copying a text or taking it down from dictation seems shorter than reading or listening (for equal objective durations of the activities). In the limiting case, during periods of inactivity duration seems very long.

A complex activity appears to be short because in the course of it we note fewer changes than during a simpler activity. Again, a more complex activity is generally more interesting, and this brings up the influence of motivation.

The influence of motivation. Whatever interests us seems to have a short duration, while what bores us seems interminable. Everybody has observed this law, which many experiments have confirmed. The best explanation of the phenomenon has been proposed by Katz (1906), who suggested that whenever attention is paid to the passage of time, the time seems to get longer. When we are bored, or waiting, or in a great hurry, time seems to go very slowly, because our attention is fixed on a number of changes, whereas an interesting activity absorbs us and puts us in a way “outside of time.” [See Attention.]

Quantification and measurement of duration . The quantification, and, more precisely, the measurement of duration, must be distinguished from the over-all estimation of it. The units of these measurements are regular and “calibrated” changes —the ticks of a clock or metronome, the rotation of the earth, atomic clocks, and so forth. But man also makes use of the duration of changes whose durations are less regular and less precise—the length of the distance covered, the number of pieces produced, and so forth.

Employing these units is not possible for the child until he has become able to perform intellectual operations, and not until adolescence is the duration of unit changes understood as independent of the concrete nature of the changes (Piaget 1946).

Orientation in time

Nychthemeral rhythm . We experience many changes simultaneously, some of them being periodic. The latter serve as points of reference, by means of which the others can be located. The nychthemeral rhythm is the most important for living organisms.

It is a remarkable fact that this originally exogenous rhythm becomes endogenous. The entire rhythm of the organism—the rhythms of alimentary activity, of sleep, of the body temperature, and of all physiological functioning—has a cycle of 24 hours that persists for several weeks even if the animal or the man’s ecological conditions change. We need only recall how tired we are made by an airplane trip that takes us across several time zones.

This rhythmic activity turns our organism into a regular clock and gives us points of reference by which we can orient ourselves to the time of day. Thus Siffre, who lived 58 days in a cavern, had 57 periods of sleep and waking during that period, whereas he estimated the duration at 33 days. His physiological clock had been more accurate than his estimates.

This transformation of exogenous rhythms into endogenous rhythms is an established fact, and Pavlovian conditioning provides an explanation of it. If a dog is fed every 30 minutes, it gradually reaches the point of starting to salivate only at the end of the 30-minute period (Feokritova 1912).

Temporal orientation of man . Man spontaneously makes use of the temporal points of reference provided by his organism. We are conditioned to the rhythm of meals, sleep, and so forth. Even a mental defective is able to demand his meal at a set hour (James 1890, vol. 1, p. 623). But in addition, the infant and then the adult learn to orient themselves to other periodic changes, the most important of which are’ the changes of nature (the solar day, the year).

Man also learns to employ more conventional points of reference, such as clocks, calendars, and so forth. The principle is always the same: to make the experienced moment correspond to the phase of a periodic change that serves as the system of reference.

The temporal horizon

The temporal horizon of action . Merely as the result of conditioning due to the repetition of cycles of activity, present signals make reference to a future action. The present stimulus has a previously acquired significance, and it triggers an activity that anticipates some aspect of the future. These cycles are present in animals as well as in man, but because of second-order and higher-order conditioning their period is longer the higher the place that the organism occupies in the phyloge-netic scale.

The temporal horizon of man . Man too is conditioned by the cycles of his activity, and his temporal horizon always depends on them. The horizon of the day laborer is one thing, that of the professor is another.

But, in addition, man is able to distinguish the present moment from what has been (the past) and what will be (the future). This ability is manifest from the youngest age at which the child is able to make adequate use of the adverbs of time (yesterday, tomorrow, and so forth) and the verb forms that refer to the past and the future.

Thus we see the child’s temporal horizon develop: from the age of 18 months on, he is situated between a recent past and a very immediate future. Little by little this horizon expands, as can be seen from the adequate use of adverbs of time and the localization of memories in the past and projects in the future.

From the age of seven or eight on, this horizon extends beyond personal experiences. The child becomes interested in the background of his parents and in his country’s history, and he becomes able to imagine future events that have not formed a part of previous cycles of his activity (his own marriage, for example).

This development is to a very great extent a function of intelligence, which makes possible, in particular, better organization of the past and better anticipation of the future (Kastenbaum 1961).

Temporal horizon and society . Past and future are made more precise by the learning of the society’s language. Along with language, society transmits its representations of the past and the future. Some of these representations, linked to the great philosophies, are of great generality. Among the Greeks, for example, a circular representation of time predominated. The Christians formed a continuous representation, starting from a creation ex nihilo down to the end of time. All men, in different degrees, use cyclical conceptions with respect to years, generations, civilization, or economic plans.

More specifically, each social framework (family, profession, church, nation, and so forth) has its own way of seeing time, and, with Gurvitch (1958), we may speak of the multiplicity of social times.

Certain societies, such as the Hopi Indians, hardly have a temporal horizon, if we are able to judge by their language, for their verbs have no tenses and they are said to be content with distinguishing “the earlier from the later” (Whorf 1950).

In a given society, the temporal horizon appears to be fairly closely bound up with the cycle of experienced expectations and satisfactions. Every man has the capacity to evoke very distant pasts or futures, but in practice the horizon that has solidity and reality for him is narrowly linked to his way of life. The time of the peasant is one thing, and the time of the city dweller another. For example, it has been found that workers’ children make up stories covering a shorter period of time than middle-class children (Leshan 1952).

Finally, it should be kept in mind that every man belonging to several social groups has multiple temporal perspectives. He has to pass from one to the other—from family time to office time, for example—and try to bring them into accord (Halb-wachs 1947).

Thus, every man, depending on his temperament, his intelligence, and the forms of socialization that formed him, comes to have his own temporal horizon, defined in its extent and polarity, assigning value to either the past or the future, or even just the present (Fraisse 1957, p. 174). Individual differences in temporal horizons, of which little is as yet known, are clearly present in mental pathology and have been emphasized in studies of juvenile delinquents (Barndt & Johnson 1955).

Mastery of time

Tolerance of delay . It is possible to set up delayed conditioning in animals when the unconditioned stimulus provides positive reinforcement. It seems impossible to obtain this result in rats when the reinforcement is negative (avoiding an electric shock); but it does seem possible to obtain conditioning to time in dogs to whom an electric stimulus on the paw is given every five minutes [see Dmitriev & Kochigina 1955; see alsolearning, article onavoidance learning].

Children are greatly put out by the frustrations arising from the postponement of satisfaction. They are noticeably better able to stand delays as they grow older (Orsini & Fraisse 1957) and thus become able to prefer a reward that is greater, but delayed, to one that is smaller but immediate (Mischel & Metzner 1962). This progress appears to be linked on the one hand to development, education, and intelligence, and on the other, to emotional stability (Fraisse & Orsini 1955). Adolescents with emotional troubles react more impulsively to the stresses of the environment (Levine & Spivack 1959).

Culture and the socioeconomic level (for the two are often linked) lead to the development of an appreciation of distant but valuable objectives and thereby of plans for organizing the future (Doob 1960). Maturity and culture make it possible to break free of the domination of the pleasure principle and to adjust better to the reality of time.

The notion of time . Even when man is able to tolerate delays, he is enraged by irreversible changes. He finds relative security in conforming to the demands of society, whose pressure increases in proportion to the complexity of the network of social relations ("La pression temporelle” 1953); this is why the city dweller uses a watch more often than a farmer does.

However, men seek to escape from the irrever-sibility of time by developing a notion of time that enables them to put the past and the future into the present. Cultivated men and societies like to set up memorials of their past in the forms of museums and archives and seek to survive their deaths by work that is as imperishable as possible.

Paul Fraisse

[See alsodevelopmental psychology, article ona theory of development; sleep. Other relevant material may be found inlanguage, article onlanguage development; Perception; Psychophysics; sensory and motor development.]


Aschoff, Jurgen 1965 Circadian Rhythms in Man. Science 148:1427-1432.

Barndt, Robert J.; and Johnson, Donald M. 1955 Time Orientation in Delinquents. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 51:343-345.

Broadbent, Donald E. 1958 Perception and Communication. Oxford: Pergamon.

Cowle76S, J. T.; and Fdjan, J. L. 1941 An Improved Method for Establishing Temporal Discrimination in White Rats. Journal of Psychology 11:335-342.

Davis, R. 1962 Time Uncertainty and the Estimation of Time-intervals. Nature 195:311-312.

Dmitriev, A. S.; and Kochigina, A. M. (1955) 1959 The Importance of Time as a Stimulus of Conditioned Reflex Activity. Psychological Bulletin 56:106-132. → First published in Russian.

Doob, Leonard W. 1960 Becoming More Civilized: A Psychological Exploration. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press.

Feokritova, Iuliia P. 1912 Vremia kak uslovnyi voz-buditel’ sliunnoi zhelezy (Time as a Conditioned Stimulus to the Salivary Gland). St. Petersburg: Tipo-graflia Shtaba Otdiel’nago Korpusa Zhandarmov.

Fraisse, Paul 1956 Les structures rhythmiques: Etude psychologique. Brussels: Erasmus; Univ. of Louvain.

Fraisse, Paul (1957) 1963 The Psychology of Time. New York: Harper. →First published in French.

Fraisse, Paul 1963 Perception et estimation du temps. Pages 59-95 in Paul Fraisse (editor), Traite de psychologie expeirimentale. Volume 6: La perception. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Fraisse, Paul; and Orsini, Francine 1955 Etude ex-perimentale des conduites temporelles. I: L’attente. Annee psychologique 55:27-39.

Frankenhaeuser, Marianne 1959 Estimation of Time: An Experimental Study. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wik-sell.

Frischeisen-Kohler, I. 1933 Feststellung des weder langsamen noch schnellen (mittelmassigen) Tempos. Psychologische Forschung 18:291-298.

Gurvitch, Georges 1958 Structures sociales et multiplicite des temps. Societe Francaise de Philosophic, Bulletin 52:99-142. → Includes 26 pages of discussion and comments.

Halbwachs, Maurice 1947 La memoire collective et le temps. Cahiers internationaux de sociologie 2:3-31. → Published posthumously.

Hawkes, Glenn R. 1961 Information Transmitted Via Electrical Cutaneous Stimulus Duration. Journal of Psychology 51:293-298.

Hirsh, I.; and Fraisse, Paul 1964 Simultaneite et succession de stimuli heterogenes. Annie psychologique 64:1-19.

Hirsh, Ira J.; and Sherrick, Carl E., Jr. 1961 Perceived Order in Different Sense Modalities. Journal of Experimental Psychology 62:423-432.

James, William (1890) 1962 The Principles of Psychology. 2 vols. New York: Smith.

Janet, Pierre 1928 L’evolution de la memorie et la notion du temps. Paris: Chahine.

Kastenbaum, Robert 1961 The Dimensions of Future Time Perspective: An Experimental Analysis. Journal of General Psychology 65:203-218.

Katz, David 1906 Experimented Beitrage zur Psycho-logie des Vergleichs im Gebiete des Zeitsinns. Zett-schrift fur Psychologie und Physiologie der Sinnes-organe. 1. Abteilung. Zeitschrift fiir Psychologie 42: 302-340; 414-450.

Leshan, Lawrence L. 1952 Time Orientation and Social Class. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 47:589-592.

Levine, Murray; and Spivack, George 1959 Incentive, Time Conception and Self Control In a Group of Emotionally Disturbed Boys. Journal of Clinical Psychology 15:110-113.

Mischel, Walter; and Metzner, Ralph 1962 Preference for Delayed Reward as a Function of Age, Intelligence, and Length of Delay Interval. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 64:425-431.

Orsini, Francine; and Fraisse, Paul 1957 Etudes des conduites temporelles. II: Etude genetique de l’attente. Annie psychologique 57:359-365.

Piaget, Jean 1946 Le developpement de la notion de temps chez I’enfant. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Pieron, Henri 1923 Les problemes psychophysiolo-giques de la perception du temps. Annie psychologique 24:1-25.

Pieron, Henri (1945) 1952 The Sensations: Their Functions, Processes, and Mechanisms. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press; London: Muller. → First published as Aux sources de la connaissance: La sensation, guide de vie.

La pression temporelle. 1953 Sondages 15, no. 3:11-23.

Ruch, Floyd L. 1931 L’appreciation du temps chez le rat blanc. Annie psychologique 32:118-130.

Sidman, Murray 1956 Time Discrimination and Behavioral Interaction in a Free Operant Situation. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology 49:469-473.

Siffre, Michel 1963 Hors du temps. Paris: Juillard.

Skinner, B. F. 1938 The Behavior of Organisms: An Experimental Analysis. New York: Appleton.

Vernon, Jack A.; and Mcgill, Thomas E. 1963 Time Estimations During Sensory Deprivation. Journal of General Psychology 69:11-18.

Wallace, M.; and Rabin, A. I. 1960 Temporal Experience. Psychological Bulletin 57:213-236.

Whorf, Benjamin L. 1950 An American Indian Model of the Universe. International Journal of American Linguistics 16:67-72.

Wundt, Wilhelm (1873-1874) 1886 Elements de psychologie physiologique. 2 vols. Paris: Alcan. → First published in German as Grundziige der physiolog-ischen Psychologie. Volume 1 was translated into English in 1905 as Principles of Physiological Psychology.


Since all human activities occur in time, the existence of a social system necessitates some organization of time. Such organization entails:

(1) systems of time measurement, based upon cosmic and human cycles;

(2) the allocation and scheduling of time by individuals; and

(3) a set of attitudes toward time past, time present, and time future.

While many thinkers have been interested in the basic categories of the understanding—time, space, and so on—it was Durkheim’s discussion of this subject (1912) that laid the basis for modern social scientific treatments. Durkheim argued, developing Kant’s view that the basic categories of the understanding exist in the mind, that these categories are not given a priori but are social constructs. It was Durkheim’s observations that encouraged other social scientists to study the way in which cultural variations in concepts such as time and space are related to other aspects of social life (see, for example, Granet on China [1934]; Mauss on the Eskimo [1906]; Evans-Pritchard on the Nuer [1940]) as well as to the way children acquire concepts about time (see, for example, Piaget 1946).

Not all societies have the equivalent of the category “time.” Writing of the Nuer of the southern Sudan, Evans-Pritchard pointed out that for them the notion that we call “time” is not a separate idea but an integral part of social activities and of ecological and meteorological phenomena ([1940] 1963, pp. 104-108). Similarly, Bohannan has written of the Tiv of northern Nigeria: “Time is implicit in Tiv thought and speech, but it is not a category of it” (1953, p. 262).

