Gary S. Cross
Time at labor has depended on technological and economic realities but also on political power and cultural values. Work time has decreased with modern industrialization, but that decline did not simply correspond with increased productivity nor has it decreased at the same rate that consumption has risen. Moreover, especially since industrialization, patterns of male work time have diverged from female hours of labor.
PREINDUSTRIAL WORK TIME
The cadence of preindustrial agricultural work was often set by the season and weather. While labor from sunup to sundown was common, the workday varied by the task to be done. It was interrupted by feasts and festivals that mostly coincided with slack periods between fall harvest and spring planting or waiting times within the growing cycle itself. Harvest holidays, followed by a series of festivals between Christmas and Mardi Gras, and then by a festival season from Easter to Pentecost, filled the low point in the activity of rural Europeans. Midseason holidays like Midsummer or, in England, wakes week in August, corresponded to lulls in farm work or to annual fairs during which farm laborers found employment. Lack of reliable timepieces allowed for irregular work habits, and labor was frequently interrupted by play and rest breaks. Long days, often beginning before eating, required three or more meal and drink respites.
In craft occupations, the lack of laborsaving devices meant twelve or more hours of work per day. But long workdays were interrupted by seasonal slowdowns in demand for goods or supplies of raw materials. Capital could not be tied up in inventory, especially when slow transportation already greatly retarded the cycle of production and sale. And the workweek was often characterized by short Mondays because workers had to wait for slow moving supplies or for orders to arrive at the work site. The speed of the oxcart or sailing ship controlled the pace of business for the merchant and producer. Moreover, hours and days of labor varied greatly among crafts: workers in luxury trades, where journeymen were often organized and skills in short supply, were able to restrict work time, especially with traditions of holiday taking. In seventeenth-century Paris, craftspeople enjoyed up to 103 holidays, and in parts of northern Italy in the sixteenth century the figure was about 95 (including Sundays). Many skilled trades celebrated an informal "holiday" at the beginning of the week in what, somewhat mockingly, was called St. Monday. This custom epitomized an often-noted characteristic of preindustrial labor: its preference for leisure over increased income. When prices for their products rose or when costs of living decreased, craft workers sometimes responded with working less and playing more rather than attempting to accumulate wealth.
Still, workers in low-skilled trades or jobs requiring daily effort (like candle making or baking) worked far more hours. Moreover, work time stretched along almost all the course of a life. There was little chance of saving for retirement or allowing the young the luxury of a work-free childhood. In the sixteenth century over 40 percent of the population of Italian towns was under sixteen years old, and as late as 1820 in Britain some 48 percent of the population was under the age of twenty. Small wonder that child's play was sacrificed to work. Even the enlightened John Locke supported "training" children in poor families with work from the age of four, and apprenticeships regularly started at ten. Equally, retirement was only for the rich; with age, workers withdrew from labor gradually or when incapacitated.
In periods of relative prosperity (like the sixteenth or eighteenth centuries), crafts workers reduced the hours of labor sometimes by two hours per day. This was possible because "employers"—often little more than suppliers of raw materials and marketers of finished products—had little direct control over the pace or methods of work. The actual production process was usually controlled by a father in a household of workers, and these laborers were also often members of his family. This probably reduced work discipline that might have been imposed if labor and management had been separate. The employer seldom entered this cottage and certainly had no direct means of forcing weavers or spinners to work rapidly or regularly.
Perhaps the greatest influence over preindustrial work time was its common setting—within or near the household dwelling. The so-called domestic economy allowed men to mix wage or piece work time with numerous other forms of employment and tasks that helped to provision and maintain the household (cutting firewood, etc). Of greater significance was the close integration of productive and family-caring work time that fell to women. In the domestic setting they were able to shift quickly from household and child care work to agricultural or craft production according to the needs of the family. The complex blending of work roles was an economic and biological necessity that often meant a female workday that "never ended."
