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SENTENTIA. European Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences

From “absolute” time to “acquiring control over time”: theoretical aspects of social time in publications of the 1920s – 1930s

Artemov Viktor Andreevich

Doctor of Philosophy

Chief Scientific Associate, Institute of Economics and Organization of Industrial Production of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Siberian branch)

630090, Russia, Novosibirsk, Prospekt Akademika Lavrentieva 17, office #329

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Novokhatskaya Ol'ga Viktorovna

PhD in Sociology

Scientific Associate, Institute of Economics and Organization of Industrial Production of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Siberian branch)

630090, Russia, Novosibirsk, Prospekt Akademika Lavrentieva 17, office #329

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Abstract: This article examines the publications of the Russian scholars on sociological aspects of social time, which are poorly studied in the Russian and foreign literature. The author believes that they are the pioneers in the field of the sociology of time. Analysis is conducted in such concepts as past, present, and future time; their content and correlation; time as the transformation process; use of time and control over time»; time of an individual and time of the social system; biological time as a step towards social time. The beginning of the XX century indicated the organic correlation of the development of natural science and general science and social practice, activity. Most vividly such correlation manifested in the area of the perception of time, relation the time of publications presented in the article, which are ideologically connected with the social practice of the studies on time, and the origins of the theory of social time.  It is noted that the first sociological study on the budgets of time was conducted in Petrograd in the 1821 – 1922 by P. Sorokin. The authors tried to remain within the field of sociology, understanding sociology as a science about functionality and transformation of social systems, presented by the “submerged” into cultural-institutional environment subsystems of the subjects, their activity and relationships. The article focuses attention on the statements of scholars, which had conceptual significance for the science, as well as for solution of the real time-budget problems.

Keywords: sociology of time, social changes, social groups, time use, time budget, social system, social time, the past, the present, the future


Beginning of the XX century has shown organic interdependence of the development of natural and social sciences, and social practice. This interdependence has become more apparent when speaking about the concept of time and attitude to time use.

A theory of relativity and space-time, developed by G.Minkovsky and A.Einstein, which might seem to be quite abstract and distant from real life, has nevertheless made great impact on change in human perception of time. It is relevant to note that this theory per se was to a certain degree a manifestation of the processes occurring in a global society in the beginning of the last century.

We tried to remain within the field of sociology, understanding sociology as a science about functioning and changes in social systems; these social systems are presented by the subsystems of the subjects, their activity, and relations between them, «immersed» into the cultural-institutional environment.

The article pays special attention to theoretical works and separate statements of the Russian researchers of the 1920s and the1930s in the sociology of social time.

The article is aimed at showing the priority of the Russian researchers in stating, defining, and solving the questions on social time studies and analyzing the discourse.

The main task is to reveal and present some rare statements on social time (without specifying the details).

The period of the1920s and the1930s is characterized by high empirical activity: more than 50 time-budget surveys of various social groups – from schoolchildren to high officials/executives – were conducted, with 27 thousand respondents being surveyed.  Undoubtedly, this is the Russian and soviet priority.

The characteristic feature of this period, to be more exact, two periods (the 1920s and the 1930s), on the one hand, was the state of the society, its economy, education and culture, and on the other hand, the problems of its development. 


1.  A. Bergson’s ideas as a starting point

By the time when the book by I.N.Djakov [8], devoted to the issues of time came out, Russian philosopher L.M.Lopatin [12] and French philosopher A.Bergson [4, 5] had had their publications, related to the problem, published in Russia. (It is also necessary to mention the work of a French sociologist E.Durkheim, who proved that the concept of time was related to the people’s «natural» and «social» life, i.e. it originated within the nature and society; he emphasized a collective character of time as a «tempo» [9, p.56–62] and initiated the emergence, spread and further development of the term «social time»).