But if time is not necessarily an explicit category, it is always an aspect of experience, implicit in thought and speech. The experience of time takes two major forms—sequence and duration. From the standpoint of sequence, events are seen as located in a particular order along a moving continuum. The experience of duration derives from the relative span of events and of the intervals between them. The experience of time as a continuum is often compared metaphorically to the movement of water, sometimes the linear flow of a river, sometimes the cyclical ebb and flow of the ocean; indeed, the English word “time” has the same root as “tide.”

Although all societies have some system of time reckoning, some idea of sequence and duration, the mode of reckoning clearly varies with the economy, ecology, and technical equipment; with the ritual system; and with the political organization. A peasant system has little need of elaborate scheduling, nor does it always possess the mechanical devices that permit accurate measurement. In nonindustrial societies the repetitive patterns of human life and the world of nature provide the basic measures of time reckoning, the counters for verbalizing the experience of duration. These measures can be thought of in terms of two main cycles, the human and the cosmic. In each cycle the main points of significant change are marked by rites of passage.

Sequence and duration, cyclical and linear patterns, and systems of reckoning occur in all human societies, but the emphases differ. The measurement of long periods of time (the chronology of the historian) could hardly begin before the urban revolution, which brought with it writing and the possibility of elaborate calculations concerning the movement of the heavens. Strict chronology began, according to Cumont (1912), with the establishment by the Chaldeans oc a fixed era, the Era of Nabonassar, in 747 B.C. The introduction of such a base point for the calculation of years was essential to the prediction (and to some extent the recording) of long-term periodic phenomena, such as eclipses. The use of a base point represents a partial disengagement from cyclical concepts: years now pass irretrievably, never to return; time accumulates and no longer just ebbs and flows. This idea of irreversible time, much stressed in Judaeo-Christian thought, is central to the development of science and history alike.

But such general changes in ideas as the shift from “the myth of the eternal recurrence” to the concept of linear, irreversible time are matters of degree rather than kind. Sacred (or liturgical) time, as distinct from profane time, continues to be largely dependent upon cyclical concepts; even the apocalypse, a thoroughly linear belief, is followed by rebirth into a timeless universe. We experience the events of our lives and the succession of the natural seasons in terms of both concepts; indeed, the attempt to erect long-term cycles continues to be a feature of the work of historians such as Spengler and Toynbee (although they tend to confuse the persistence of certain mechanisms with the repetition of specific events).

The same is true of the concepts of sequence and duration: they do not change radically. In simple societies the beginning of a ceremony is often determined by a natural event, or, as in the Tallensi ritual chain, it follows the performance of a similar ceremony by a neighboring group (Fortes 1936). Time indications tend to give way to time measurement with the invention of new mechanical devices; but even modern man, reviewing his own experience, often thinks in terms of the sequence of events rather than attempting to locate them in an absolute chronology. The subjective time of the “inner dialogue” (what Meyer-hoff calls “human time"), which forms one of the great concerns of Proust, Joyce, Mann, and Virginia Woolf, stands in contrast to the more rigid time reckoning required either by the social intercourse of urban society or by scientific endeavor; in the latter, I include the establishment of a chronology for historical reconstruction, as distinct from the personal recollection of past experience.

Since concepts of time and its social organization are basic to the development of modern science and technology, which, in turn, underlies the rise of modern industrial society, to what extent do the variations in these concepts account for differences in technological and industrial development? From the Chinese evidence, Needham has concluded (1965, p. 52) that differences in development cannot be attributed to concepts of time. These concepts vary only in degree and are not in themselves capable of preventing technological advance. Thus, in addition to the discrete cycles, the discontinuous “packaged” time of their general world outlook (Granet 1934), the Chinese also used the linear reckoning appropriate for historical narrative; both models were potentially available. It would appear that major changes in the concepts and organization of time follow rather than precede technological innovations.

Measurement of time—the cosmic cycle

The passage of time is calculated by reference to a series of repetitive units that are measured with varying degrees of precision. Certain of these units are based upon the movements of nature—the daily rotation of the earth, the regular phases of the moon, and the annual movement of the earth around the sun. The reckoning of days, months, and years occurs universally. But such units are not necessarily organized into an interlocking series, with one unit representing a specific fraction (or multiple) of another; instead, they may constitute a set of discontinuous time-indications.

Night and day . Time reckoning begins with the recurrent division into night and day that commonly regulates activity levels in most forms of animal life. The division of human life into light and dark, movement and rest, and waking and sleeping often provides a symbolic framework for many other social activities. Night is generally seen as linked with evil, with witchcraft, and with illicit behavior of all kinds. It is the time for supernatural agencies to reveal themselves in dreams and for spirits of varied shapes and sizes to roam the earth. Night is also the time for sleep and sex, for dreaming and for thievery. To daytime belong the productive activities.

In all societies, some division of the day is made according to the position of the sun in the sky; hence, concepts of dawn, forenoon, afternoon, and sunset, and the reckoning of time by the movement of light and shadow appear universally. Frequently, the periods of dawn and dusk, the times that call for a reorientation of activities from those of night to those of day, are further subdivided, and the terminology is refined. With the use of the sundial, the variation in the position of shadows can be formalized. Time reckoning thus moves in the direction of regular divisions of the night and the day into seconds, minutes, and hours, a systematization that runs counter to the experience of the inhabitants of lands where there are seasonal differences in the length of daylight.

Only with the development of mechanical devices can one divide night and day into equal units calculated against the rotation of the earth rather than on the basis of the length of sunlight. The precise divisions made by the clock are, of course, essential to any elaborate scheduling of the kind demanded by large-scale organizations like factories, offices, or communication systems. But the desire for more accurate time measurement long antedates the industrial revolution and relates to economic, ritual, military, and political needs. The sundial (or gnomon), the sandglass, and the clepsydra (or dripping water clock) were invented in Babylonia and Egypt, from whence they spread throughout the Old World. The oldest Egyptian water clock, graduated to show the lengths of hours at different seasons, dated from about 1500 B.C., and such instruments were further developed in Alexandria, in the Arabic world, and in Europe. The duties of the keeper of the clock are frequently mentioned in the rule books of monastic orders such as the Cistercians and included nightly adjustments according to observations of the stars.

From the Fertile Crescent, sundials and water clocks also spread to China. Lacking Euclidean deductive geometry, the Chinese never achieved the complexity of Arabic and western gnomonics. But the water clock evolved much further into a complex hydromechanical instrument, and by 725 the Chinese had succeeded in controlling the rotation of the water wheel by means of an “escapement” of linkwork, which operated a kind of gate. “Steady motion was thus secured by intersecting the progress of a powered machine into intervals of equal duration—an invention of genius” (Needham 1965, p. 18).

Whether or not this invention was the forerunner of the purely mechanical clock is uncertain. But by the mid-fourteenth century the technicians of western Europe had produced a weight-driven chronometer that depended upon a verge-and-foliot escapement to regulate its movement. From the time of Archimedes, men had constructed mechanical models of the planetary orbits, and most of the first clocks were “less chronometers than exhibitions of the pattern of the cosmos” their origin lay “in a complex realm of monumental planetaria, equatoria, and geared astrolabes” (White 1962, pp. 122-123). Indeed, the clock has been described as a machine to emulate the rotation of the earth.

Coincident with the invention of such a clock, the temporary, or variable, hour, which had been favored for liturgical purposes, finally gave way to the system of equal hours. The division of the day into 12 hours, based upon the duodecimal system of the zodiac, was established in ancient Greece. About the middle of the fourteenth century it became usual to divide the hour into 60 minutes and the minute into 60 seconds. The measurement of time was now removed from the context of events; its divisions were given an abstract framework, and its reckoning became increasingly dissociated from immediate human experiences, shifting from the sun or tides to the formal divisions engraved on the face of a mechanical device.

The next century saw the adaptation and use of the spring mechanism in clocks and later in watches. The new instrument was quickly taken up by the rich, particularly by the merchants, who had discovered, as Benjamin Franklin later said, that “time is money.” “To become ’as regular as clockwork’ was the bourgeois ideal, and to own a watch was for long a definite symbol of success” (Mumford 1934, p. 16). About the middle of the nineteenth century, the production of the cheap standardized watch, first in Geneva and then in America, made possible the wide use by individuals of devices for accurate, precise, and continuous time scheduling, as distinct from the communal (and less flexible) timekeeping of the muezzin’s call, the village drum, the church bell, and the town-hall clock.

In itself the clock is a technological achievement, but it also underlies four major aspects of modern life. First, it has made possible the precise measurement of time, which is perhaps the most fundamental operation in modern physics. Second, its manufacture has helped to train the craftsmen needed for further scientific endeavor, pure and applied. Third, it has provided a mechanical model for the operation of the universe. Fourth, it has permitted the detailed organization of time that an industrial system requires. In these ways, it has changed man’s attitudes and his categories of time, and, therefore, it has been called the key machine of the modern world, surpassing in importance the steam engine itself.

While accurate time measurement is a prerequisite of the complex social systems that mark industrial economies and of the scientific research on which they are based, earlier methods of timekeeping seem to have been stimulated by magical and religious concern as much as by pragmatic interests. Knowledge of the movements of the stars, although used for predicting seasonal changes and for determining direction, was often required for divinatory purposes. The Chaldean-derived horoscope consisted of observations of the configuration of the planets at a certain moment; the chosen time for the calculation was usually the moment of birth, which was believed to shape the individual’s whole destiny. Astrology represents the most elaborate form of divinatory technique; it exists only in conjunction with writing, but it is based also upon a widespread belief, apparent in the giving of day-names and similar practices, that men’s character and destiny are determined by the date of their birth.

The measurement of hours, by sundial and by sand, by candle and by clock, was an ecclesiastical demand, and so too were ideas of punctuality. Members of the “regular” clergy of the medieval monastery were enjoined to organize their lives “by rule,” that is, by a specific allocation of time for work, for sleep, and for worship. The ringing of the prayer bell seven times a day established time by recourse to instruments that divided the day into regular intervals. It was this rigid organization of time, combined with the intense devotion to work, that has led scholars to include the Benedictine order among the founders of modern capitalism.

Other world religions developed their own diurnal ordering of time. Followers of Islam, for example, are required to offer the five canonical prayers (salat) at fixed times during the course of the day. In practice, working people tend to restrict their devotions, leaving the full observances to clerics and to the retired, who are able to give their whole lives to the accumulation of religious grace. The working population concentrates upon the evening prayer, which carries the greatest weight; as in Judaism, it is the setting rather than the rising of the sun that initiates the daily cycle.

The week. The week lacks any definite basis in the external environment. It is an entirely social construct, varying in length from society to society: seven days in the Judaeo-Christian world and three, four, five, or six days in certain parts of west Africa, southeast Asia, and Central America. In early Rome it was eight days; in China it was ten. However, the weekly cycle always consists of a relatively small number of days (usually named) and is used to regulate short-term, recurrent activities, especially those of the market place. In Mesopotamia the seven-day period was linked to the five planets, together with the sun and the moon, in a planetary or astrological week. The seven-day week spread through Europe, north Africa, India, and the Malay Peninsula and is used more or less universally today; present names continue to indicate the pre-Christian origin.

The LoDagaa, a primarily agricultural society of northern Ghana, designate the six days of the week by the name of the village where a market takes place on the day in question. The very terms for “day” and “market” are the same (daa), and the weekly cycle is simply daar,“a plurality of markets,” so that the names of the days not only record the pattern of market gatherings but also serve as a measuring rod for other short-range activities.

The importance of market time is again illustrated in early medieval England, where each neighboring town held its market, or cheaping (hence “cheap"), on a different day of the week. The inhabitants of outlying districts would come in for the local trade and also for the opportunity of meeting together, so that disputes could be settled, marriages arranged, and leisure enjoyed. Thus, in many peasant societies the market week is a way of organizing social time as well as economic exchange.

The weekly cycle of markets differentiates one day from another and serves to break up the continuity of agricultural activities by providing some change of pace—substituting rest for work, exchange for production. In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, there is also a weekly shift from the profane to the sacred, for a special day is allocated for religious activity. In Islam this day is Friday, in Judaism Saturday, and in Christianity Sunday. These calendrical differences reflect distinctions of theology and organization. In Islam, Friday is the day for worship at the town’s main mosque, often with elaborate processions, but it is not a rest day in the full sense of the word; indeed, there is a maxim to the effect that it is blameworthy to abstain from work on Friday in imitation of the sabbath practices of Christians and Jews (Triminghaml959, p. 73).

The polytheistic religions of west Africa also have their day of rest, which sometimes coincides with the market day. Thomas suggested (1924, p. 199) that in west Africa, while the basis of the week is economic, the rest day is religious in origin; the days are usually named after markets, but sometimes after the gods worshiped on those days. Among the LoDagaa, one day each week is set aside as a “day of not using the hoe,” when iron implements are forbidden. It is on this day that important sacrifices are made to the Earth shrine, under whose aegis all major uses of the soil, housebuilding, farming, burial, and ironwork are undertaken.

Although modern industrial systems place a great premium upon the continuous use of industrial facilities, the day of rest is found even in those societies where its role as a day of worship has been abandoned. In the Soviet Union a continuous workweek was introduced in 1929, and each worker was given one day off in five. The result was considerable chaos, in the home as well as at work. Two years later a six-day week with a common day of rest was instituted on the grounds that the shifting five-day schedule encouraged irresponsibility with respect to jobs and employment (Moore 1963, p. 122). In 1940 the seven-day week was restored, with Sunday as the day of rest. The double functions of the week of providing discontinuity in work and time for leisure seem to be even more necessary in an industrialized society than in a purely agricultural one, where seasonal changes impress their rhythms on the productive process. Moreover, there are strong pressures for the weekly break to be held in common: since individuals spend the bulk of their day in specialized work groups, family and neighborhood groups would be of only peripheral importance if they did not have the week end as a focus for joint activities. In the absence of effective crosscutting ties, overwhelming stress would be placed upon the monolithic economic institutions, and this could result in both emotional and cultural impoverishment.

The month and the year . While itself consisting of a specified number of days, the week is rarely a subdivision of larger units of time measurement. The next unit in size, and one which is given universal recognition in some form or other, is the month, based upon the lunar cycle of 29.5 days. In nonliterate societies the month is calculated by direct reference to the waxing and waning of the moon, and special attention is paid to the three days of its death and rebirth, which are often seen as having a profound meaning for human life, being linked to ideas of immortality, death, and resurrection.

Unlike weeks, months are usually thought of as organized segments of a seasonal cycle, although some societies use names only for certain of the lunar divisions. Nevertheless, all societies recognize some kind of yearly cycle, since this is required by both agriculture and hunting. Agriculture in particular demands an annual scheduling that determines the allocation of work and of food as well as the setting aside of seed at harvest time to be preserved until the next planting season. No society can avoid some long-term budgeting of this kind; the tropical paradise where wild fruits offer a natural superabundance of food and drink is a figment of the imagination of urban Europeans. Nobody, in fact, just passes the time, although it often seems so to those dependent upon more demanding schedules. There are, of course, outstanding differences in the degree of accuracy required by different schedules.