Attempts to increase output by increasing labor time devoted to the market was a key element in the development of modern capitalism. Repeatedly, governments tried to restrict holidays (for example, to twenty-seven per year in England in 1552) or even to impose a minimum workday (to twelve hours per day in England in 1495). During the Puritan revolution in England authorities attempted to eliminate traditional religious festivals and to impose instead a strict observance of a Sabbath rest. This was supposed not only to increase annual workdays but to create a regular pattern of work and recuperation appropriate for industrial and commercial work. Similarly, during the French Revolution employers were given authority to set work time, and the experiment with the ten-day week was to make a more productive workforce than the traditional Christian week. These efforts had mixed results.
From the sixteenth century, English merchants tried to tap "underutilized" rural labor by putting farmers to work in the winter at spinning yarn or weaving cloth. This so-called putting-out system, however, frequently frustrated merchants because the episodic and slow pace of agricultural work made these part-time peasant artisans undisciplined and unreliable producers. One solution, advocated by early eighteenth-century economists, was to lower pay to cottage workers to force them to extend their weekly working hours (devoted to market tasks). The common view was that domestic workers had a fixed notion of an appropriate standard of living. If pay rates rose above that standard of subsistence, they would work fewer hours. Only the whip of low rates would induce them to lengthen and intensify their work time. A seemingly more effective means of quickening the pace and length of the workday was the mechanization and central management that came with industrialization.
WORK TIME AND EARLY INDUSTRIALIZATION
The centralized workplace is often viewed as the most important development of early industrialization, insofar as it made possible the imposition of work discipline and the lengthening of the working day. Not only did the factory make regular working hours a condition for employment, but new managerial and mechanized techniques enhanced the ability of the employer to intensify work time. Mechanization, especially in steam-driven textile mills, provided employers with incentives to raise working hours to twelve or even fourteen hours by the 1820s (the latter especially in France and Belgium). Efforts to amortize costly equipment over a shorter period, attempts to reduce costs as competition increased and prices dropped, and hopes of taking advantage of new gas lighting all encouraged the lengthening of working hours.
Historians, however, have increasingly questioned the impact of the factory on enforcing time discipline. The sweating system, which imposed on piece-rate workers in the garment and other trades such low prices that they were forced to "voluntarily" extend their working hours to survive, played a major role in the intensification of work. Moreover, many skilled trades outside the factory system (even those with central workplaces) were able to avoid extension of the workday. In the mid-nineteenth century, male Birmingham metalworkers preserved a three-day workweek. Similarly, skilled workers on the Continent maintained St. Monday traditions deep into the century. The real lengthening of the workday took place mostly among workers in mechanized textile mills and other trades competing against machines and overcrowding. In any case, early industrialization did not mean a reduction of work time, but rather economic growth.
Another impact of the centralized workplace was the gradual removal of wage work from the home. This eventually led to the withdrawal of men from domestic chores and forced women into making difficult compromises between wage and family obligations. Ultimately, the separation of work and domestic life resulting from the removal of materials and machines from the home obliged female workers to embrace a clear separation of wage from family care work. Often this meant that working-class women experienced a new and distinct work life cycle—wage work when young and single followed by home-bound family and household work when married with children—should the husband's income be sufficient to support the family.
Market work time decreased faster than that of home-based work. This was partly a function of different rates of technological change and partly due to the intractable, time-consuming character of domestic work. This put family work on a very different plane than wage work. The "housewife's" work did not disappear, of course, but neither did its value enter the calculus of the money economy. Family work was hidden in the clouds of the private. As a result, work time became sharply gendered. For men, time liberated from wage work became "free" from work obligations in private leisure; for women, family-related chores remained in a privatized realm of work with no segmentation of time into "free" and "obligated" periods.