According to L.M.Lopatin, the most important characteristic of time is that «it flows, incessantly passes». «The past does is already gone while the future does not exist yet; all time changes pass by a certain motionless moment – the present … the whole fact of time exists in its unreality». What is actual is an elusive moment of the present, an instant that has no duration and reality [12, p.290–300]. As I.N. Djakov notes, this idea is a reproduction of time perceived as a homogeneous straight line, which was characteristic of mechanical natural sciences.

I.N.Djakov gives A.Bergson a credit for the struggle against such an understanding of time. The French philosopher, who was very popular in Russia (whose works were published in Russian, and in 1913-1914 a five-volume issue of his collected works was printed) wrote that «no other question was neglected by philosophers to any greater degree than a question on time; however, everybody unanimously declares it to be fundamental» [4, p.6].

I.N.Djakov considered that A.Bergson had made a great contribution to the field under study. While A.Einstein and G.Minkovskiy put an end to the Newton’s idea of absolute time in physics, A.Bergson did the same in philosophy. He studied the phenomenon of comprehension of time which was, certainly, one of the major steps to «getting control over» time. I.N.Djakov sees A.Bergson’s merit in the struggle against understanding of time as a homogeneous straight line. Influenced by A.Bergson’s ideas, I.N.Djakov with his essentially materialistic view on time, took the first step towards the concept of «social time». Time is integral; its characteristic feature is continuity, and integrity is «intensive». «Any activity (expression of will) and any movement (expression of force) take place in time and are necessarily strongly attached to the agent or to the centre» [8, p.15]. Time is a «peculiar process of non-spatial changes of exclusively qualitative character» [8, p.7].

Concerning the characteristics and correlation of times, I.N.Djakov writes: «In the past we feel powerless (its events are not any more in our power); at present – we possess effective initiative, connected with all our past; in the future we are freely creating» [8, p.6]. The future reality is not predetermined, but it is «creative».

Assuming that the present time contains all the past as voided of activity, but still living «contemplative» fact, and all the future, as an unpredetermined,  an a priori creative «potential» [8, p.7], I.N.Djakov underlines an active role of an individual; not only a contemplative individual, but also the one, acting as a subject of activity.

The essence of I.N.Djakov’s statements lies in cohesion of time and activity, in the influence of the past on the present and the future; in the ability and the role of human activity concerning the present and especially the future time.


2. It is necessary to remember the link of times

N.A.Berdjaev also draws attention to time issues in his publication [2]. He opposed only to «phenomenological» time and favored time connection «with authentic being» and the recognition of ontological time. The ground for his understanding of time is the idea of time «as the intrinsic period», «an intrinsic epoch of eternity» when «the essence of being» is understood as the process rather than a «motionless eternity» [2, p.402-403]. Of course, N.A.Berdjaev as a religious philosopher did not do without «the divine reality», which «can penetrate the time, break off time chains, enter into it and become a prevailing force». But when he wrote about «the deepest forces, divine and mysterious for us, which can interfere into the world process from the world of eternity» [2, p.404–405], one can understand them not only as being divine, but also as earthly and cosmic forces that are not known to humans well.

N.A.Berdjaev as well as L.M.Lopatin, attached excessive importance to the infinite smallness of the present time; and the «rupture» of time into the past, the present and the future leads him to the conclusion that «there is no real time» [2, p.406].

His main thesis was that there is unity of the past, present and the future time; he refused to give unconditional and rather abstract preference to the future time, to worship only the present and deny the past. As a reaction to the extreme revolutionary ideas (and deeds), which appealed to finish with the past, N.A.Berdjaev wrote about the necessity of «genuine and upcoming» historical reality which is in the past time and without which there would be no present and no future. Also, N.A.Berdjaev wrote about what «a complete life that combines three moments of time – the past, the present and the future» is like; he emphasized that «historical process has a conservative and revolutionary nature», and that «only interaction of these fundamentals creates history»; «in history …the true, “noumenal”  time, rather than the formal time operates», and it is impossible to turn away from the past for the sake of «the cult of future» [2, p.407–409].