While the weekly markets of medieval England catered to the local trade, there also existed the yearly fairs, or gearmarkets, to which traders came from far afield. The tolls for these fairs were often allocated to various eccelesiastical foundations, and the specific day on which the market took place was sometimes the saint’s day of the religious house, so that the fair doubled as a fete and the traders as pilgrims. An activity of this kind that brings people together from widely separated places at a specific time of the year clearly requires a more accurate calculus than is provided by a simple count of moons, loosely linked to a seasonal cycle. It demands a calendar (or natural occurrence) that is accurate, regular, and widely known, so that precise coordination on an annual basis is possible.

One difficulty in constructing such a system is that no sum of lunar months adds up to a yearly cycle. Intercalation is necessary in order to reconcile the year of 12 lunar months with the solar year on which the growth of crops depends. In the usual practice, no fixed number of days is assigned to the lunar month (in Islamic practice, for example, it begins when the new moon is seen), and likewise the year is considered to begin when the appropriate season comes round, the length of the months being adjusted accordingly. Thus, the harvest moon comes when the harvest is ready, and the planting moon is set by some biological clock, some natural phenomena, or what Linnaeus called the Horologe or “Watch of Flora.”

The abandonment of the lunar cycle results in a nonlunar month, or mense, under which term can be included any unit greater than ten days and less than a year (Thomas 1924, p. 188). For example, the Ashanti have the adae, a period of 42 days that is formed by the intersection of a six-day and seven-day weekly cycle, the first of local origin, the second probably of Muslim derivation. Both the great adae, which occurs after 18 days, and the little adae, which takes place after a further 24 days, were occasions for important sacrifices to the royal ancestors. As with the lunar reckoning of Islam, the adae (although unnamed) provides a continuous-chain type of calendar, divorced from the seasonal cycle but linked to a complex series of politico—religious festivals.

The necessity for a closer “fit” between lunar months and solar years came only with the introduction of written calendars, which eventually led to the abandonment of the lunar month, as in the Julian calendar, or to the relinquishing of the solar year, as in the Islamic system established by Muhammad (where the year of 12 lunar months is ten days shorter than the solar year). Historically, the first breakthrough toward the Western system appears to have been made in Egypt, which established a year of 12 nonlunar months, each with 30 days.

Writing permitted a further important formali-zation of the calendar. In nonliterate societies the accumulation of years takes place, if at all, against a background of regular ceremonies, which may occur every three, seven, or ten years (or occasionally more, as in the case of the 60-year cycle of the Dogon festivals). In early literate societies there was sometimes a set of names for the years, for example, the Year of the Mouse (China) and the Year of Moses (Islam). In ancient Greece, with its annual transfer of power, the years were known by the name of the particular archon. But monarchic systems often reckoned years from the beginning of a reign, and such regnal counts could also be made by the cutting of tallies, the counting of pebbles, or the tying of knots. In Sumeria (as elsewhere), the regnal system of reckoning years was associated with the idea that a new ruler brings with him a new dispensation, a theme of renewal that serves, like regular elections, to reconcile individuals to the gap between expectation and actuality. Similarly, the revolutionary regimes of eighteenth-century France and fascist Italy reckoned the beginning of a new era from the date of their coming to power. Time itself is seen as making a fresh start, the social order as being reborn.

The idea of an era depends upon the introduction of a fixed point at which numbering may start. Large-scale time is then no longer reckoned only by cycles or by recurrent series of occurrences; it acquires a more linear character. The fixed point used by the Chaldeans was arbitrary, but later such fixed points were calculated with reference to a unique event—the creation of the world or the birth of the prophet. Time is no longer experienced as largely repetitive (Gluckman 1963) but is seen as flowing in a single line (called variously “progress,” “evolution,” or “change") and, at the beginning of this shift in viewpoint, often in a chiliastic direction, toward an earthly millennium, the coming of a messiah; thus, certain years of the era, such as 1000, are invested with mystical properties.

The early formalization and elaboration of written calendars took place under a variety of pressures: the demands of agricultural planning. particularly in complex irrigation societies; the organization of trade, especially long-distance trade; and the coordination of the military and administrative activities of centralized polities. But as in nonliterate societies, magico-religious factors continued to be of prime importance in the arrangement and elaboration of the calendar, which mapped out the liturgical year as well as the economic year. Writing also made possible the recording of star positions and the development of mathematics, which were essential for the development of the horoscope as a means of forecasting future events and ascertaining divine will. Astrological and astronomical calculation always had much in common, and the mapping of the heavenly universe was important not only for divination but also for the development of chronometers and for navigation.

One factor that inhibited navigation was the existence of purely local systems of time reckoning, and the development of a world-wide network of communications has inevitably led to the adoption of a unified calculus. Sun time, which varies by one minute every eight miles, had to give way to conventional time belts, which were established in the United States around 1880 at the instigation of the transcontinental railroads. Some years later a world congress completed the standardization of time that had begun with the founding of the Greenwich observatory two hundred years before and that led to the coordination of ships’ chronometers with Greenwich mean time. Human action could now be synchronized on a world-wide scale.

Systems of time reckoning have developed from concrete time indications of a discontinuous kind to increasingly abstract, numerical, and regular divisions linked to a continuous calendar based primarily on diurnal and annual movements. Through the means of writing, astronomy, and mechanics, there occurs an increasing dissociation of time measurement from commonplace events —the movement of animals, the growth of crops, and the human activities to which they are directly linked. Thus, there emerges a formal framework of objective divisions that are as applicable in Delhi as they are in Dallas. But the development of more abstract time scales tends to supplement rather than replace more concrete ideas of time, which often continue to be the measure for much subjective experience.

Rites of passage in the cosmic cycle . For many social purposes, time is reckoned not by regular units of measurement but by the major festivals that break up the continuity of its passage ("Only 42 more shopping days to Christmas"). Such holidays and festivals may be linked to any of the major time divisions—to days, weeks, months, or years. In England, the week revolves around its “holy day” and has its regular days for pay, sport, and rest. These regular days dominate patterns of food consumption (the Sunday roast) and of family interaction, as well as the whole industrial system; however, I am here concerned with the annual festivals that have a marked influence on the long-range planning of human activities.

In agricultural communities, where productive activity is periodic, the major festivals of local religions tend to mark the beginning and end of the productive season. At the time of planting a rogation ceremony is often performed to obtain supernatural blessing for the growing crops; at harvest time a thanksgiving festival is held to acknowledge divine intervention in the productive process. In northern climes, where agriculture is much affected by the changing length of days and is influenced more by variations in sunshine than by the coming of the rains, ceremonies often cluster around the times of solstice and equinox, the major turning points of the solar year.

Annual festivals, although mainly religious in orientation, have other consequences, intended and unintended. In tribal societies annual gatherings, such as the Australian corroboree, are important for the initiation of adolescents, the re-enactment of myths, and the restatement of cultural values. In addition, they provide a meeting point for persons of neighboring social groups, who not only participate in communal rituals but also use the occasion for settling disputes, getting brides, repaying debts, and generally regulating their affairs. Such events are often marked by a limited expression of tensions between groups, although the likelihood of overt conflict is inhibited by ritual peace, supported by special sanctions against the outbreak of violence (Fortes 1936). In Islamic countries the month of the pilgrimage (Dhu ’l-hijja) is sandwiched between two months during which raiding is prohibited, thus encouraging a ritual peace for the business and religious activities of the pilgrims.

In state systems, festivals such as the Ashanti Odwira, the Hausa Gani, or the damba of northern Ghana are used to affirm political allegiance; on these occasions subordinate chiefs come to the capital to do public obeisance to their liege lords. Again, these occasions may also allow for the limited expression of conflict in rituals of rebellion directed against those in authority (Gluckman 1954).

As religious festivals, these ceremonies are obviously affected by changes in the beliefs of the participants. But often new cults that arise are forced to incorporate features from earlier rituals into their own because of the powerful hold of the traditional rites; indeed, the early Christians adopted Roman rituals to such an extent that Faustus, the Manichaean bishop, tried to convince the young Augustine that they were nothing better than idolaters.

Whereas the major ceremonies of local religions usually celebrate the birth and death of the year (sometimes represented by the life cycle of a god), the main rituals of the prophetic religions enact the life and death of their founder, whose life cycle is encapsulated in the yearly calendar. The freedom from particular seasonal rhythms makes such calendars more appropriate for the world religions, whose adherents span many environments, and more appropriate also for urban communities, whose way of life is not governed by climatic changes. Such a liturgical calendar represents a further step in the dissociation of objective time reckoning from immediate human activities.

Increasing secularism has meant that the political value of regular festivals has been openly acknowledged; the anniversaries of a nation’s birth are celebrated with the same pomp and circumstance found in public demonstrations of loyalty to leader, state, and party. But while most ceremonies have a particular religious or national significance, the increased interaction between nations is producing a basic standardization of ceremonial time, a universal ritual calendar. The seven-day week is now world-wide, and, with the exception of a few Arab states of the Middle East, so too is the Sunday break; the post-Independence changes in Ceylon, which introduced a shifting weekly holiday (poya) based upon the lunar calculation of the Buddhists, were inspired by political motives and seem unlikely to last. The most widespread public holiday is the first of January, the beginning of the Gregorian year, closely followed in popularity by Christmas and May Day. Despite the predominantly secularized character of the modern festival, a few groups reject the celebration of Christmas on religious grounds, but gift giving is often shifted to a nearby occasion—to Hanukkah among Jewish minorities and to New Year’s Day in the European communist states. In some countries the first of May, the day on which the labor movement traditionally shows its strength, is celebrated as a holiday, but under certain right-wing regimes, as in Spain, all public manifestations of the holiday are banned, although this very denial has added to its value as a day of protest. In most of the new nations the day is celebrated as one of solidarity and exhortation to increased national effort. In this case, the element of protest has been transferred from inside the social system to external targets, especially to the “neocolonial” activities of the major European powers.

The number of bank holidays provides a rough scale of the degree of national “puritanism": Roman Catholic countries have the most, Protestant ones fewer, and the communist states fewest of all; Brazil has 18, Britain 6, and Bulgaria 5. New nations display an eclectic choice that reflects their political situation, ideological tenets, and religious composition: Ceylon, for example, recognizes Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist festivals, together with May Day, Independence Day, and a few other holidays, making a total of 15.

Measurement of time—the human cycle

Objectively, the passage of time in both the cosmic and human cycles is measured by the units already described—days, weeks, months, and years. But just as the year is divided into seasons that broadly characterize its main phases, so too the life span of human beings is divided into such categories as infancy, adolescence, and adulthood. The movement of an individual from one age grade to another is often celebrated by a rite of passage. In some societies these stages of growth form the basis of social groups of coevals, and in others a continuing series of such groups (age sets) is linked in an over-all age organization, which may serve important political and military functions. In modern nation-states, age-determined groups are the basis of educational organization, of informal associations of adolescents, and often of military recruitment, but they are of little importance in later phases of the life cycle.

The position of an individual in the life cycle not only influences the role he plays and the groups to which he belongs but also has a number of less obvious effects on his behavior. The composition of the unit around which his domestic life revolves inevitably changes radically over time. One consequence of this fact for sociologists is that the “average family” can never be directly derived from a synchronic census but must be seen in dynamic perspective, that is, in terms of the developmental cycle (Fortes 1958). This approach not only illuminates residential patterns and divorce statistics but also is important in analyzing changing attitudes and beliefs. Durkheim, for example, demonstrated the inverse correlation between suicide rates and family integration, while Argyle (1958) showed the link between age and religious commitment, the latter being highest at 18, dropping to a nadir at 30, and gradually increasing in strength the nearer the prospect of death. Clearly, an individual’s perception of the social universe changes as his relationships with the living shift: the child defers to his elders, while the adult is deferred to. Rites of passage in the human cycle. The major changes in an individual’s life are marked by rites of passage which announce and enact the acquisition of a new role, of new rights and duties. Thus, birth is usually followed by baptism, marriage rites celebrate the establishment of an enduring sexual union, and death is accompanied by elaborate funeral ceremonies that serve to dissociate an individual from his network of mundane relations and dispatch him to the world of the dead. In preindustrial societies funerals are usually the most important of the life-cycle ceremonies, since they have to accomplish the transfer of a man’s rights and duties, especially over property, women, and office, to other members of the community; this process is necessarily gradual and hence often marked by a double funeral, the first stage of which is a burial service and the second a kind of memorial (Hertz 1907; Goody 1962). Ceremonies accompanying such distributions are particularly important in agricultural societies, where the volume of fixed and enduring property transmitted by kinship succession is high and where the ceremonies themselves often have integrative and cathartic functions for the local group. In urban industrial communities, where neighborhood and kinship ties are weak, where property inheritance is of more limited significance (since most people cannot bequeath the means of production), such ceremonies tend to become more perfunctory, especially as literacy permits the witnessing function of these rites to be accomplished by the issuing of licenses. But marriage, which involves the expression of intent by the participants, is still a significant public display in many industrial communities; birth continues to be the focus of important ceremonies among people of property; and the funeral complex (including published obituaries) often takes a highly elaborate form in the case of those who have done the state some service. The burial of great men performs an integrative function on a national level, restating the values the society holds dear and recalling the specific contributions made by other former citizens.

The allocation of time

Members of all societies have to make some allocation of the time to be spent on any one activity as against any other. In simple economies the basic allocation is closely linked to nature, being dominated by diurnal and seasonal rhythms. More accurate and more complex scheduling goes hand in hand with an increasing complexity of organization. It is made possible first by the development of writing, then by the invention of mechanical time keeping, and finally by the democratization of literacy through paper and the printing press. Time allocation, like other bureaucratic operations, can be removed from the uncertain sphere of memory and attached to objects in the outside world—"Make a note of that,” “Put that in writing.”

But it is above all the watch that dominates the organization of time in modern societies. While radio signals, the factory siren, and the town-hall clock establish public time, the increasingly complex schedules of contemporary life are made possible by the mass-produced watch, a personal time keeper that individuals consult with the obsessive regularity of the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. The coordination of joint activities, whether over large distances or within complex organizations, requires that each individual make precise measurements: army orders for the movement of troops may end with the synchronization of watches, and civilians display the same concern about being “on time.” The watch is often a man’s first major gift to his adolescent son, a stimulus to adopt the adult virtue of punctuality, an emblem of approaching responsibilities.

Since many of the operations of industrial life occur at regular intervals, people are able to rou-tinize their behavior and so reduce the strain of organizing schedules and making decisions. In the commuter’s life (the epitome of routinized time allocation), the pattern is largely imposed from the outside, by factory, train, and office. However, elaborate scheduling also spills over into leisure hours; many individuals have regular times for washing the car, for going on walks, and for entertaining guests, and in this way themselves impose an order on these potentially less structured situations.

