Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Thompson - "Time, work-discipline, and industrial capitalism"

Thompson, E.P., “Time, work-discipline, and industrial capitalism” in Flinn, Michael W., and T. C. Smout. Essays in Social History. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974.


EP Thompson addresses changing notions of time due to the development of industrial capitalism, a notion familiar to participants of Prof. Basu's seminar. Specifically, he explores changes in the "inward-notion of time."
"how far, and in what ways, did this shift in timesense
affect labour discipline, and how far did it influence the inward
apprehension of time of working people? If the transition to
mature industrial society entailed a severe restructuring of working
habits - new disciplines, new incentives, and a new human nature
upon which these incentives could bite effectively - how far is this
related to changes in the inward notation of time ?" (57)

What we are
examining here are not only changes in manufacturing technique
which demand greater synchronization of labour and a greater
exactitude in time-routines in any society; but also these changes as
they were lived through in the society of nascent industrial capitalism.
We are concerned simultaneously with time-sense in its technological
conditioning, and with time-measurement as a means of labour
exploitation." (80)

"pre-industrial time" - less a sense of the tyranny of the clock to finish a task: as a woman (or man) working in the home still, to an extant, feels.

industrial time -emerges out of necessity of organizing task-based factory labor. Other forces include school.

"In all these ways - by the division of labour; the supervision of
labour; fines; bells and clocks; money incentives; preachings and
schoolings; the suppression of fairs and sports - new labour habits
were formed, and a new time-discipline was imposed."

Also emerging: clear division between work and life. Puritan time-valuation: don't waste time, either in work or self-improvement.

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