This priority of the past has allowed N.A.Berdjaev to carry out a rather objective analysis of preconditions and formation of a new social system, which he called «Russian communism» [3]; to explain the rise of a new system on the basis of previous development of the country. N.A.Berdjaev considered that the Russian revolution, possessing «inherited characteristics of any revolution» «is generated by the specifics of the Russian historical process»». «By the time when revolution took place, the old regime was absolutely decayed, exhausted and weak», and «Russia was threatened with complete anarchy, anarchical disintegration», which «was stopped by the communist dictatorship» [3, p.109].

At the same time, N.A.Berdjaev practically excluded the future time from consideration, that sharply hostile international environment in which the process of formation of the real «Russian communism» took place. Moreover, under these conditions, he reproached the new social system for «extreme etatism», «ardor for technical civilization and industry» [3, p.142], without which this system could not protect itself, in our opinion.


3. Actual present time and necessity of novelty of the future time

A famous philosopher S.Askoldov begins his article [1] with the remark that «for a long time, philosophical thought has been trying to go beyond the limits of time. It «is made by a simple negation of the importance of time for this or that area of life» [1, p.80]. As a matter of fact, later, this statement, though predominantly related to the exact sciences, was repeated by J.Whitrow [20], who used a more appropriate term «time elimination». E.Meyerson is considered to be the first person to formulate the term «time – elimination» [13, p.225]. «Instead of ignoring time aspect of nature as it was done by Archimedes, mathematicians and physicists of New time tried to explain time through space, and philosophers, especially idealists helped them in it» [20, p.13]. Similar approach was used in biology. In general, it is one of the major principles in the development of any science:  for the time being to eliminate from its structures the insufficiently known or unexplored areas, which are not absolutely clear or cannot fit into the existing patterns. As a result, it did not impede development of science and did not remove unresolved problems, but made knowledge more certain and practically suitable.

S.Askoldov’s main thesis was that the answer to the question what time is lies in the answer to the question «what change is. Change … makes the root or the essence of time … Change can be defined as the unity of the past, the present, and the future. This consolidation occurs only in the mind or through consciousness». Here the idealistic component is very strong as the author refuses to admit that the objective reality is «able» to change: «the area of material changes, if not to consider consciousness of the observing subject, would as a matter of fact, lose its changeability» [1, p.81]. «Change or time, which is basically the same, is a state of mind in the first place»; it is «psychological time» which has «its own individuality and subjectivity, and in this sense relativity» [1, p.82].

Relativity manifests itself in the fact that different people in different psychological conditions have «unequal range or duration of the present». According to S.Askoldov, «…unequal ranges of various fragmented parts of present reality as if with concentric circles surround certain general “present time”, common for certain events» (and subjects), which is «almost point-like» [1, p.85], or is only a moment, as it is viewed by L.M.Lopatin and N.A.Berdjaev).

But in this psychological time S.Askoldov points at «the objective content» which consists, firstly, in the unity of three times, and secondly, in coincidence of «the central median point»-«now» or «at the present time». Ontological time as «changeability of life», in his opinion, should be distinguished from physical time, measured only by movement [1, p.83].

Unlike N.I.Djakov, S.Askoldov does not attach great philosophical and even more so sociological importance to the theory of relativity as it does not cancel out the «unequivocal and universal» «now» or «present». Referring to the facts of unambiguous «now», S.Askoldov considers that «the cause of time is something objective». Also, this position was not shaken by the relativity theory as, in his opinion, «the image of time in the form of movement is not only one of its special cases (illustrations), but an illustration, most deforming its nature». Basically, «time and space are the forms of experience only coinciding, even in the area of senses, rather than being inseparably linked with each other» [1, p.84–88].