As Mumford has pointed out, such regimentation was both essential to and the product of the rise of capitalism: “The new bourgeoisie, in counting house and shop, reduced life to a careful, uninterrupted routine: so long for business: so long for dinner: so long for pleasure—all carefully measured out, as methodical as the sexual intercourse of Tristram Shandy’s father, which coincided, symbolically, with the monthly winding of the clock. Timed payments: timed contracts: timed work: timed meals: from this period on nothing was quite free from the stamp of the calendar or the clock. Waste of time became for protestant religious preachers, like Richard Baxter, one of the most heinous sins” ([1934] 1964, p. 42).

Mechanical devices (like writing) can make for easier manipulation of time categories; when schedules are linked with natural events such as the budding of trees, they are less easy to adapt to innovations such as new crops. At the same time, these devices enabled man to accelerate the pace of life to fit more activities into the day. A major development in late medieval technology was the control of power, and increasing power quickened the tempo of social life. Production and transport were speeded up, and in this century the concern with speed has even affected sport; the stop watch became the tool of the athletic coach as well as of the time-motion study experts.

Because the diversity of an individual’s roles is so often tied to particular places, such as shop, clinic, or office, it demands very specific allotments of time. A man or woman at work has to meet a more exacting schedule than does a housewife, whose routine turns upon the husband’s employment and the children’s school. Economic and domestic roles are segregated in time and space; and to take on any additional ("voluntary") roles, such as that of local councilor, party chairman, or committee member, means a further careful allocation of this scarce commodity, since each one necessitates a whole set of timed appearances. In societies that lack a complex division of labor, the role structure is more homogeneous in that during their lives most people fill most roles and in that the activities themselves rarely involve so great a separation in space and time.

The more elaborate the division of labor and the less ascriptive the recruitment to roles, the greater are the number of possible role opportunities open to the individual. Selection among these alternatives is a matter of allocating time over the whole span of a person’s life, and adults speak feelingly of “the wasted years” or of “having their time over again,” sentiments likely to be less important in undifferentiated communities, where a new life would tend to be much like the old. In Hindu society, which, although differentiated, is still based on the ascription of roles, movement through the role structure is left to future incarnations and depends upon an individual’s performance in his existing status. Such an eschatology provides the possibility of future mobility as a compensation for the unchangeable present.

“Career scheduling” involves choices on the part of both the senior and junior generations that often entail consideration of comparative rewards over the long term. Lengthy career training means the postponement of gratification in money, sex, and independence. The ability to carry out such a program derives from professional interest, the attraction of greater rewards, and the pressures of parents and peers; it is also supported by moral factors, such as the commitment to the Protestant ethic. The higher the desired status and the more complex the economy, the longer the time perspective needed to attain one’s ends. On a national scale, there is a parallel problem concerning the restriction of immediate spending in the interests of investment. The running of any economy, whether socialist, capitalist, or mixed, requires a deliberate consideration of present action in the light of future needs.

Attitudes toward time

The past. In nonliterate cultures ideas and attitudes concerning the past tend to reflect present concerns. To some extent this happens in all societies, especially in those situations where we rely upon memory. But where the transmission of culture is entirely dependent upon oral communication, upon an interlocking series of conversations, the past is inevitably swallowed up in the present (Goody & Watt 1963). In the strictest sense, history begins with writing. Before (and partly after) the widespread use of writing, the past is a backward projection of the present, going straight back to the mythical age that saw the emergence of humanity and its present way of life. While stories of migration and genealogies contain much in the way of historical fact, they often constitute collective representations of contemporary relationships and act as the “charters” of existing institutions. For example, the variations in the average depth of genealogies are to be related not to intrinsic differences in short-term and long-term memories of the people concerned but to differences in the social groups that these genealogies help to tie together. However, in many centralized societies, accounts of dynastic events are often passed down by various mnemonic devices that partly shield their contents from the transmuting effects of oral tradition.

It is only when writing gives a material embodiment to speech that the distant past can represent more than a backward extension of the present. Although each age still rewrites its own history, the past begins to acquire an independent existence of its own. Today an individual’s cultural equipment is no longer limited to what is handed down orally from one generation to the next but includes, potentially at least, the entire contents of the libraries, the written records of the past ages and dead societies, and the thoughts of distant scholars. The cultural heritage is vastly extended and with it the whole conceptualization of space and time. Change and duration become a more concrete part of one’s existence. With the extension of writing into the personal and the ephemeral, by means of letters, newspapers, and diaries, even one’s own past can achieve a modicum of objectivity, providing memory with an individual check list. Recording the speech of people over time and over space widens human experience and increases the likelihood of further change by making skepticism and disagreement articulate and therefore cumulative; literate traditions of dissent open up vistas of alternative forms of human organization.

With the articulated calendar, the passage of time takes on a measured regularity. Old men can no longer look back unchallenged upon a past of 200 summers; with the registration of births and deaths, the specification of exact age becomes an intrinsic part of life and death. The reckoning of annual birthdays, whether for customary celebration or for astrological calculation, is a literate device. The Akan of west Africa named their children according to the weekday of birth (for example, Kwame is Saturday’s child), which was seen as determining a child’s character and sometimes functioned as a self-fulfilling prophecy; however, the system specified only the name of the day, not the day of the month or the year.

The recognition of age differences and age order is a feature of all societies, but people in Western societies are preoccupied with specific age. An adult’s first question to a child, after hearing his name, is about his age, and age will be the first entry in a man’s obituary and the main feature on his tombstone. Numerical age rather than physical condition determines adult status; the patterned ages of 7, 14, and 21, so important in medieval law, have been largely replaced by new numbers that define an individual’s ability to marry, to fight, and even to work, for bureaucratic organizations increasingly enforce compulsory retirement by age rather than by capacity. But characteristically this restriction applies to the employee more than to the director, to civil servants more than to politicians.

The present. Literacy influences attitudes not only to the past but to the present and future as well. The permanency of written records makes a radical difference in the accumulation and storage of knowledge and opinions and thus creates the possibility of more rapid change. But literacy brings with it an often troublesome inability to forget the past, so that the present has to engage in a deliberate struggle with older modes of thought and action. Individuals, groups, and governments strive to repeal laws which in nonliterate societies would have quite simply been forgotten or else would have undergone imperceptible changes to bring them into line with the new conditions. Unlike statutes, the Bible, the Koran, and other books of God cannot be amended, but their contents are reinterpreted over time and what was once intended literally is later seen as allegory and symbol, as metaphor and myth.

But above all, attitudes toward time present focus upon the alternative uses of time that are offered by an elaborate division of labor, the minute scheduling that this division of labor entails, and the continual presence of a watch upon the wrist, which makes man ever conscious of the fleeting moment. In most literary traditions, writers express their regret at the passing of pleasure and the shortness of human life, but it is the perpetual concern with the passage of time that is characteristic of industrial man. Made aware that time is his scarcest resource, he learns to “spend” and “save” it like money. The ideology that stands at the center of industrial society stresses the full and productive use of time, a commodity that requires the most careful husbanding. This concern is as characteristic of socialist systems as of capitalist systems; during the industrialization of the Soviet Union an association was formed to encourage the carrying of watches and to expound the benefits of punctuality. Managers often find that the behavior of newly industrialized workers in developing countries deviates sharply from these enunciated values. The peasant is not used to “watching the clock” or to the demanding (and desiccating) routine of much of factory life. “Slaves?” I was once asked by an African visitor when he first saw rows of women working on an assembly line, their exits and entrances timed by “the clock,” their every move organized by time and motion studies. For the peasant, time has been nature’s time, and the organization of his activities largely his own affair.

The future. The factors that bear upon attitudes toward the present are also relevant to attitudes toward the future; indeed, the difference simply turns on the question of scheduling over the longer term, as compared to the shorter term. In peasant communities the scheduling of production operates on an annual basis, but it is largely repetitive and future activity is mainly a continuation of the present. With the development of centralized political systems planning became more elaborate and included the storage of grain against famine, the construction of capital works, the build-up of supplies for military campaigns, and the organization of long-distance trade. But while the future may be visualized in terms of the success or failure of such undertakings, which are recognized as responsive to human foresight and control, deliberate social change is at first organizational rather than structural; even changes in the political order are a matter of rebellion rather than revolution, of replacing the officeholder rather than changing the over-all distribution of power.

The possibility of long-range planning is vastly increased by the existence of writing. Literacy not only makes it technically possible to follow a complex plan but also to project and publicize a variety of alternative worlds (and the programs for their attainment) that vary along a continuum ranging from the pragmatic to the Utopian. And by the process of “ideological feedback,” these programs often influence, and sometimes dominate, the direction of change.

Plans, the projected organization of future time, are as much a requisite of the personal sphere as of the national and industrial domains. The maintenance of a yearly balance between production and consumption is not in itself enough: in most professional and managerial groups there is the necessity of planning for a surplus throughout a man’s total career, a surplus that is required for heavy expenses such as house purchases and educational fees; and since the dominant attitudes favor providing for individual security rather than familial dependence, there is the problem of making provision for old age. A man’s total perspective of time future extends beyond the end of this life to an afterlife. Beliefs in the continuity of some element of the human personality after death characterize all cultures, with the possible exception of communist societies and minority groups in secularized Western states.

In most societies the distant past and future tend to be of peripheral interest. However, the idea of an earlier golden age, a Garden of Eden, is not an uncommon way of dealing with the universal “problem of evil,” of explaining the actual imperfections and potential perfectibility of man. And when a culture of the less complex kind is hard pressed, typically by contact with European society, there is a tendency to seek comfort in ritual designed to bend time backward to an earlier paradise or to leapfrog time and hurry on the advent of the Messiah, the coming of the millennium [Worsley 1957; Thrupp 1962; see alsomillenarism].

By and large, the “other world” of agricultural societies is visualized as a continuation of this world, although there is usually some distribution of rewards and punishments for behavior on earth, so that those who have escaped from mundane punishments get their due in the afterlife. Societies with elaborate status hierarchies may redress the balance of this world by a reversal of status in the next; it is the rich rather than the poor who are told that it is difficult to enter the Christian heaven.

The afterlife may be seen either as the final destination of humanity or as a stage in the continuous flow of life which leads back again into this world by some process of reincarnation or transmigration. Here again, the element of status reversal may be present; the relative lack of social mobility in Hindu society is partially offset by the fact that the worthy fulfillment of a man’s present role may qualify him for a higher status in his next incarnation.

The increasing pace of social change and individual mobility in industrial societies, combined with an increasing skepticism and secularization, makes such eschatologies of decreasing importance to society. Millennial dreams are replaced by political Utopias, the idea of a fixed destiny by a concern with educational mobility, and the belief in immortality by a concept of social progress and continuity. Nevertheless, few men, as they advance in age, do not feel the urge to extend the limits of their tenure, by church attendance, public activities, the written word, or identification with their progeny. It is difficult, if not impossible, for men to envisage a final end to time, on either a cosmic or an individual level, and the continuous chain of familial living helps to mitigate the prospect of complete finality.

Jack Goody

[See alsoperiodization.]


Argyle, Michael 1958 Religious Behaviour. London:Routledge.

Baillie, G. H. 1929 Watches: Their History, Decoration and Mechanism. London: Methuen.

Bickerman, Elias (1933) 1963 Chronologic 2d ed. Leipzig: Teubner.

Bohannan, Paul J. 1953 Concepts of Time Among the Tiv of Nigeria. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 9:251-262.

Bolton, Lyndon 1924 Time Measurement. Princeton, N.J.: Van Nostrand.

Cipolla, Carlo M. 1967 Clocks and Culture: 1300-1700. London: Collins. Cumont, Franz 1912 Astrology and Religion Among the Greeks and Romans. New York: Putnam. -→ A paperback edition was published in 1960 by Dover.

De grazia, Sebastian 1962 Of Time, Work and Leisure. New York: Twentieth Century Fund.

Durkheim, Emile (1912) 1954 The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. London: Allen & Unwin; New York: Macmillan. → First published as Les formes elementaires de la vie religieuse, le systeme totemique en Australie. A paperback edition was published in 1961 by Collier.

Evans-Pritchard, E. E. (1940) 1963 The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People. Oxford: Clarendon.

Fortes, Meyer 1936 Ritual Festivals and Social Cohesion in the Hinterland of the Gold Coast. American Anthropologist New Series 38:590-604.

Fortes, Meyer (1949)1963 Time and Social Structure: An Ashanti Case Study. Pages 54-84 in Meyer Fortes (editor), Social Structure: Studies Presented to A. R. Radcliffe-Brown. New York: Russell.

Fortes, Meyer 1958 Introduction. Pages 1-14 in Jack Goody (editor), The Developmental Cycle in Domestic Groups. Cambridge Papers in Social Anthropology, No. 1. Cambridge Univ. Press.

Gennep, Arnoldvan (1909) 1960 The Rites of Passage. London: Routledge; Univ. of Chicago Press. -” First published in French.

Gluckman, Max 1954 Rituals of Rebellion in South-east Africa. Manchester Univ. Press.

Gluckman, Max 1963 Order and Rebellion in Tribal Africa. New York: Free Press.

Goody, Jack 1962 Death, Property and the Ancestors: A Study of the Mortuary Customs of the LoDagaa of West Africa. Stanford Univ. Press.

Goody, Jack; and Watt, Ian 1963 The Consequences of Literacy. Comparative Studies in Society and History 5:304-345.

Granet, Marcel (1934) 1950 La pensee chinoise. Paris: Michel.

Halbwachs, Maurice 1925 Les cadres sociaux de la memoire. Paris: Alcan.

Hallowell, A. Irving 1937 Temporal Orientation in Western Civilization and in a Preliterate Society. American Anthropologist New Series 39:647-670.

Hertz, R. 1907 Contribution a une £tude sur la representation collective de la mort. Annie sociologique 10:48-137.

Mauss, Marcel (1906) 1960 Essai sur les variations saisonnieres des societes eskimos: Etude de morphologic sociale. Pages 389-477 in Marcel Mauss, Socio-logie et anthropologie. 2d ed. Paris: Presses Universi-taires de France. -* Written in collaboration with H. Beuchat; first published in Volume 9 of Annie sociologique.

Meyerhoff, Hans 1955 Time in Literature. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

Milham, WILLIS L. (1923) 1945 Time and Timekeepers. New York: Macmillan.

Moore, Wilbert E. 1963 Man, Time and Society. New York: Wiley.

Morgan guaranty trust company of new york 1965 Bank and Public Holidays Throughout the World. New York: The Company.

Mumford, Lewis (1934) 1964 Technics and Civilization. New York: Harcourt.

Needham, Joseph 1965 Time and Eastern Man. Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Occasional Paper No. 21. London: The Institute.

