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time, sociological study of

time, sociological study of Time is one of the central organizing features of social life, and has become an increasingly important topic of study for social scientists (see, for example, E. Zerubavel , Hidden Rhythms: Schedules and Calendars in Social Life, 1981
, and B. Adam , Time and Social Theory, 1990)

At the broadest level it is useful to distinguish physical time—given in biology and the environment, such as phases of the moon, the ebb and flow of tides, the birth and death of bodies—and social time. The latter is the topic for social scientists and it is concerned with the nature, construction, and consequences of human activities organized around giving meaning to time. This can include the study of the construction of weeks, calendars, decades, and festival celebrations; the study of daily rounds of activities including the creation of timetables and time-lines; and the biographical ordering of time into narratives of life-stages, status passages, and careers.

A distinction which is sometimes drawn in sociological theory is that between the idea of durée, as the unstoppable personal flow of a person's experience, and la longue durée—the broader, almost timeless history of people relating to their environment in broad spans of history. The former leads to a social psychology of time—as described in the work of William James; the latter encourages a historical concern with temporal structures, as in the work of Fernand Braudel. La longue durée is the long time-period which forms a vast and critical backdrop to a whole frame of social life, and is often dominated by a particular organizing mode, such as religion (‘the Christian era’) or politics (for example ‘the Modern World and Capitalism’). See also CHANGE; EVOLUTIONISM; LIFE-CYCLE; LIFE-HISTORY; PROGRESS; SEQUENCE ANALYSIS; TASK-ORIENTATION VERSUS TIME-ORIENTATION DISTINCTION.

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