Considering «various ways of philosophical overcoming of time», S.Askoldov assumes that «the fullest philosophical liberation from time» is presented in the theory of time by I.Kant, in which time is considered only as a mental form, which S.Askoldov called the most «arbitrary and unfeasible philosophy in history». According to S.Askoldov, «time, i.e. change, is not an external form to life, as if imposed on life from the outside, by cognition, but it is the characteristic of the very being, its ontological modus or an attribute» [1, p.91]. S.Askoldov also notes the advantage of Kantian theory, which lies in the fact that there is a possibility of partial knowledge of the «thing in itself» when considering it beyond time limits, which seems also important for the process of human knowledge. In ontological sense S.Askoldov attached complete negation of time to «sublimated idealism» (Rikkert, Marburg school, Gusserl, but not to Platon and Hegel), which assert that «the ideal does not have any relation to time»; the ideal is conceived as «negation of almost all basic predicates of the real – time, causality and, in general, energetics». According to S.Askoldov, in time issues such idealism «is absolutely fruitless», and it is necessary «to appeal to the forms of overcoming time in which the timeless is understood as being connected with time through a real and continuous bond, and is even generating it» [1, p. 91–92). S.Askoldov considers three theoretical types of time interrelation. Firstly, the past, the present, and the future together become the present. Secondly, «only the past can be transformed into the present, preserving the force of the future as not having turned into the reality yet». Thirdly, preservation of the force of the past under the transformation of the content of the future into the present. In the first case «there would be a struggle where, finally, non-existence/death would constantly win against life». The result of the second case would be a «considerable filling up of our empirical world… from which the death sting would be pulled out». «Transformation of the past into the present designates only negation of dying, but is not equivalent to the cancellation of creativity and novelty; cancellation of the future is an inevitable mental refusal of the creativity of the new». «The idea of the best, highest/supreme world should induce us … mentally to transform the past and the future not into nothing, but in the very being of the present» [1, p.93–94]. We would like to remind you the words of the first Russian sociologist N.G.Chernyshevskiy about the future: «Aspire to it, work for it, approach it, and transfer everything that can be transferred from it to the present» [6, p.426]. Such a completeness of life «for which there cannot be … future any more, inevitably leads to a complete abolition of time in terms of its division into three times. And full abolition of time is equivalent to the cancellation of any change. Change is impossible without time and vice versa» [1, p.96].

Thus, S.Askoldov, recognizing the significance of the past time, actualizes the present time and attaches great importance to the future time, to a certain extent, confirming the fundamental importance of novelty and change for a person and the society as social subjects.


4. The end of absolute time

The important propositions on social and sociological range of problems were also stated by researchers involved into the field of natural sciences.

In 1922 in Petrograd, a brochure of an academician A.E.Fersman  «Time» was published, which was permeated with the spirit of activity of thought, functioning, the idea of mastering/control over time», and «victory over it» [10]. A.E.Fersman, as though further developing the «subjectivism» of A.Bergson, emphasizes the struggle of a human thought against time; human thought, «which advances its course in its creative dreams»; «creative thought is winning and will win against time» [10, p.3–4].

Substance, energy, space, and time per se have become relative in G.Minkovsky and A.Einstein's theories, which, according to A.E.Fersman, «have destroyed a belief in grandiosity and invincibility of time; removed the “aura of inviolability” from Chronos, and dared to shake our own views» [10, p.12]. Of course, these words of A.E.Fersman are not only related to a physical or mathematical theory. Here we come across such terms as «to win the victory over time», «to seize control over time», which have primarily social and social-psychological meaning, though being originated from the pure theory. They reflect that state of mind, fundamental changes occurring in science and society, those expectations from the future which have arisen at that period.

A.E.Fersman writes about penetration of time issues into other sciences, revival of historicism, and he also draws attention to the question, whether it is possible to get control over time [10, p.9].

In the research of another Russian scientist A.L.Chizhevskiy, started in 1915, statistical regularities of the course of historical processes on our planet in which solar activity is of great importance were demonstrated at first in the form of hypothesis, and further as a proven fact [7]. A.L.Chizhevskiy worked in an interdisciplinary field, which covered astronomy, history, physiology, psychology, and sociology. His research was conducted mostly at the end of the 1910s and in the 1920s of the last century. In A.L.Chizhevskiy's works time is studied in its relation to space, sun, and nature; it is not viewed as absolute and unchangeable anymore in its «objective», «causal» influence on the life of humanity. Now it has become possible to speak of the «solar» content as included not only in the ordinary, individual time (which was recognized before), but also into social time in its historical modus.