REDUCING WORK TIME IN THE NINETEENTH AND TWENTIETH CENTURIES
While rising productivity made possible the diminution of work time, the timing and extent of the reduction depended upon international labor and political movements that fought with management over control of the labor market and workplace. This struggle was shaped by the language of industrial efficiency and mass consumption but also by a gender order that rigidly divided wage labor from family work. The reduction of public working hours has been episodic, usually bitterly resisted by employers and governments, certainly far more so than the other contested fruit of industrial productivity—the increased power to consume.
Efforts to reduce the workday to ten hours spanned the years from the 1840s until about 1900. A generation of agitation for a ten-hour day in the textile mills of Britain resulted in an 1847 law restricting that work time standard to women and children (although men won it also in bargaining and where their work depended upon the protected groups). In France the political upheaval of the midcentury produced a maximum-hour law in 1848, but it was restricted to workers in mechanized factories. Gradually the ten-hour provision was extended in Britain to many trades. Only in 1904, after twenty-three years of legislative struggle, was a ten-hour law passed in France for women.
Movements for an eight-hour day broadly stretched from the mid-1880s until 1919. The "three-eights," the equal distribution of the day between work, rest, and leisure, was a slogan for a generation of May Day labor and socialist parades from 1890. International groups from the socialist Second International to the reformist liberal International Labor Office advocated simultaneous transnational improvements in the labor standard (including a reduction of work time). Despite active movements for a universal eight-hour day in England from 1888 until 1892 and repeated strikes in many European countries in which the eight-hour day was a major issue (for example, the May 1906 general strike in France), employers and legislators stood firm against it. A principle impediment was fear that an hour's reduction in any one company or country would put that entity at a competitive disadvantage with less generous employers or nations.
The eight-hour day became a nearly universal concession only during the labor upsurge that accompanied the closing years of World War I (1917–1919). Eight-hour proclamations, beginning in the Russian Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, spread in 1918 to Finland, Norway, and then to Germany in the wake of collapse and revolution in November. By mid-December the movement passed to Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Austria. From the revolutionary regimes of eastern and central Europe, it spread to Switzerland. In Britain, from December 1918 to March 1919, major industries rapidly conceded reductions in work time. In February the movement reached Italy in a wave of shutdowns that affected, in turn, metals, textiles, chemicals, and even agriculture. And in France in April 1919, a new parliament approved of an enabling act for an eight-hour/six-day workweek. This insurgency also produced eight-hour laws in Spain, Portugal, and Switzerland by June and in the Netherlands and Sweden by November 1919. Nearly everywhere, workers used this unique opportunity for reform to increase leisure time. International pressure from below was paralleled by hopes that the eight-hour day would become international law, removing the traditional fear that a raised labor standard would put an industry or country at a competitive disadvantage on the international market. Committed to this goal was a transnational network of reformers often rather erroneously labeled "Wilsonians." In 1920 the eight-hour day became a transnational labor standard, protected by an international convention sponsored by the International Labor Organization.
The concept of the forty-hour week with a two-day weekend had its roots in the nineteenth century with the Saturday half-holiday. As a means of granting women workers Saturday afternoon to shop and prepare for Sunday, it was embraced by English textile mills in hopes of improving and stabilizing working-class family life. Skilled male workers also demanded and often won the half-holiday from the 1850s. Only from 1889 did French reformers call for the Saturday half-holiday. The semaine anglaise (English week, named after its English origins) alone was a guarantor of the "sanctity" of Sunday rest and family togetherness, they argued. Especially where women worked and where men were well organized, the Saturday half-holiday was won after 1917.
The more radical two-day weekend became a goal of labor movements in France and Britain in the 1930s (in the form of a forty-hour week). This standard became law in France in June 1936 during the strikes that accompanied the beginning of the leftist Popular Front government. However, business bitterly opposed this unilateral disarmament of the French economy, and the work time standard was eliminated in late 1938 as an impediment to preparation for war. Many wage earners in Europe won the weekend/forty-hour week only in the 1960s.