Needham, Joseph; Ling, Wang; and Price, Derek J. De Solla 1960 Heavenly Clockwork: The Great Astronomical Clocks of Medieval China. Cambridge Univ. Press.

Nilsson, Martin P. 1920 Primitive Time-reckoning. Oxford Univ. Press.

Piaget, Jean 1946 Le developpement de la notion de temps chez Venfant. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Thomas, Northcote W. 1924 The Week in West Africa. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 54:183-209.

Thrupp, Sylvia L. (editor) 1962 Millennial Dreams in Action: Essays in Comparative Study. Comparative Studies in Society and History, Supplement No. 2. The Hague: Mouton.

Toulmin, Stephen; and Goodfield, June 1965 The Discovery of Time. New York: Harper.

Trimingham, John S. 1959 Islam in West Africa. Oxford: Clarendon.

Usher, A. P. (1929) 1954 A History of Mechanical Inventions. Rev. ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press. -* A paperback edition was published in 1959 by Beacon.

White, Lynn 1962 Medieval Technology and Social Change. Oxford: Clarendon.

Worsley, Peter 1957 The Trumpet Shall Sound: A Study of “Cargo” Cults in Melanesia. London: Mac-Gibbon & Kee.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Time." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Time." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . (December 17, 2017).

"Time." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from



TIME. " Time" may not spring to mind immediately when one thinks of food, but time is always a factor. After all, recipes generally incorporate an element of time (for example, "let rise for four hours" or "bake for forty-five minutes"), cooking preparation involves time, and various demands drive the length of meals. Thus, time has an impact on one's daily food and food-preparation routine, and this impact is a particularly gendered process.

In nearly all parts of the world, cooking is a female task (Murdock and Provost, 1973). Women's time is bounded by food-preparation tasks, particularly if they must perform those tasks several times a day (for example, tasks such as tortilla preparation, millet pounding, and the preparation from scratch of several meals a day). Alteration of a daily routine, for example, the intrusion of a more "urban" or fast-paced schedule, can alter food-preparation patterns. If women enter a market economy, they have less time to prepare food, which leads to, among other things, increased purchases of prepared food and more business for the fast-food industry. Time and food preparation are also markers of rank or class, since elaborate meals are generally costly in terms of time preparation as well as ingredientsin most societies, only the well-to-do, who have either time or help or both, can prepare elaborate meals. These widespread changes in food-preparation patterns are part of urban Western culture, where convenience and fast-food items (the names of which indicate their purpose) are replacing daily meal preparation. The Italian "slow food" movement is counterpoised against this trend.

Food Preparation

The preparation of foodsthe transformation from a raw or unprocessed state to one suitable for consumptionoccupies a major portion of many women's time throughout much of the world. For rural women and those in developing nations, preparation of meals may take up the major portion of a woman's waking life. Since staple foods must undergo a lengthy preparation process, women can spend much of their time processing grain, nuts, or tubers, in addition to meal preparation itself. (This pattern has antecedents in the West, as well: consider the time needed to make bread and churn butter.)

Accompanying this ongoing preparation of staples is the routine of meal preparation. For example, Andean Ecuador meal preparation, which is performed from scratch twice a day, generally involves two to three hours of potato peeling, water boiling, and construction of the soup that constitutes the staple meal (Weismantel, 1988). In southern Mexico, rural Maya women may prepare up to two hundred tortillas per day, grinding and cooking them at each of two or three meals (Eber, 2000). In rural Africa, women farmers grind the standard grains, usually millet or sorghum, into flour for porridge or soup on a daily basis. Pounding millet, as this process is called, occurs at least once a day, and sometimes more often as needs demand. African women are also responsible for preparing and assembling meals. In Western urban settings, the food-preparation process may be slightly less rigorous, but often remains time-consuming, since the cook must peel, chop, and cook.

Scheduling and Meals

The timing of meals is culturally determined and is linked to preindustrial work patterns, particularly the agricultural cycle. Throughout Latin America, the main meal of the day traditionally falls in mid-afternoon. The siesta, stereotypically seen by North Americans as a sign of indolence, is actually the main meal of the day. This pattern remains intact in smaller cities and rural areas, though the demands of global business are increasingly pushing urban workers into the short noon lunch typical of the United States. Among rural indigenous peoples, however, mealtimes may differ, following much more closely the requirements of subsistence farming. Breakfast is eaten very early in the morning, and a second, larger meal follows in the late morning or early afternoon. Another meal occurs in early evening, with an occasional snack before bedtime (which also occurs early, often shortly after sundown). At the same time, much of the urban world has already adopted a meal schedule that better conforms to the demands of industrialism. Such changes may alter or eliminate traditional meals or reduce the time families spend together (Rotenberg, 1992).

Food, Time, and Class

Social standing shapes the ways in which food and time intersect. For those with sufficient income, only one member of a family need work, leaving the other family members at home to prepare traditional meals. Another alternative to preparing food for oneself is to hire a professional cook, who is also able to prepare meals from scratch.

For those with little money and little time, the options decrease. Convenience and fast-foods are expensive for what they provide, and they are often limited to single or perhaps two servings. Time, money, and class intersect in other ways that affect meals, as well. For the working poor, hours of overtime, or even two jobs, may take up the time that would otherwise be spent preparing and eating meals; meager wages may also reduce one's housing choices. In her book on the working poor, Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich describes this housing process: Unable to afford housing with a kitchen, the worker cannot purchase foods to prepare in bulk and cannot store or freeze these foods. Such workers are sometimes entirely dependent on meals they can purchase and eat immediately, such as fast-food or the kinds of over-priced but affordable snack food sold in convenience stores.

Changing Time and Changing Food

The impact of urban work patterns has affected mealtimes, food choices, and diet throughout the world. As workers move from an agrarian life to one driven by waged work, they shape their mealtimes to that of the workplace rather than the farm. The kinds of foods workers choose to eat are likely to be those that can be taken to the workplace or eaten on the run. The rise in sales of prepared foods appears to inevitably accompany women's entry into the workforce, and sometimes women themselves enter the workforce to provide the prepared food, a pattern seen in Peru (Babb, 1998), rural Africa (Clark, 1994), and elsewhere. The ability to bring home prepared food enables women to spend longer periods of time working in a pattern that parallels western women's purchase of fast-food dinners for the family. For the westerner and the rural worker alike, elaborate meals requiring lengthy preparation become increasingly associated with ritual and holiday feasting. The role of time in the preparation of holiday foods rather than (or in addition to) the use of special ingredients marks them as special treats. This stands in contrast to the faster and less elaborate meals consumed during a regular workweek. Sidney Mintz, in his work Sweetness and Power, has further suggested that the increasing consumption of sugar in tea allowed the shift of displaced rural English into industrial laborthey could consume cheap quick meals of tea and bread and spend much of their time working.

The speedy meal is familiar also in the form of the fast-food industry that the demands of postindustrial capitalism shaped. The busy worker can order, pick up, and pay for a quick and generally tasty meal, all without ever leaving the car. Eric Schosser has described in-depth the quite extensive impact of the fast-food industry on diet, food production, and meal patterns in his book Fast Food Nation. While answering the demand for quick, easily consumed meals, the fast-food industry has also shaped marketing, taste preferences, and even agricultural practice.

The "slow food" movement has arisen in opposition to the pervasiveness of the fast-food industry. Founded in Italy, "slow food" promotes local and organic foods, family mealtimes, and the role of food in social life. In general, this movement opposes the increasingly mechanized and driven work life that the fast-food industry and North American culture represent (Inouye, 2001).

See also Class, Social ; Division of Labor ; Fast Food ; Preparation of Food ; Slow Food .


Babb, Florence. Between Field and Cooking Pot: The Political Economy of Marketwomen in Peru. 2nd ed. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998.

Clark, Gracia. Onions Are My Husband: Survival and Accumulation by West African Market Women. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

Eber, Christine. Women and Alcohol in a Highland Maya Town: Water of Hope, Water of Sorrow. 2nd ed. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000.

Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2001.

Inouye, Brenda. "Slow Food." Alternatives Journal 27, no. 1 (Winter 2001): 4.

Mintz, Sidney. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Viking, 1985.

Murdock, G. P., and Catarina Provost. "Factors in the Division of Labor by Sex: A Cross-Cultural Analysis." Ethnology 9 (1973): 122225.

Rotenberg, Robert. Time and Order in Metropolitan Vienna: A Seizure of Schedules. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992.

Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 2001.

Weismantel, M. J. Food, Gender and Poverty in the Ecuadorian Andes. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988.

Robin O'Brian

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Time." Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Time." Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. . (December 17, 2017).

"Time." Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from




From the perspective of the natural sciences, time in and of itself causes nothing. Being but the interval between the motions of material objects, it is a gauge of change with no natural divisions. Such is not the case for most social times, where time has a causative role in shaping action and its perception. Humans mark its passage with ceremony, hope, and anxiety. The approach of a bureaucratic deadline or belief in an impending apocalypse can generate a flurry of culminating behaviors. Time is used as a reward, such as being given time off or promoted ahead of time, or as punishment, when one does time or is placed in time out for moral violations. Time, in addition to space, constructs the very boundaries of social reality by ordering social life and shaping individuals awareness of its passing.

Born without any temporal instinct or sense, human existence is largely orchestrated by external pacemakers, or Zeitgebers . Upon entry into the world, infants first lessons are largely temporal as they come to internalize the rhythms of their families language and activity schedules. With maturation, their lives become controlled by the metronomes of school, work, leisure, and community.

The most all-encompassing of these external times come from ones culture, whose tempos underlie its music, poetry, language, sports, and religion. Cultural systems can be likened to massive musical scores whose rhythms, argues anthropologist Edward T. Hall, may yet prove to be the most binding of all the forces that hold human beings together (1983, p. 156). Thus state-of-the-art technologies have historically been applied to times measurement: Just as modern peoples measure time by the vibration of atoms, so prehistoric peoples constructed huge monoliths to coordinate social time with cosmolog-ical calendars.

The broadest of cultural time conceptions involve orientations toward the future and past. The Golden Years, for example, can be collectively understood to exist either in the future (hence, time is seen as progressive and evolutionary) or in some idyllic past (as Paradise lost). The future can be in the past if the flow of time is culturally understood to be recurrent and reversible. A near universal myth holds that the world goes through cycles of destruction and regeneration (Eliade 1949), evident in beliefs about the cyclical nature of both natural and social phenomena. Where times flow is understood to be linear and irreversible, the future can be either progressive (i.e., the outlook engendered by the Enlightenment and industrialization) or degenerative (i.e., theologians belief in humanitys growing cultural depravity since the Fall or cosmologists predictions of a universe increasingly filled with black holes). These two broad orientations underlie distinction between traditional and modern cultures.

Cultural times are interwoven with social needs, the predominant personality types of social members, social complexity, and technology. The smaller and more homogeneous the group, the less the need for temporal precision. Hopi-speaking Pueblo Indians have no tenses for past, present, or future events, and they think of time not as a series of unique distinct instants but rather as cumulative events. Where identities are collectivist and individuals focus on the welfare of their groups as opposed to themselves, often they think in terms of long-term goals. An Iroquois chief describes how his peoples decision-making relates to the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come (Rifkin 1987, p. 65). Such cultures feature people-oriented polychronic time, which stresses human engagements and the completion of transactions rather than rigid schedules. The activities of individualistic selves, such as those in the United States, tend to be governed by monochronic time, doing things one at a time in observance of task-oriented schedules and procedures. Oriented toward immediate rewards, these people are obsessed with punctuality and deadlines (Hall 1983)and are demeaned when higher status others make them wait (Schwartz 1975).

As the primary form of work historically shifted from the land to the machine, the rhythms of social life were decreasingly dictated by natural times (e.g., cycles of day and night and the seasons) and increasingly by artificial times, such as the sixty-minute hour or the seven-day week, which have no bases in nature. With social differentiation and specialization evolved separate institutional realms, each with its own time schedules, rules, orientation toward the future and past, and patterns of change (e.g., cycles of growth and decay and oscillations between political liberalism and conservatism, bear and bull markets, and religious revivalism and secularism).

Given the growing importance of time, social institutions invariably sought its control through their creations of duration, succession, temporal location, and uniform rates of occurrence (Zerubavel 1981). Religions created prayer times and holy days (to distinguish themselves in time as well as space, Muslims claimed Fridays, Jews Saturdays, and Christians Sundays). One of the early acts of the First Republic of France was to alter time to create a more rational secular society. In 1793 the French Revolutionary calendar was adopted, with ten-day weeks, ten-hour days, and 100-minute hours. In Britain and the United States, national railroad schedules required uniform time because each town could no longer have its own noon when the sun was directly overhead. In 1883, Standard Railroad Time went into effect, creating five time zones to replace fifty regional times. A year later it was made the national legal time. Finally, with the increased rationalities of bureaucratic organizations, time became increasingly regularized and scheduled owing to greater needs for coordination and deadline-dictated precision.

Institutional differentiation was accompanied by the proliferation of social roles, which have become increasingly age graded over the past six decades (Chudacoff 1989). Single-room schools, for instance, became age-segregated classrooms. Each of these roles, in turn, came with its own social clock and associated age norms. To be thirteen and still in the third grade is to be behind schedule and a source of shame; to be a thirteen-year-old college junior is to be ahead of time and a source of esteem. Sequences of these age-graded roles provide biographical pathways and timetables. In the case of the family, there exist normative best times for the length of courtships and when to first marry and begin parenting. In addition, there are normative patterns for how individuals various roles are to be synchronized, such as not getting married before completing junior high school.

Finally, substantial social science research has been devoted to individuals subjective experiences of time. Temporal orientations are, for instance, shaped by positions within the class structure, with the future-oriented middle-class being more likely than the present-oriented lower class to stress delayed gratification and thriftiness in their childrens socialization. The passage of time seems to accelerate with increasing age, density of experiences, and approaching conclusions. Multiple and conflicting role demands produce the stresses of temporal scarcity. Excessive rates of social change, according to Toffler (1970), can produce future shock. Not surprisingly, mystical significance is attributed to senses of timeless-ness, such as athletes being in the zone and in religious depictions of deathless eternities.

SEE ALSO Christianity; Clock Time; Cultural Relativism; Industrialization; Iroquois; Machinery; Native Americans; Work; Work Day; Work Week


Chudacoff, Howard P. 1989. How Old Are You? Age Consciousness in American Culture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Eliade, Mircea. [1949] 1959. The Myth of the Eternal Return: Cosmos and History. Trans. Willard R. Trask. New York: Harper Torchbooks.

Hall, Edward T. 1983. The Dance of Life: The Other Dimension of Time . Garden City, NY: Anchor Books.

Rifkin, Jeremy. 1987. Time Wars: The Primary Conflict in Human History . New York: Henry Holt & Co.

Schwartz, Barry. 1975. Queuing and Waiting: Studies in the Social Organization of Access and Delay. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Toffler, Alvin. 1970. Future Shock . New York: Random House.