Of course, the relativity theory in itself was of a little significance for the social life and for sociology. However, with respect to social and psychological aspects it was very important to overcome the views of absoluteness of time, its complete independence of a human being and his activities. It was specifically this discovery in physics that prompted scientists to focus on studies in the field of social time, on changes in psychological research on time; formation of the foundation of sociology of time as a special branch of sociological science is also due to this event.


5. The first Russian sociologist

In the early 1920s P.A.Sorokin could be characterized as the most advanced Russian sociologist, the sociologist of the XX century. There were several reasons for it. Firstly, the studies of this period served as the basis for his future fundamental works on social differentiation and mobility, sociology of revolution and sociology of changes. Secondly, the works of P. Sorokin were really diverse: from empirical (research into famine) to theoretical (sociology system) ones. Thirdly, variety of his research issues covered basic social phenomena and processes (social groups, their mobility, war, crime, etc.). Fourthly, the sociologist had good knowledge of the state of the contemporary world sociology, especially the American one, strongly attached to empirical studies. Fifthly, the use of methodological principles, different theoretical approaches, with preference to the objective one, was also an advantage.

Certainly, Russia was not only his native land, but also his creative motherland in one of the most difficult, critical and tragic periods of its history.

It was in particular during the Russian period of P.A.Sorokin’s scientific activity, under the influence of the processes typical of Russia in the 1910-1920s, when his ideas of social time, social and cultural dynamics, realized in his researches and publications of the 1930s were formed.

When working on «The System of Sociology» [18], P.A.Sorokin, on the one hand, used a considerable quantity of both foreign and domestic sociological literature, i.e. the works of practically all leading sociologists of the end of the ÕIÕ – the beginning of the XX centuries. However, in «The System» we have not found any reference to the category of time in sociology and to such modification of time as «social time». This fact proves quite clearly that there was no such concept in the theoretical sociology of that period.

In «The System of Sociology» the term «time» is used in historical modus in relation to social changes. However, in his research program [16], which was discussed and approved in the year of publication of «The System of Sociology», P.A.Sorokin takes a resolute step towards «structural» time, with the aim to study the structure of daily activity of different social professional groups expressed in time indicators. In this respect, the analogy to N.I.Ziber's program [15] seems relevant. Even though in the above-mentioned programs the purposes of studying «time expenses» are different, in both cases it was supposed to obtain data on time expenses for the main types of work in different social groups. However, N.I.Ziber assumed to arrive at the shares of various groups in cumulative/total expenses of time, while P.A.Sorokin – at the comparison of certain groups and, probably, the dynamics of their differences.

P.A.Sorokin has conducted the first sociological survey on the use of time by means of time-budget method and laid the fundamental groundwork for his major article [17] in the co-authorship with R.Merton, where, probably, for the first time, the term «social time» was used.


6. «Time» in sociology of the early 1930s

In the late 1920s, an outstanding economist and sociologist N.D.Kondratyev started drafting his generalizing research, realizing his original sociological economic approach to society, its functioning and development. Understanding sociology as «a general theory of social phenomena» [11, p.11], «a general theory of society» [11, p.86], and political economics or «social economics as a part of sociology», N.D.Kondratyev uses only «historical» modification of time, including analysis of «cause – effect – cause –effect…» correlation to separate what had occurred «before» from what happened «after». He has also closely approached two other modifications of social time. In his opinion, the presence of communication between people (direct and indirect, communications-interactions and communications-influences) «reveals why what is real is human population that consists not only of the people living in the same place, but also of the people who are geographically divided. It also reveals why real human population exists not only in the present, but it also has long term existence» [11, p.53]. The phrase «mass behavior acts, leading to the establishment of any kind of communication between people, as such take place in time» [11, p.56] gives us a clear understanding of the fact that time is considered here both as a natural resource and as a cumulative time of action and interaction of the subjects (structural time). N.D.Kondratyev notes that «… the chain of people’s actions, leading not to the direct satisfaction of their needs, but only to the creation of the means for their satisfaction … becomes longer and longer … in the process of historical development. Another side of this historical tendency of development, undoubtedly, is the fact that human vision of time and, in particular, on the future time has broadened, and a human being has acquired the increasing ability to operate not only in the interests of the given moment, but also taking into consideration the future» [11, p.105].