Until World War I a paid annual holiday was rare, except in some white collar and government occupations where paperwork was made up after a break or where a seasonal slowdown in business made a vacation feasible. The movement for the paid annual holiday intensified in the interwar period. Between 1919 and 1925 legislation provided paid vacations in six eastern and central European countries. The movement peaked in the mid-1930s with the widespread support for the two-week paid vacation in France in 1936 and a week's holiday in many British industries in 1938. Ironically, in spite of massive unemployment and deep ideological fissures within Europe, the vacation became a near universal ideal. It responded to deep needs that transcended ideology and economic system. In the generation after World War II, the vacation became the leisure concept of choice for most Europeans: the one- or two-week holiday expanded to three or more weeks in the prosperity of the 1950s and 1960s and commonly was from four to eight weeks by the end of the century. As a result of these changes, average hours worked in France and West Germany dropped from 38 and 44 hours respectively in 1950 to 31 hours by 1989.
IDEOLOGIES AND DILEMMAS OF REDUCING WORK TIME
Popular pressure for reduced work began in reaction to efforts of nineteenth-century employers to impose regular and increased intensity of output on labor. These movements were inspired by a variety of work-based and essentially defensive motivations: to decrease machine use and thus output and layoffs due to "overproduction"; to win a larger share of income from increased productivity by raising wages through greater overtime and making labor more scarce; and to reduce seasonal unemployment by extending batches of work over a longer period.
Arguments for reform. Most historians have seen these short-hour movements as essentially wage driven. A minority, like William Reddy and Neil Smelser, argue that these demands were instead intended indirectly to perpetuate the domestic work unit and patriarchy. Both views, however, underestimate changing attitudes about work and the origins of the demand for blocks of time free from employment. Industrialization not only increased productivity, making a reduction of labor time feasible, but physically separated productive from "reproductive" or family activities. The expulsion of leisure from the workplace and the spatial division of home and work required an equally sharp time demarcation. Thus, interest in regular blocks of daily, weekly, and eventually yearly time free from wage labor increased as the only way for men especially to recover family and leisure time lost to disciplined work. Moreover, many nineteenth-century laborers saw the traditional custom of working at a series of seasonal jobs and tramping from job to job replaced by stationary and regular employment. Wage-earners greeted the passing of the old "porous" workday, idealized by E. P. Thompson and other historians, with ambivalence. Despite the loss of a sociable work culture, in the long run workers demanded a reduction of work time to enhance the opportunity of social relationships off rather than on the job. Working-class men abandoned the pub of their workmates for the neighborhood bar, which they increasingly visited with their wives. Long evenings began to count more than long work breaks. The movement for the Saturday half-holiday and full weekend reflected a similar interest in uninterrupted periods of family and leisure time. For these workers, leisure was to be realized in a new distribution of time—a uniform and compressed workday with longer, more predictable and more continuous periods of personal time.
Reduction of work time was more than an adaptation to industrialization. It was also a practical expression of the demand of wage earners for freedom from the authoritarian relationships of work. For example, shop or office workers sought to limit the employers' access to their time. In seeking to end the "living-in" system that required wage earners to reside at their workplace, these workers attempted to create a clear separation between the masters' time and their own. The intermingling of work and life for many dependent workers—in shops, farms, or domestic service—was not an ideal to be defended but a curse to be overcome.
The eight-hour movement of the early 1890s cut across the trades in England, France, and Germany. It was not confined to long-hour occupations or even to laborers with special workplace rights to defend. Mechanization, reformers argued, should not only provide increased material goods but free workers from "slavery" and introduce them to the "duty" to enjoy life. When the eight-hour day was won for most in 1919, trade unionists argued that a longer day was "unnatural." British trade unionists insisted that differences in intensity, productivity, skill, and danger of work should be reflected in wages, not hours. To deny the eight-hour day was to deprive workers of citizenship and even "manhood."