Zerubavel, Eviatar. 1981. Hidden Rhythms: Schedules and Calendars in Social Life . Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Michael C. Kearl

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Time." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Time." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . (December 17, 2017).

"Time." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


Time. Religious understandings of time rest on human awareness of transition in daily activities, in the movement from birth to death, and in the unfailing periodicity of the sun, moon, stars, and seasons. Much of the religious understanding of time seeks to find connections between these, and to interpret their significance. Therefore, a primary source for a religion's perception of time is to be found in its cosmology, which is generally replete with time-related characteristics. The cosmology of the natural world is often endowed with a soteriological meaning by using it as a metaphorical milieu for the spiritual path through time, leading to an eternal goal of enlightenment or salvation.

Based on common features found in many (but not all) ancient religions throughout the world, a pattern of cyclical religious behaviour has been observed among these traditions in which there is a regularly recurring need to return to some mythical beginning.

M. Eliade associated what is termed ‘sacred’ time with such cyclically governed religious times and ‘profane’ time with ordinary daily temporal existence. Sacred time was experienced in a ritualistic yearly repetition of some mythical creation act, often involving an hero-god who brought about creation and order by fighting and overcoming the forces of darkness, evil, and chaos.

This primitive cyclical experience can be compared with that of the early Israelites, suggesting that they began to deal with this terror from a considerably different spiritual viewpoint, namely that of faith. It was this faith that was the undercurrent nourishing the seeds for the gradual growth over many centuries of a sense of time as progressive and non-cyclical, i.e. with events related significantly to each other. The organization of this into the Deuteronomic history was an important step in distinguishing ‘times’ as revealing the purposes of God.

This biblical view of time, or ‘times’, was later expressed primarily in terms of two Gk. words, kairos and chronos, endowing time roughly with quality and extensiveness, respectively. Kairos had the general purport of ‘decisive moment’, or ‘opportunity’. On the other hand, chronos could mean time in general, duration, lifetime, or age.

The early Christians quite naturally continued the Israelite tradition of ‘event-oriented’ time. With the Christians, in addition to the biblical events, there were further decisive sacred events, compressed, of course, into a much shorter period of time. By far the most crucial of these were the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, but continuing with ‘the acts of the apostles’. Although it was not viewed so in biblical times, for Christians in later centuries and today Jesus as Christ stands at the centre of history, BC (before Christ) and AD (anno Domini, in the year of the Lord) years being numbered from this time. In general, therefore, in the biblical period, time seems to have been experienced and viewed on three different levels. The first is that of human subjectivity, time as realized in the worldly and religious life of persons and communities. The second is the cosmic level based on the understanding of the order of the natural world, which exhibits a manifold diversity of temporal aspects. The third level is that realized by the divine encounter with God; it is God's eternal time.

It is the interplay of these last two levels that provides the fabric of the Judaeo-Christian, as well as the Islamic, cosmologies. They are ‘one-time’ cosmologies characterized by one unrepeatable beginning and evolving redemptively to a specified end, involving an eschatology of final salvation and judgement.

In contrast to the Western religious view of sequential and progressive time, set in a cosmology with an unrepeatable beginning and ending, the Eastern view of time exhibits a cohesive interrelation of both cyclical and non-cyclical characteristics. The cyclical is evident in Hinduism in the earliest times when the Vedic altar was considered to be time itself, with 360 bricks for the days and 360 stones for the nights. However, the usual diversity of thought in Indian religion is already apparent in the Sūtras and the religious philosophy of the six major schools (darśana) of Hindu thought, with major differences in the understanding of time. However, all six schools do adhere to some common time-related views, perhaps because the problem of time was a central concern in the historical development of these positions. Thus the concept of repeated creation and dissolution of the universe is accepted by all schools, except the Pūrva-Mīmāṃsā; and all, with the Upaniṣads, maintain that being cannot arise from nothing; it is uncaused, indestructible, beginningless, and endless.

The awesome periodicity of the Indian cosmology is often cited by Western writers as the basis for a general claim that a strictly cyclical view of time characterizes this tradition. This claim has only very limited validity. First, the yugas are not equal in duration, nor in moral content, and even if they were, it is the karmic growth and progression of the soul through this periodicity that is the essential soteriological feature. Secondly, there is a voluminous scriptural literature in the tradition that meticulously expounds an incredibly broad spectrum of time concepts, most of which are not cyclical.

Nevertheless, the concept of rhythmic repetition, but in altered form, also found its way into the cosmologies of most Buddhist schools. Again the cosmologies provide a milieu for the path to salvation. In this case it means transcending the samsaric cycle of births, deaths, and all attendant suffering, and escaping time with achievement of nirvāna. However, the concept of time differs fundamentally in Buddhism from Brahmanism. For the Buddhist, flux and change (anicca) characterize the world, so that change is the ultimate reality; nothing is exempt from change. The position on this doctrine is so fundamental that the world is seen not as matter undergoing change, but as change bringing about ‘matter’. Inseparable from this doctrine is the equally fundamental conviction concerning the reality of the moment. All being is essentially instantaneous. Each moment is a creation entirely new, never seen in the same way before: ‘The moment is change manifested’ (L. Kawamura). Consistent with this is the understanding of anātman (no-self).

However, no one theory of cosmic time or the duration of its divisions is accepted by all schools of Buddhism, and speculation on such matters was discouraged by the Buddha as not directly relevant to the quest for liberation. Such speculation as did occur was based upon Hindu notions of endlessly recurring continuities of time, and it is from this procession of saṃsāra that the Buddhist seeks release. Thus time in itself has no eschatological significance and there is no doctrine of an apocalypse.

Among the Jains, time is understood as an ongoing series of revolutions of a wheel, rising up from the lowest point, and turning over the top into descent. The downward half is known as avasarpini, starting from the apex of a golden age, and descending through six spokes or ages to the kaliyuga (duhsama) in which Jain teaching and practice disappears. The uprising is known as utsarpini. The cycle is driven by itself, not by the intervention of any god or other agent. During each cycle of the wheel, the tīrthaṅkaras appear in order.

In this survey of the time-related views of major world religions there are two general features that are common: (i) the value placed on the living moment; (ii) the attempt to relate and reconcile lived time with some form of divine eternity, whether it is endless time, the totality of all time, or absolute timelessness. The general scientific or philosophic view of time as a chain of mathematical instants, an unrepeatable succession of experienced moments, or an irreversible continuous flow, is enriched by the religions which bestow a sacredness to each living moment; thus it is value-endowed time. Furthermore it is a goal-directed time that is set in a context of divine eternity or against a timeless transcendent background of reality with which the believer strives to find unity.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Time." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Time." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . (December 17, 2017).

"Time." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


time / tīm/ • n. 1. the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole: travel through space and time one of the greatest wits of all time. ∎  the progress of this as affecting people and things: things were getting better as time passed. ∎  time or an amount of time as reckoned by a conventional standard: it's eight o'clock Eastern Standard Time. ∎  (Time or Father Time) the personification of time, typically as an old man with a scythe and hourglass. 2. a point of time as measured in hours and minutes past midnight or noon: the time is 9:30. ∎  a moment or definite portion of time allotted, used, or suitable for a purpose: the scheduled departure time should we set a time for the meeting? ∎  (often time for/to do something) the favorable or appropriate time to do something; the right moment: it was time to go it's time for bed. ∎  (a time) an indefinite period: traveling always distorts one's feelings for a time. ∎  (also times) a more or less definite portion of time in history or characterized by particular events or circumstances: Victorian times at the time of Galileo the park is beautiful at this time of year. ∎  (also times) the conditions of life during a particular period: times have changed. ∎  (the Times) used in names of newspapers: The New York Times. ∎  (one's time) one's lifetime: I've known a lot of women in my time. ∎  (one's time) the successful, fortunate, or influential part of a person's life or career: in my time that was unheard of. ∎  (one's time) the appropriate or expected time for something, in particular childbirth or death: he seemed old before his time. ∎  an apprenticeship: all of our foremen served their time on the loading dock. ∎  dated a period of menstruation or pregnancy. ∎  the normal rate of pay for time spent working: if called out on weekends, they are paid time and a half. ∎  the length of time taken to run a race or complete an event or journey: his time for the mile was 3:49.31. ∎  (in sports) a moment at which play is stopped temporarily within a game, or the act of calling for this: the umpire called time. ∎  Soccer the end of the game: he scored five minutes from time. 3. time as allotted, available, or used: we need more time it would be a waste of time. ∎ inf. a prison sentence: he was doing time for fraud. 4. an instance of something happening or being done; an occasion: this is the first time I have gotten into debt the nurse came in four times a day. ∎  an event, occasion, or period experienced in a particular way: we had a good time | she was having a rough time of it. 5. (times) (following a number) expressing multiplication: five goes into fifteen three times it burns calories four times faster than walking. 6. the rhythmic pattern of a piece of music, as expressed by a time signature: tunes in waltz time. ∎  the tempo at which a piece of music is played or marked to be played. • v. 1. [tr.] plan, schedule, or arrange when (something) should happen or be done: the first track race is timed for 11:15 the bomb had been timed to go off an hour later. ∎  perform (an action) at a particular moment: Williams timed his pass perfectly from about thirty yards. 2. [tr.] measure the time taken by (a process or activity, or a person doing it): we were timed and given certificates according to our speed | I timed how long it took to empty that tanker. 3. [tr.] (time something out) Comput. (of a computer or a program) cancel an operation automatically because a predefined interval of time has passed without a certain event happening. PHRASES: about time used to convey that something now happening or about to happen should have happened earlier: it's about time I came clean and admitted it. against time with utmost speed, so as to finish by a specified time: he was working against time. ahead of time earlier than expected or required. ahead of one's time having ideas too enlightened or advanced to be accepted by one's contemporaries. all the time at all times. ∎  very frequently or regularly: we were in and out of each other's houses all the time. at one time in or during a known but unspecified past period: she was a nurse at one time. at the same time 1. simultaneously; at once. 2. nevertheless (used to introduce a fact that should be taken into account): I can't really explain it, but at the same time I'm not convinced. at a time separately in the specified groups or numbers: he took the stairs two at a time. at times sometimes; on occasions. before time before the due or expected time. behind time late. behind the times not aware of or using the latest ideas or techniques; out of date. for the time being for the present; until some other arrangement is made. give someone the time of day be pleasantly polite or friendly to someone: I wouldn't give him the time of day if I could help it. half the time as often as not. have no time for be unable or unwilling to spend time on: he had no time for anything except essays and projects. ∎  dislike or disapprove of: he's got no time for airheads. have the time 1. be able to spend the time needed to do something: she didn't have the time to look very closely. 2. know from having a watch what time it is. in (less than) no time very quickly or very soon: the video has sold 30,000 copies in no time. in one's own time (also in one's own good time) at a time and a rate decided by oneself. in time 1. not late; punctual: I came back in time for Molly's party. 2. eventually: there is the danger that he might, in time, not be able to withstand temptation. 3. in accordance with the appropriate musical rhythm or tempo. keep good (or bad) time 1. (of a clock or watch) record time accurately (or inaccurately). 2. (of a person) be habitually punctual (or not punctual). keep time play or rhythmically accompany music in time. lose no time do a specified thing immediately or as soon as possible: the administration lost no time in trying to regain the initiative. no time a very short interval or period: the renovations were done in no time.on one's own time outside working hours; without being paid. on time punctual; punctually: the train was on time we paid our bills on time. out of time 1. at the wrong time or period: I felt that I was born out of time. ∎  not following or maintaining the correct rhythm (of music): every time we get to this part in the song, you are out of time. 2. with no time remaining to continue or complete something, esp. a task for which a specific amount of time had been allowed: I knew the answers to all the essay questions, but I ran out of time. pass the time of day exchange greetings or casual remarks. time after time (also time and again or time and time again) on very many occasions; repeatedly. time immemorial used to refer to a point of time in the past that was so long ago that people have no knowledge or memory of it: markets had been held there from time immemorial. the time of one's life a period or occasion of exceptional enjoyment. time out of mindanother way of saying time immemorial. time was there was a time when: time was, each street had its own specialized trade. (only) time will tell the truth or correctness of something will (only) be established at some time in the future.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"time." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"time." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . (December 17, 2017).

"time." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from

time (sequential arrangement of all events)

time, sequential arrangement of all events, or the interval between two events in such a sequence. The concept of time may be discussed on several different levels: physical, psychological, philosophical and scientific, and biological.

Physical Time and Its Measurement

The accurate measurement of time by establishing accurate time standards poses difficult technological problems. In prehistory, humans recognized the alternation of day and night, the phases of the moon, and the succession of the seasons; from these cycles, they developed the day, month, and year as the corresponding units of time. With the development of primitive clocks and systematic astronomical observations, the day was divided into hours, minutes, and seconds.

Any measurement of time is ultimately based on counting the cycles of some regularly recurring phenomenon and accurately measuring fractions of that cycle. The earth rotates on its axis at a very nearly constant rate, and the angular positions of celestial bodies can be determined with great precision. Therefore, astronomical observations provide an almost ideal method of measuring time. The true period of rotation of the earth, that with respect to the fixed stars, defines the sidereal day, which is the basis of sidereal time. All sidereal days are equal. The period of rotation of the earth with respect to the sun (i.e., the interval between successive high noons) is the solar day, which is the basis for solar time. Because of the earth's motion in its orbit around the sun, the sun appears to move eastward against the fixed stars, and the earth must make slightly more than one complete rotation to bring the sun back to the observer's meridian. (The meridian is the great circle on the celestial sphere running through the north celestial pole and the observer's zenith; the passage of the sun across the meridian marks high noon.) But the earth's orbital motion is not uniform, and the plane of the orbit is inclined to the celestial equator by 231/2°. Hence the eastward motion of the sun against the stars is not uniform and the length of the true solar day varies seasonally, but on the average is four minutes longer than the sidereal day. True solar time, as measured by a sundial, does not move at a constant rate. Therefore the mean solar day, with a length equal to the annual average of the actual solar day, was introduced as the basis of mean solar time.

Mean solar time does move at a constant rate and is the basis for the civil time kept by clocks. Actually, the earth's rotation is being slightly braked by tidal and other effects so that even mean solar time is not strictly uniform. The law of gravitation allows prediction of the moon's position in its orbit at a given time; inversely, the exact position of the moon provides a kind of clock that is not running down. Time calculated from the moon's position is called ephemeris time and moves at a truly uniform rate. The accumulated difference between mean solar and ephemeris time since 1900 amounts to more than half a minute. However, the ultimate standard for time is provided by the natural frequencies of vibration of atoms and molecules. Atomic clocks, based on masers and lasers, lose only about three milliseconds over a thousand years. See standard time; universal time.