The discussed publication of N.D.Kondratyev adequately reflects the place of time category in sociological science of that period. Social time in the early 1930s had neither any status nor category, even a concept, but its sociological content was being formed, though very slowly. N.D.Kondratyev was not able to continue his work on the generalizing sociological economic research, and we can only assume what place the category of social time would have taken in it. In our opinion, N.D.Kondratyev’s theory of big cycles can be considered as a sketch of an approach to the development of the whole society and specific social systems. Elaboration of this approach can «give work» to the categories and indicators of not only historical, but also of structural and system time.

Being a person and a scientist, deprived of freedom and the possibility to be occupied with his work, N.D.Kondratyev considered that «the most awful thing in life is loss of time» [11, p.537], which «is irreversible» [11, p.538].


7. «… connected with vital/life phenomena»

An outstanding scientist and naturalist V.I.Vernadskiy also paid much attention to time issues. In 1930-1931 he was working on a large manuscript devoted to the problems of time in both science and philosophy (it is worth mentioning that he made a special note about the unity of space and time in his diary [19, p.419] already in the beginning of 1885 at the age of 21). At the end of 1931 he made a report on this topic at the general meeting of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.

We would like to draw special attention to four ideas described in V.I.Vernadskiy's publications and manuscripts.

Firstly, he evaluated the 1920s as the period when «historically unprecedented deepening of the concept of time» took place [19, p.251] and when «time, for the first time, became an object of scientific research» [19, p.298]. This statement should be referred not only to natural sciences and philosophy, but also to sociology, including social, sociological time studies of people and social groups as well as their vital/life activities, i.e. social time.

Secondly, V.I.Vernadskiy connects this «explosion of scientific creativity» with both «historical turning point in the life of mankind, protest actions of broad masses, which have realized their real force», and with revision of the concept of Newtonian absolute time and space in science [19, p.299].

Thirdly, V.I.Vernadskiy paid special attention to a specific vision of time in the works of a famous sociologist and philosopher G.Zimmel and a philosopher A.Bergson – the time which is neither natural and «human» nor «historical», as Vernadskiy noted in several cases, but a subject-human one.

Fourthly, which seems to be the most important, V.I.Vernadskiy provided a definition for biological time, which was not very far from elaboration of the concept of social time. He called biological time the «time connected with the vital/life phenomena» [19, p.226]. Basically, what was left was adding «human life» to arrive at the «social time». Special attention should be paid to the expression «connected/related». Its use essentially expands the volume of social time, including functioning of everything created by people to economize their time or to expand their creative possibilities. We consider that this is one of the major directions in the further research on social time both as a concept, a category, and the reality.


8. Time of individuals and social systems

In the fundamental book (1924) that basically discussed the problems of social time, V.N.Muravyov notes that «every science raises a question about time issues» [14, p.100]. He also sets a goal to study this question «from philosophical, logical, mathematical, sociological, and organizational points of view»; he aims at conducting not only theoretical research, but also at combining it with practice – both scientific and also «social-organizational practice, which has been developing in Russia lately», making equal use of the experience of an individual and «the activity of social historical groups» [14, p.96–98].

An approach to an individual and a society as a system. System elements. According to V.N.Muravyov, «sociological point of view on the multitudes» is the most perfect and general though in relation to non-social systems it seems superfluous [14, p.105].

