Conception of time in different societies
What people understand by time is present in all languages, and how they experience the time is linked to this concept. Based on this reasoning, Professor Karl-Heinz Kohl, Director of the Frobenius Institute, gave his conference at the Intercontinental Academia (ICA) on April 22.
According to him, the way how different societies interpret time strongly depends on their mode of production and on the environment in which they live. "People from irrigation and hunting cultures had adifferent conception of time than industrial societies, as demonstrated in the film 'Modern Times', which is almost a hundred years old. The slaves of time in industrial society are connected to modernity," he said.
For the professor, one can find similarities between conceptions of time for people living away from each other and that have never met before, while people living nearby may have different notions of time.
According to Kohl, the concept of time for anthropology is connected to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Anthropologists have created a kind of progress line and put each society in a certain position. People like the Australian aborigines, the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego, as well as Polynesian and Americans indians would be classified in the last stage of this line, while the French and the Anglo-Saxons would be at the top. In this concept, the more time goes on, the more species prosper and reach their goal of perfection and happiness - something quite connected to the capitalist economy.
Kohl cited the different conceptions of time of several people, such as Egyptians, Greeks, Babylonians and several African tribes. He also related the time in some religions, such as Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism.
Another example of how time has affected the life of societies, according to Kohl, was brought by the expansion of the railway in the United States in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. At that time, each American city had its own time according to the passage of the sun. But because of the arrival of trains, it has been necessary to adopt the time zones and thus to standardize the measurement of time in all cities.The professor explained that people born during the transition to the fully industrialized mode of production became obsessed with the concept of time and progress - the beginning of the "clock empire", as pointed by Kohl. One of the rites of passage to adulthood in this period was to give a pocket watch to young people, an object that has become a synonymous of industrialization and prosperity.