These arguments clearly challenged laissez-faire orthodoxy by claiming that the workplace and labor contract were subject to public protection and citizenship rights. As important, reduced work time threatened the employers' power in ways that wage increases did not. It could raise wage costs (either in overtime rates or simply because the employer had to hire more labor, which reduced the labor pool and thus raised wages), and it could force employers to buy expensive machinery, accumulate inventories (in anticipation of later sales), and thus tie up capital. By contrast, an unrestricted workday adjusted at will allowed the employer to avoid these costs during expansions. Finally, whereas wage increases could be easily reversed in response to prices (at least in the nineteenth century), employers feared that this would not be possible with hours. A shorter workday, then, threatened to slow the turnover of capital and to choke off profits. At the same time, workers were seldom able to reduce hours through negotiation. During economic downturns—when they had an incentive to share jobs through shorter regular hours—they lacked bargaining power. During economic booms, when they had the advantage of a tight labor market, many individual workers had to replenish income lost during the last recession by working overtime.
Most important, competition, especially as the market extended internationally, dissuaded employers from reducing hours. In the 1830s and 40s competition between English and continental textile mills justified British resistance to the ten-hour day. The same fear blocked the eight-hour day in the 1890s, and economic nationalism in the 1920s similarly threatened the newly won eight-hour day. There were also social and cultural impediments to reduced work time. The idea of the right to free time raised concerns about the use of leisure by the male working class. Elites associated this leisure with disorder, imprudent consumption, and radical politics. This was one rationale for the refusal of the British Parliament to grant the ten-hour day to men in 1847.
Thus major hours reductions were intermittent and very difficult to win. They coincided with the social and political upheavals of 1847/1848, 1919, and 1936–1938, often requiring simultaneous international and cross-class movements, and they often followed long intellectual debate and political struggle. Rarely can they be correlated with economic trends.
This lack of correlation is ironic because the most successful arguments to reduce wage work time were economic rather than political. Repeatedly, reformers argued that shorter hours optimized output and human capital and increased mass consumer spending. Nineteenth-century political elites were relatively open to arguments that linked reduced work time to bodily safety. For example, in France the twelve-hour law of 1848 applied to men working in factories because these workplaces were deemed "dangerous" (as opposed to domestic or open air work sites). Work time agitators were almost obliged to overstress the harmful and involuntary character of mechanized work. This emphasis removed factory workers from the ranks of "free adults" and made them subject to the kind of protection given to minors. Yet the framing of the debate in these terms deflected the argument away from the citizen's right to a shorter workday.
Frustrated hour reformers also embraced industrial efficiency and mechanization as a means of reducing the costs of reduced work time. From the 1890s on the European Left found in the United States "proof " that industrial efficiency made for both less work time and more output. Labor groups found allies among efficiency scientists who sought optimal output over relatively long work periods rather than short-term maximum production at the price of long-term labor fatigue and deterioration. From about 1900 to 1920, various studies found an overly long work period was self-defeating, for it led to absenteeism and reduced efficiency and often was no more productive than shorter work spans. Investigators discovered that early morning work (before the traditional 8:00 a.m. breakfast break) and work on Saturday afternoon hardly justified fixed capital expenditures. This research provided a powerful support for the reduction of work time after World War I.
Wage earners were often slow to embrace the trade-off of increased productivity for shorter hours, fearful that increased efficiency would result in layoffs. By the mid-1920s, however, European unions were beginning to reject the linkage between increased productivity and joblessness. Instead, they embraced mechanization and even the scientific management advocated by Frederick Taylor, as a way to preserve the normal workday of eight hours and to win the forty-hour week.
Work time diminutions were also supposed to stimulate mass consumption. An early form of this argument (from the 1830s) claimed that shorter hours would shift wealth from capital to labor by making labor scarce and thus more costly, and thereby encouraging popular spending. Shorter hours would shift investment away from luxury goods to more profitable mass markets. A different, and in the long run more politically acceptable, argument emerging in the 1880s claimed that shorter hours meant leisure time sufficient to create desire for new consumer goods (without necessarily increasing labor costs).