Psychology of Time

As a practical matter, clocks and calendars regulate everyday life. Yet at the most primitive level, human awareness of time is simply the ability to distinguish which of any two events is earlier and which later, combined with a consciousness of an instantaneous present that is continually being transformed into a remembered past as it is replaced with an anticipated future. From these common human experiences evolved the view that time has an independent existence apart from physical reality.

Philosophy and Science of Time

The belief in time as an absolute has a long tradition in philosophy and science. It still underlies the common sense notion of time. Isaac Newton, in formulating the basic concepts of classical physics, compared absolute time to a stream flowing at a uniform rate of its own accord. In everyday life, we likewise regard each instant of time as somehow possessing a unique existence apart from any particular observer or system of timekeeping. Inherent in the concept of absolute time is the assumption that the simultaneity of two given events is also absolute. In other words, if two events are simultaneous for one observer, they are simultaneous for all observers.

Relativistic Time

Developments of modern physics have forced a modification of the concept of simultaneity. As Albert Einstein demonstrated in his theory of relativity, when two observers are in relative motion, they will necessarily arrange events in a somewhat different time sequence. As a result, events that are simultaneous in one observer's time sequence will not be simultaneous in some other observer's sequence. In the theory of relativity, the intuitive notion of time as an independent entity is replaced by the concept that space and time are intertwined and inseparable aspects of a four-dimensional universe, which is given the name space-time.

One of the most curious aspects of the relativistic theory is that all events appear to take place at a slower rate in a moving system when judged by a viewer in a stationary system. For example, a moving clock will appear to run slower than a stationary clock of identical construction. This effect, known as time dilation, depends on the relative velocities of the two clocks and is significant only for speeds comparable to the speed of light. Time dilation has been confirmed by observing the decay of rapidly moving subatomic particles that spontaneously decay into other particles. Stated naively, particles in motion decay more slowly than stationary particles.

Time Reversal Invariance

In addition to relative time, another aspect of time relevant to physics is how one can distinguish the forward direction in time. This problem is apart from one's purely subjective awareness of time moving from past into future. According to classical physics, if all particles in a simple system are instantaneously reversed in their velocities, the system will proceed to retrace its entire past history. This property of the laws of classical physics is called time reversal invariance (see symmetry); it means that when all microscopic motions of individual particles are precisely defined, there is no fundamental distinction between forward and backward in time. If the motions of very large collections of particles are treated statistically as in thermodynamics, then the forward direction of time is distinguished by the increase of entropy, or disorder, in the system. However, recent discoveries in particle physics have shown that time reversal invariance is not valid even on the microscopic scale for certain phenomena governed by the weak force of nuclear physics.

Biological Time

In the life sciences, evidence has been found that many living organisms incorporate biological clocks that govern the rhythms of their behavior (see rhythm, biological). Animals and even plants often exhibit a circadian (approximately daily) cycle in, for instance, temperature and metabolic rate that may have a genetic basis. Efforts to localize time sense in specialized areas within the brain have been largely unsuccessful. In humans, the time sense may be connected to certain electrical rhythms in the brain, the most prominent of which is known as the alpha rhythm at about ten cycles per second.


See S. V. Toulmin and J. Goodfield, Discovery of Time (1965); S. Hawking, A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (1988).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"time (sequential arrangement of all events)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"time (sequential arrangement of all events)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (December 17, 2017).

"time (sequential arrangement of all events)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from



The notion of time in psychoanalysis intersects several other concepts such as repetition, regression, fixation, and rhythm, though Freud also discussed the idea of time directly. He began by emphasizing the atemporality of unconscious processes: The unconscious ignores time, and he suggested that the origin of the representation of time could be found in the discontinuous relation the preconscious-conscious system maintained with the external world, the time dimension then being associated with acts of consciousness. He related the representation of time to the representation of space, in that space could replace time in unconscious processes. Finally, pathology shows how temporal progression is ignored, a characteristic which is also seen in fantasy, where past, present, and future are united in one representation, and in the transference neurosis, which is based on the anachrony of affect.

The atemporality of unconscious processes is present in Freud's earliest writings. In Manuscript M (1950a [1892-99]), James Strachey refers to a sentence in which Freud points out that the chronological information ignored in fantasy is dependent on the conscious system. But it is in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900a) that the indestructibility of unconscious processes is proposed, along with its corollarythe impossibility of recognizing the passage of time that would bring about the end of something; its belonging to the past; and eventually its forgetting. In a note added in 1907 to The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901b), concerning the indestructibility of memory traces, Freud wrote that "the unconscious is completely atemporal."

Freud continued to repeat the same ideas, devoting considerable space to it in his essay on the metapsychology of the unconscious. "The processes of the system Ucs. are timeless ; i.e. they are not ordered temporally, are not altered by the passage of time; they have no reference to time at all. Reference to time is bound up, once again, with the work of the system Cs. " (1915e, p. 187). In the November 8, 1911, session of the Minutes of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society (Nunberg and Federn, 1962-75), Stekel and Mein-hold were rapporteurs for the topic under discussion, "the supposed timelessness of the unconscious," (Vol. 3, pp. 299-310) and during the discussion there arose a number of difficulties concerning the definition of time. In his conclusion Freud pointed out five arguments in favor of the atemporality of unconscious processes: the incorrect temporal orientation of dreams; the fact that condensation is possible; the lack of effects of temporal transition; the attachment to objects; the characteristic tendency of neuroses to become fixed. He concludes: "If the philosophers maintain that the concepts of time and space are the necessary forms of our thinking, forethought tells us that the individual masters the world by means of two systems, one of which functions only in terms of time and the other only in terms of space" (p. 308).

While the processes of the unconscious are atemporal, Freud continued to remind us of the importance of the temporal factor as an element of reality. This is true of the process of maturation, which is the central element of the theory of libidinal states, but which also distinguishes normal from pathological mourning. (Time appears to be inevitable, to the extent that it seems endowed with intrinsic action while it is, in fact, the duration necessary to establish a process, work of some kind.) Conversely, time as experienced, the feeling of time, is shown to be relatively independent of the objective reality of the time shown on clocks and watches. We see this in the painful acceleration of duration constituted by the feeling of the ephemeral (1916a [1915]), but also, and in reverse, in the interminable extension of the boredom or impatience of the child who wants to "grow up," that is, who wants to abolish the time that separates him from the age of his parents. Passion and the illumination or rush of the drug addict reduce duration to a point, the instant when the alpha and the omega meet.

Freud believed that the temporal dimension is accessible to us only as a function of acts of consciousness. Because these acts are not continuous but, like the "mystic writing pad," depend on the innervation of the cathexes directed from the interior by rapid, periodic bursts into the preconscious-conscious system, this perception of time is also discontinuous. "I assumed," Freud wrote, "I further had a suspicion that this discontinuous method of functioning of the system Pcpt.-Cs. lies at the bottom of the origin of the concept of time" (1925a, p. 231). Although time is ignored by unconscious processes, this does not mean it can't be represented in unconscious formations, which translate it as they see fit. This corresponds to what could be called "psychic temporality."

After Freud other authors returned to the question of time in analysis and in psychopathology. Piera Aulagnier has shown the importance of anticipation in the relation between mother and child and in the process by which a subject identifies with it, a process that, as it turns out, the psychotic is unable to complete (1975), being condemned to repeat the same thing over and over again.

Sophie de Mijolla-Mellor

See also: Psychic temporality.


Aulagnier, Piera. (1975). La violence de l 'interprétation. Du pictogrammeà l 'énoncé. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Freud, Sigmund. (1900a). The interpretation of dreams. SE, 4-5: 1-625.

. (1915e). The unconscious. SE, 14: 159-204.

. (1925a). A note upon the "mystic writing pad." SE, 19: 225-232.

Nunberg, Hermann, and Federn, Ernst. (1962-75). Minutes of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. New York: International Universities Press.

Further Reading

Loewald, Hans W. (1962). Superego and time. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 43, 264-268.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Time." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Time." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . (December 17, 2017).

"Time." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


396. Time

See also 18. ANTIQUITY ; 174. FUTURE ; 308. PAST .

1. a person or a thing remaining or appearing after its own time period; archaism.
2. an error in chronology. Also called antichronism . anachronistic, anachronistical, anachronous, adj.
the absence of concurrent time. Cf. synchronism. asynchronic , adj. asynchrony , n.
1. the science of arranging time in fixed periods for the purpose of dating events accurately and arranging them in order of occurrence.
2. a reference book organized according to the dates of past events. chronologer, chronologist, n. chronological, adj.
1. the art of measuring time accurately.
2. the measurement of time by periods or divisions. chronometric, chronometrical, adj.
an abnormal discomfort concerning time.
an instrument for accurate measurement of very short periods of time, as the time of trajectory of missiles.
accurate measurement of short intervals of time by means of a chronoscope. chronoscopic, adj.
an instrument for measuring time by the controlled flow of water or mercury through a small opening.
coevalneity. coetaneous, adj.
the state of eternal coexistence; eternal coexistence with another eternal entity. coetemal, adj.
the state or quality of being alike in age or duration; contemporaneity. Also called coetaneity . coeval, adj.
the practice or habit of delay or tardiness; procrastination. cunctator , n. cunctatious, cunctatory , adj.
the science of fixing dates in the past by the study of growth rings in trees. dendrochronologist , n. dendrochronological , adj.
diachronism, diachrony
the comparative study of a development based on its history. diachronic, diachronistic, diachronistical, adj.
Rare. the quality of long duration in time; length of time. diuturnal, adj.
the chronology of the earth as induced from geologic data. geochronologist , n. geochronologic, geochronological , adj.
the study of two or more related but distinct languages in order to determine when they separated, by examining the lexicon they share and those parts of it that have been replaced. glottochronologist , n. glottochronological , adj.
the art or science of constructing dials, as sundials, which show the time of day by the shadow of the gnomon, a pin or triangle raised above the surface of the dial.
a treatise or other work on the subject of gnomics.
any instrument or device for telling time, especially a sundial and early forms of the clock.
1. the description of watches and clocks.
2. the art of making timepieces. horologiographer, horologiographian, n. horologiographic, adj.
the art or science of making timepieces or of measuring time. horologist , n. horological , adj.
an instrument for measuring time.
the art or science of measuring time. horometrical, adj.
immediateness; the quality or condition of being immediate.
Obsolete, the state or condition of being untimely. intempestive , adj.
1. the characteristic of having a uniform period of vibration.
2. the condition of occurring at the same time as another event. isochronic, adj. isochrony, n.
a calendar of months.
the state or condition of occurring monthly.
a chronological error in which an event is assigned a date after its real one. Cf. parachronism. metachronic, adj.
an instrument for measuring extremely small time intervals. microchronometric, adj.
the process or condition of going out of date or being no longer in use. obsolescent, adj.
the dating of an event as later than its actual occurrence. Cf. prochronism. parachronic, adj.
the study of natural phenomena that occur periodically, as migration or blossoming, and their relation to climate and changes of season. phenologist , n. phenological , adj.
1. a camera for recording motion by a series of photographs taken at brief intervals.
2. the photograph so produced.
3. a camera that records the exact time of the event it is photographing by exposing a moving sensitized plate to the tracing of a thin beam of light synchronized with the event.
prevenance, prevenience
the act or state of preceding or coming before. prevenient, adj.
the dating of an event as earlier than its actual occurrence. Cf. parachronism. prochronic, adj.
the proportionate frequency at which an event takes place. See also 295. NUMBERS.
the state or quality of being eternal, without beginning or end. sempiternal, adj.
synchronism, synchrony
a coincidence in time; simultaneity. Cf. asynchronism. synchronistic, synchronistical, adj.
an arrangement of events by date, grouping together all those of the same date; a comparative chronology. synchronological, adj.
transience, transiency
the state or quality of passing with time or being ephemeral or fleeting. transient, adj.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Time." -Ologies and -Isms. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Time." -Ologies and -Isms. . (December 17, 2017).

"Time." -Ologies and -Isms. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from



TIME. The first issue of Time magazine appeared on 3 March 1923. The magazine was founded by the twenty-four-year-old Yale graduates Briton Hadden and Henry Luce. They created a distinctive newsweekly that was "Curt, Clear, and Complete" to convey "the essence of the news" to the "busy man." Emphasizing national and international politics, Time contained brief articles that summarized the significant events of the week. Its authoritative and omniscient tone was created through the technique of "group journalism," in which the magazine was carefully edited to appear the product of a single mind.

Time peppered its articles with interesting details and clever observations. It sought to make the news entertaining by focusing on personality. In its first four decades, over 90 percent of Time's covers featured a picture of an individual newsmaker. In 1927, the magazine began its well-known tradition of naming a "man of the year," making aviator Charles Lindbergh its first selection. Time's formula proved successful, particularly in appealing to better-educated members of the white middle class. By the end of the 1930s, circulation neared one million and its journalistic innovations were much imitated—newspapers were adding week-in-review sections and former Time employees launched Newsweek in 1933.

Particularly after Hadden's death in 1929, Time reflected the empire-building vision of Henry Luce. Beginning in the 1930s, Luce expanded the operations of Time, Inc. In 1930, he created Fortune, a business magazine widely read by the nation's economic leaders. In 1936, he created Life, a vastly popular magazine that summarized the weekly news events through pictures and had a seminal influence on the development of photojournalism. Luce also launched "The March of Time," both a radio program and a newsreel.

Luce became a well-known advocate of the global expansion of American power and influence. In a famous 1941 Life editorial, Luce called for an "American Century" in which the United States would "accept whole-heartedly our duty and our opportunity as the most powerful and vital nation in the world and … exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit." Luce's essay anticipated America's leadership of the capitalist world in the Cold War years, while his publications helped promote his patriotic, internationalist, and procapitalist views.

In the Cold War years, Time's reporting of the news reflected Luce's anticommunism. Throughout the 1940s, Time contained flattering portraits of the Chinese dictator Chiang Kai-shek and urged greater U.S. effort to prevent the victory of Mao Zedong and communism in China. The magazine's support of Cold War principles is clearly represented in a 1965 Time essay declaring the escalating battle in Vietnam to be "the right war, in the right place, at the right time." The Cold War years were a time of great expansion for Time, as it became America's most widely read news magazine, reaching a circulation of over four million by the end of the 1960s.

After Luce's death in 1967, Time made a number of changes to its distinctive journalistic style. In response to the growing influence of television news, Time granted bylines to writers, expanded its article lengths, shifted its focus from personality to issues, and added opinion pieces. However, much of Time's original journalistic vision of a news summary delivered in an authoritative and entertaining tone persisted, not just in Time, but also in the news media as a whole.

Meanwhile, Time, Inc., continued to expand. In the 1970s, Time acquired a large stake in the developing field of cable television. In 1989, it merged with Warner Brothers to become Time Warner. In 2001, it merged with America Online to become the gigantic media conglomerate AOL Time Warner, with large operations in television, publishing, music, film, and the Internet. Thus, even as the journalistic vision of the original Time had lost its distinctiveness, Luce's plan to make Time the cornerstone of a media empire was far more successful than his wildest expectations at the magazine's founding.


