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Section 1: Whose time? Whose money?
Whose time? Whose money?
Karl Marx told us that the Industrial Revolution was the point when we lost control of our lives. Before 1750, we’re led to believe, the working day was measured out by the Sun and people worked in harmony with natural rhythms and cycles.
Picture: 01_10301617.jpg
Benjamin Franklin, who coined the phrase 'time is money' in 1748.
Credit: Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library
 And th
People came to be paid for their time, not the tasks they did in that time
ere was no over-work, as everyone worked only as long as they needed to get by. Once the factories came along, though, people’s working days were regulated by the clock and the clocks were regulated by the bosses. People came to be paid for their time, not the tasks they did in that time, and so we have come to say that time is money – just look at the hero and his harassed colleagues struggling to keep pace with the gigantic clock in Fritz Lang’s classic Metropolis.

But this is a rather romantic notion of the world before factories came along. As far back as the Middle Ages many people worked to the clock.
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Is this the rural idyll that wage-slaves want to return to?
Credit: NMPFT/Kodak Collection
 Job orders were doled out with completion times attached and some workers – wage labourers and members of the organised guilds – sold their time in days or half-days. The guilds had their own equivalents of today’s working time directives, limiting and regularising the length of a day’s work to reduce competition – links between time, work and money go way back.

But Benjamin Franklin’s shorthand phrase ‘time is money’, coined in 1748, hasn’t caught on everywhere. Travel a few miles from the United States to Trinidad and wage-labourers working for the council highway department haven’t heard it before. Here, as in the USA, people’s working lives revolve around time. But the shorthand ‘time is money’ would be better understood, in Trinidad, as ‘the work done during time is money’. In fact, it’s the island’s taxi drivers and tailors – who come into regular contact with outsiders – who’d recognise ‘time is money’. Both cultures recognise the link between the work we do, the time it takes and the money we get paid, but the language they use reveals different ways of seeing things.
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How much are you worth?
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It’s the same eight hours, but for some reason the chief executive’s are worth more than the cleaner’s. How have changes in society affected the way we view the period of time after the paid work ends – are we just wasting time?  > more

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We’ve always been clock-watchers. What’s changed is the clocks we’ve watched. This section looks at the machines, gadgets and gizmos we have invented, made and used to keep track of the working day, and the ways in which we try to control lives with clocks.  > more
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