Work time, family, and gender roles. Finally, given an inhospitable political culture, short-hour advocates did not argue for free time for men (still deemed subversive), but adopted a familial rhetoric in the defense of personal life. In the nineteenth century legal reductions of working hours could be justified only if shorter work time facilitated the fulfillment of family duties. It justified liberation from wage work if it was deemed socially necessary, as was women's "free time." Female time liberated from wage work was not a threat, for it was not "free" but rather necessary family and housework time. Thus legislators were won far earlier to the principle of reduced wage time for women. Nineteenth-century employers attacked St. Monday, the custom of taking part or all of the day following the Sabbath as a holiday, as a threat to work discipline. But gradually they accepted the idea of the Saturday half-holiday (for women especially) because it was necessary to prepare for family life on Sunday. This idea of a protected time for female domesticity had an appeal that crossed the gap between workers and middle-class reformers. Inevitably workers and their allies embraced an ideology of rescuing motherhood, creating at least a "part-time" housewife in the wage-earning married woman. Male-dominated workers' movements thoroughly embraced the ideal of the women's domestic sphere. Even though men often used laws that granted only women shorter hours to gain free time for themselves (because factories often could not function without female labor), this hiding behind women's petticoats fully embraced the primacy of domestic work for women. Indeed, hour reductions for women were conveniently used to drive women out of some jobs. Opposition of women's groups to shift work (especially in the 1920s) shared a similar assumption: factory labor should not be tolerated at "unnatural" hours when women had obligations of child and home care (coordinated with the working hours of men and children). Women's participation in the short hours movement reinforced the expectation that their time was to be organized around "family" needs that stretched across the divide between the private and public. The quest for the "normal workday" of ten and then eight hours was an integral part of an ideology of separate sex spheres.
Familial rhetoric did not exclude the "duties" of men entirely. The short-hours movement embraced the ideology of the "respectable working-class father." Less work time meant more gardening and other quasi-farming rituals for men. By the 1850s in Britain, the Saturday half-holiday had become an important symbol of family life and even of a more "democratic" fatherhood. Reformers argued that Saturday afternoons free from wage work provided fathers with the opportunity to spend time with their children. Early twentieth-century French trade union propaganda painted a picture of the eight-hour father with sufficient job security and time to provide for his family and to "guide" his children. These references to free time for fatherhood, however, were vague and rare. From the 1920s reformers argued that the annual paid vacations would restore the spiritual unity of the family undermined by the modern functional division of family members. Both the Left and Right embraced the extended holiday, for it fitted a common gender and family ideology: vacations would provide family time away from domestic routines. It would enable the father to learn paternal roles while at play with his children.
The family ideology of short-hours movements was not mere opportunism. It was more an appeal to bourgeois obsessions with domestic standards and guilt over denying working-class men housewives. In the details of negotiations over work time in the five years after 1919, family issues were central. Especially important to unions were the elimination of before-breakfast work and an eight-hour day that was stretched out in split shifts. Organized workers resisted two- or three-shift systems, especially in textiles, where women predominated. The ideal was not merely a short but also a compressed workday to free longer blocks of time for private life, especially for meeting the needs of coordinating family schedules.
Still a conflict remained: on one side stood the mostly male model of public obligation and private freedom; on the other, the married female experience of obliged time that made obtaining wage work difficult. For some it meant accommodating a work schedule stretched between wage work, commuting, and private household and family care work. As long as the necessary work of family remained a female responsibility, equity in that work was impossible. And the shorter hours movement systematically avoided this issue, despite talk of improved fatherhood. The predominance of men in the public labor market guaranteed that the ideology of the male provider dominated movements for shorter hours. The language of "free" time implied that men's family work obligations were fulfilled by their wages. The demand for reduced work time reinforced the perception of public time (contested for control, valued as "money" and "productive") as radically split from private time (deemed to be unconstrained and without economic value).