Baughman, James L. Henry R. Luce and the Rise of the American News Media. Boston: Twayne, 1987.

Elson, Robert T. Time, Inc.: The Intimate History of a Publishing Enterprise, 1923–1941. New York: Atheneum, 1968.

———. The World of Time, Inc.: The Intimate History of a Publishing Enterprise, 1941–1960. New York: Atheneum, 1973.

Herzstein, Robert. Henry R. Luce: A Political Portrait of the Man Who Created the American Century. New York: Scribners, 1994.

Prendergast, Curtis, with Geoffrey Colvin. The World of Time: The Intimate History of a Changing Enterprise, 1960–1980. New York: Atheneum, 1986.


See alsoMagazines .

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Time." Dictionary of American History. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Time." Dictionary of American History. . (December 17, 2017).

"Time." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from



Time is a measurement to determine the duration of an event or to indicate when an event occurred. For example, one could say that it took an object 3.58 seconds to fall, indicating how long it took for that event to occur. Or, one could say that English physicist Isaac Newton was born on December 25, 1642, telling when the event of his birth took place.

A number of units are used to measure time, including seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years. In the SI system (International System of Units) of measurement used in science, the standard unit of measurement is the second. The second can be subdivided (as can all SI units) into milliseconds, microseconds, and so on.

Time measurement

Humans measure time by observing some natural phenomenon that occurs very regularly. Until recently, those natural phenomena were all astronomical events: the rising and setting of the Sun, the Moon, and stars.

We know, for example, that the Sun rises and sets every day. One way to measure time is to call the time between two successive appearances of the Sun a "day." Then, an hour can be defined as 1/24 part of a day; a minute as 1/60 of an hour; and a second as 1/60 of a minute.

Solar time, which is based on the motion of the Sun, is not the only way of measuring time, however. One might keep track of the regular appearance of the full Moon. That event occurs once about every 29.5 solar days. The time between appearances of new moons, then, could be used to define a unit known as the month.

One also can use the position of the stars for measuring time. The system is the same as that used for the Sun, since the Sun itself is a star. All other stars also rise and set on a regular basis. Time systems based on the movement of one or more stars are known as sidereal time (pronounced seye-DEER-ee-uhl).

Although any one of these systems is a satisfactory method for measuring some unit of time, such as a day or a month, the systems may conflict with each other. It is not possible, for example, to fit 365 solar days into 12 or 13 lunar months exactly. This problem creates the need for leap years, leap centuries, and other adjustments developed to keep calendars consistent with each other. Adjustments in time-keeping systems also are necessary to correct for the fact that any natural motionsuch as that of the Sun or the Moonchanges very slowly over long periods of time.

Words to Know

Atomic clock: A device for keeping time based on natural oscillations within atoms.

Leap time: Any adjustment made in clocks and/or calendars in order to keep them consistent with the natural event used for time measurement.

Lunar time: Any system of time measurement based on the motion of the Moon.

Sidereal time: Any system of time measurement based on the motion of the stars.

Solar time: Any system of time measurement based on the motion of the Sun.

Time reversal: The hypothesis that it may be possible to go backward in time.

Atomic clocks

The standard of time used throughout the world today is no longer an astronomical event, but an atomic event. All atoms oscillate (vibrate back and forth) in a highly regular pattern. In a sense, this vibration is similar to the oscillation of a pendulum in a grandfather clock. The main difference is that atoms oscillate much more rapidly than do the pendulums in clocks.

In 1967, the Thirteenth General Conference on Weights and Measures decided to define a new unit of time. The Conference announced that one second would be defined as the time it takes for an atom of cesium-133 to oscillate 9, 192, 631, 770 times.

An atomic clock, like that made of cesium-133, is preferred to older methods of measuring time based on astronomical events because it is much more accurate. The best cesium clock would be in error by 1 second no more often than once every 6,000 years.

Time reversal

One of the intriguing questions about time is whether it can move in two directionsforward and backward. At first thought, it would appear that time can only go forward. Science fiction stories have been written about time machines, devices for allowing people to go back into history. But thus far, no such machine has actually been built.

Yet some scientists believe that going backward in timetime reversalmay actually be possible. For more than 40 years, experiments have been conducted to see whether certain kinds of physical processes can be made to go in reverse. If that result could be obtained, it would provide some reason to believe that time reversal really is possible. At this point, however, no experiment has produced that kind of result.

[See also Relativity, theory of ]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Time." UXL Encyclopedia of Science. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Time." UXL Encyclopedia of Science. . (December 17, 2017).

"Time." UXL Encyclopedia of Science. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


time traditionally personified as Father Time, an old man with a scythe and hourglass, and sometimes also bald but with a forelock.
from time immemorial from so long ago that people have no knowledge or memory of it. Legally in Britain, the time up to the beginning of the reign of Richard I in 1189.
no time like the present proverbial saying, mid 16th century; often used to urge swift and immediate action.
there is a time and place for everything proverbial saying, early 16th century; often used as a warning against doing or saying something at a particular time or in a particular situation. (Compare there is a time for everything.)
there is a time for everything proverbial saying, late 14th century, meaning that there is always a suitable time to do something; with biblical allusion to Ecclesiastes 3:1, ‘To every thing there is a season.’ (Compare there is a time and a place for everything.)
time and tide wait for no man proverbial saying, late 14th century; often used as an exhortation to act, in the knowledge that a favourable moment will not last for ever.
time flies proverbial saying, late 14th century; English equivalent of the Latin tempus fugit, reflecting on the swift passage of time. The Latin saying comes originally from a line from Virgil's Georgics, ‘Sed fugit interea, fugit inreparabile tempus [But meanwhile it is flying, irretrievable time is flying].’
time is a great healer proverbial saying, late 14th century, meaning that initial pain is felt less keenly with the passage of time; the ancient concept that time heals is predominantly used in the context of feelings and emotions rather than physical suffering. The Greek comic dramatist Menander (342–c.292 bc) has, ‘Time is the healer of all necessary evils.’
time is money proverbial saying, late 16th century; often used to mean that time spent fruitlessly on something represents a real loss of money which could have been earned in that time. In classical Greek, the saying ‘the most costly outlay is time’ is attributed to the Athenian orator and politician Antiphon of the 5th century bc.
Time's arrow is the direction of travel from past to future in time considered as a physical dimension. The phrase comes from Arthur Eddington (1882–1944) The Nature of the Physical World (1928).
time will tell proverbial saying, mid 16th century, meaning that the true nature of something is likely to emerge over a period of time, and that conversely it is only after time has passed that something can be regarded as settled. The Greek comic dramatist Menander (342–c.292 bc) has, ‘Time brings the truth to light.’
time works wonders proverbial saying, late 16th century; often used to suggest that with the passage of time something initially unknown and unwelcome will become familiar and acceptable.

See also take time by the forelock, never is a long time, peace in our time, a race against time, third time lucky, times, work expands so as to fill the time available.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"time." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"time." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . (December 17, 2017).

"time." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from



It is legally recognized that time is divided into years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds. The time kept by a municipality is known as civic time. A local government may not use a system of time different from that adopted by its state legislature. During daylight saving time, the customary time system is advanced one hour to take advantage of the longer periods of daylight during the summer months.

Time Zones

In the past, the states followed various standards of time until the railroads of the nation cooperated in establishing a standard time zone system, which was then adopted by federal statutes. Under the standard time zone system, the continental United States is divided into four different zones. The time in each zone is based upon the mean solar time at a specified degree of longitude west from Greenwich, England. Eastern standard time is based on the mean solar time at 75° longitude west; Central standard time, on 90° longitude west; Mountain time, on 105° longitude west; and Pacific time on 120° longitude west.


A year is the period during which the earth revolves around the sun. A calendar year is 365 days, except for every fourth year, which is 366 days. The year is divided into twelve months. A week ordinarily means seven consecutive days, either beginning with no particular day, or from a Sunday through the following Saturday. A day is twenty-four hours, extending from midnight to midnight. When distinguished from night, however, a day refers to the period from sunrise to sunset.

In calculating a specified number of days, it is customary to exclude the first and include the last. As a consequence, when a lease provides that it shall continue for a specified period from a particular day, that day is excluded in computing the term. This rule is applied in calculating the time for matters of practice and procedure. The rule governs, for example, the period in which a lawsuit may be commenced, so that the day the cause of action accrues is excluded for statute of limitations purposes.

The general rule is that when the last day of a period within which an act is to be performed falls on a Sunday or a holiday, that day is excluded from the computation. The act may rightfully be done on the following business day. This rule has been applied in figuring the deadline for conducting a meeting of corporate shareholders; for filing a claim against a dead person's estate; for filing a statement proposing a new ordinance for a municipal corporation; for recording a mortgage; and for redeeming property from a sale foreclosing a mortgage.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Time." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Time." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . (December 17, 2017).

"Time." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from

Time (in Paranormal Perception)

Time (in Paranormal Perception)

Time is an element of uncertainty in paranormal functions. Yet we know from hypnotic experiments that the subconscious mind has a remarkable faculty in estimating time. J. Milne Bramwell made classical demonstrations, such as suggesting to a hypnotic subject, Miss A., that at the expiration of 11.470 minutes, she should make a cross on a piece of paper and note the time. Out of 55 similar experiments, 45 were completed successfully.

One would expect that if an entity, communicating through an entranced individual, was either a hypnotic or secondary personality, that the entity should demonstrate the same consciousness of time discovered by Bramwell. Such has not been the case. Its surprising absence needs an alternative explanation. Certainly fraudulent production of the entity by the medium would explain the lack of time consciousness. Spiritualists have suggested that the odd relationship to time, often manifesting displacements of a day or more, provides additional proof of the presence of extraneous entities in séances.

In one instance, "Pelham," a spirit control of Leonora Piper, was often asked to go and see what a certain friend was doing at the moment. The account that he gave on his return often contained descriptions that applied to happenings a day after or what he thought a day before.

The psychical researcher S. G. Soal received through Blanche Cooper communication from Gordon Davis, a friend who, a few months after, turned up alive. Through the medium, he gave a description of his house. The description was incorrect at the time he turned up but perfectly matched his home a year after.

In clairvoyant perceptions, a similar uncertainty is often noticed. The percipients often do not know whether the visions of events that unfold themselves refer to the past or future. There is a good instance in Quaker history. George Fox cried "Woe to the bloody city of Lichfield" as he passed through it, and discovered later this was not a prophecy but a psychometric sensation of the martyrdoms in a past age. The British investigator J. W. Dunne observed a mixture of past and future elements in dreams, as described in experiments he conducted.


Bramwell, J. Milne. Hypnotism. London: G. Richards, 1903.

Dunne, J. W. An Experiment with Time. London: A. & C. Black; New York: Macmillan, 1927.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Time (in Paranormal Perception)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Time (in Paranormal Perception)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . (December 17, 2017).

"Time (in Paranormal Perception)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


643. Time

  1. Antevorta goddess of the future. [Rom. Myth.: Kravitz, 24]
  2. Cronos (Rom. Saturn ) Titan; god of the world and time. [Gk. and Rom. Myth.: Kravitz, 69]
  3. dance of Shiva symbolizes the passage of time. [Hindu Tradition: Cirlot, 76]
  4. Father Time classic personification of time with scythe and hourglass. [Art: Hall, 119]
  5. Marcel the fast ebbing of time impels him to devote his life to recording it. [Fr. Lit.: Proust Remembrance of Things Past ]
  6. ring represents the cyclical nature of time. [Pop. Culture: Cirlot, 273274]
  7. river represents the irreversible passage of time. [Pop. Culture: Cirlot, 274]
  8. Skulda Norn of future time. [Norse Myth.: Wheeler, 260]
  9. Urda Norn of time past. [Norse Myth.: Wheeler, 260]
  10. Verdandi Norn of time present. [Norse Myth.: Wheeler, 260]
  11. white poplar traditional symbol of time. [Flower Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 178]
  12. Years, The the seven decades of Eleanor Pargiters life. [Br. Lit.: Benét, 1109]


Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Time." Allusions--Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Time." Allusions--Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. . (December 17, 2017).

"Time." Allusions--Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


time Perception of a sequential order in all experience; also the interval perceived between two events. A consideration of time falls within the disciplines of physics, psychology, philosophy, and biology. Until the theory of relativity was devised by Albert Einstein, time was conceived of as absolute – a constant one-direction (past to future) flow. Since then the concept of time linked with distance in space (‘space-time’) has connected time with the relative velocities of those perceiving it. For clocks at velocities approaching that of light, time expands from the point of view of a stationary observer, but it still flows in the same direction.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"time." World Encyclopedia. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"time." World Encyclopedia. . (December 17, 2017).

"time." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


time limited stretch of continued existence; period or point in the course of this OE.; indefinite continuous duration XIV. OE. tīma = ON. tími time, good time, prosperity :- Gmc. *tīman-, f. *tī- stretch, extend. Cf. TIDE1.
Hence time vb. †befall XIII; fix, note, etc. the time of XIV. timely well-timed, †early. XII. Modelled on timely adv., OE. tīmlīce; see -LY1, -LY2. timeous (chiefly Sc.) timely. XV. timepiece XVIII.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"time." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"time." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . (December 17, 2017).

"time." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


time. Fundamental rhythmical patterns of mus., e.g. 3/8 time = three 8th-notes to the measure. One speaks of waltz time (3/4) and march time (usually 2/4), and more generally of ‘quick time’.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"time." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"time." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . (December 17, 2017).

"time." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from

time (in music)

time, in music: see tempo; meter; rhythm; syncopation; metronome and musical notation.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"time (in music)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"time (in music)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (December 17, 2017).

"time (in music)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from



This entry includes three subentries:

Traditional and Utilitarian

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Time." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Time." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. . (December 17, 2017).

"Time." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from



See Space and Time

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Time." Encyclopedia of Science and Religion. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Time." Encyclopedia of Science and Religion. . (December 17, 2017).

"Time." Encyclopedia of Science and Religion. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


timebegrime, Chaim, chime, climb, clime, crime, dime, grime, half-time, I'm, lime, mime, mistime, part-time, prime, rhyme, rime, slime, sublime, thyme, time •paradigm • Mannheim • Waldheim •Sondheim • Trondheim •Guggenheim • Anaheim • Durkheim •quicklime • brooklime • birdlime •pantomime • ragtime • pastime •bedtime • airtime •daytime, playtime •teatime • mealtime • dreamtime •meantime • peacetime • springtime •anytime • maritime • flexitime •lifetime • nighttime • wartime •downtime • noontime • sometime •one-time • lunchtime • summertime •wintertime • enzyme

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"time." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"time." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . (December 17, 2017).

"time." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from