LATE TWENTIETH-CENTURY ATTEMPTS TO REDUCE WORK TIME
This perception of the scheduling of work time has predominated until the late twentieth century. Since the 1980s there have been a number of challenges to this scheduling of work time. Rising unemployment led West German metalworkers to push for a thirty-five-hour workweek, and the French Left, returning to power in the 1980s, favored weekly hour reductions as a work-sharing program.
As important, dramatic increases in married women's employment, especially after 1960, have undermined the prevailing gender division of work time. Implicit in the concept of the eight-hour day/forty-hour week was the assumption that it was worked by men outside the home while family and household care work was done by a wife. The introduction of massive numbers of married women into the workforce (reaching 60 percent or more in most European countries) hardly produced a "symmetrical family" of gender equity in the sharing of wage and domestic work time. In this context feminists, union leaders, and others began to advocate more flexible work schedules. Such adaptability could reduce rigidity in production schedules and staffing services (favored by businesses) but flexible working hours could also facilitate the complex needs of families and individuals. Of special concern were the needs of young families to balance child care and employment time.
As in the past, these efforts have met with strong resistance. The French effort to reduce work to thirty-five hours in the 1980s was frustrated by the anti-regulatory politics of conservative governments in Britain and Germany, which impeded any coordinated hour reduction. Later reformers have been unable to re-create the international coalition that supported the eight-hour day in 1919. In some ways the generation of World War I was a golden age of labor internationalism—when a rough economic equality between industrial states existed. Since the 1920s the opportunities to free time from work on an international basis have been much more difficult to win. Economic nationalism in the 1930s and especially fascism in Germany and Italy frustrated French efforts to institutionalize a forty-hour work week. More recently, the advent of authoritarian third world industrial powers and increased competition between oppressed third world and Western labor has frustrated even those workers who have unions or a foothold in the state, limiting their ability to break with the discipline of the international market and to free time from work.
As important, the goal of reducing the working day may have lost the appeal that attracted so many earlier to the eight-hour day. Time lost in commuting and the marginal usefulness of, for example, an additional half-hour per day may make other allocations of free time much more attractive. Individualized packages of time such as additional vacation, child care leave, earlier retirement, and flextime have replaced the social ideal of a uniform reduced workweek. Yet such personalized schedules have been hard to win through collective bargaining or law, which generally presume uniform standards and seem to threaten the return of a divisive individual labor contract. Moreover, the older ideal of "family time" has been frustrated by the spread of shift work (first during World War II and then as contract concessions). The efforts of unions and women's groups early in the century to preserve family time by opposing "unnatural" hours has succumbed to the logic of international markets and the drive after 1945 to increase production. Attempts of chain stores to extend hours to Sunday or nights in the 1980s and 1990s generally have failed. Still, the value of family time is increasingly attacked as contrary to American-style consumer convenience.
Underlying these difficulties is the legacy of the short-hours movement itself. On the one hand, that movement addressed the "public" issues of regular employment, work intensity, and job control; on the other, it treated "freedom" as disengagement from public obligation in favor of private time. This dichotomy obscured the sexual dynamics of domestic work time and the fact that "after hours" means very different things for women and men. It also has ostensibly privileged the private life while giving family time no value comparable to waged time and placed its greatest burden on wives and mothers. Meanwhile men (and increasingly women) remain obligated to driven work and segmented lives built around "providing" and the frustrated dreams of private fulfillment. Ironically, the short-hours movement that gloried the private life has contributed to its being undervalued.
The long-term trend of industrial economies toward growth without new jobs may increase pressures for the reduction of work time. And the tendency of economies across the globe to converge toward a similar labor standard may help revive an international desire for short-hours, as in 1919 (at least within the European Community). Moreover, the two-income family with its burden of wage hours is also a likely site for the building of a new quest for time. Inevitably, it will be expressed in terms radically different from the earlier eight-hour struggles because it would not be based on the same gender assumptions.
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