In his volume the author constructs the sequence of social systems, or social subjects. Firstly, it is an individual consisting of «physical and biological elements» and possessing human intellect [14, p.235], i.e. an active individual. In our opinion, it is very important to emphasize V.N.Muravyov's remark that «the essence of peculiarity is not that it wants separateness, but also that in this separateness it wishes to be everything» [14, p.224]. We make special emphasis on it. To be! Everything! Secondly, these are «social-historical human groups» in which V.N.Muravyov saw specificity of sociological approach. Thirdly, he speaks about community at a country level. And, finally, it is the mankind living on Earth.

Each individual acts/operates as «a member of these systems» as every «action and thought has psychological, social, and historical nature» [14, p.104]. V.N.Muravyov focuses on three main areas of real activity of humans: 1) «creation of new living beings or revival of the old ones»; 2) «change of the relations between people and, accordingly, change of an individual»; 3) «change of the world in the form of transformation of material things» [14, p.111].

In the process of activity subjects become involved into certain relations. V.N.Muravyov considers «social and historical relations» to be «timeforming factors».

Time «is created» by activity. According to V.N.Muravyov, «time … if to consider it as reality, is nothing else but change and movement» [14, p.101]; and time of an individual is not only the physical (astronomical) time used by people in their activity and life, but also the time, created by these people, because «each action, changing the world, is such a creation» [14, p.108].

«Each member of the system has an internal time, subject to him, and external, or compulsory time» [14, p.153]. Expansion of the first one means «acquisition/occupancy of a wide circle of temporariness» [14, p.154]. These circles of time constitute a doubly actual present time for certain subjects and for social systems which they belong to (Compare to S.Askoldov’s «circles»).

Overcoming time and getting control over it. V.N.Muravyov uses two basic terms. The book is called «Getting Control Over Time», but in the book the term «overcoming» is more often used.

«Time overcoming» means attainment of finiteness, discreteness of time in a certain activity, in the actions of a certain person or a certain social system, and preserving this activity and its outcomes in the memory or in any other form. «Mastering/getting control over time» is a free activity of people in compliance with the laws of functioning and development of a society as a social system. According to V.N.Muravyov, «control over time is any change which is meaningfully and expediently made in the nature, because it creates or recreates the reality according to the available sample/pattern» [14, p.126].  It reflects the role of each individual in overcoming and mastering of time. «Any conscious expedient action which gives us power over the nature is really getting control over time» [14, p.229].

«Finally, the theory of control over time comes up to the theory of formation… of human collectives in the first place» [14, p.106]. «Time use turns into control over it» [14, p.98]. An opinion of V.N.Muravyov seems to be quite valid when he states that getting control over time is «one of the main reasonable purposes of an individual» [14, p.107].

V.N.Muravyov’s views on a western society of his time are worth mentioning here. He considered that manufacturing creates «goods not for getting control over time, but for pastime. As though mankind puts the question of not how to overcome time …, but how to spend time» [14, p.219]. According to V.N.Muravyov, control over time is «not an aspiration to lead a vacuous and idle life, or to pass time which can be filled by any content, but to have a life containing completeness of all implemented possibilities» [14, p.229].

«Uniform» system. V.N.Muravyov considered «that there is only one way of getting control over time, which is establishing consent among all members within the system» [14, p.165]. For an individual «time overcoming is connected with his reasonableness».

«The future appears in the power of all participants of the system as they act in cooperation and in consent» [14, p.163]. This statement, as well as the statement about getting control over time was very urgent for our country at that period. It was necessary to create a «uniform» social system,  capable to implement these ideas, as if in compliance with V.N.Muravyov's words.

Speaking about time, V.N.Muravyov actually means social time, i.e. the time «connected» with human life, with the existence of a human society. He closely approached the concept of «social time», having shown its content, though this term was not used.

V.N.Muravyov was one of the first who basically applied the system approach to the analysis of functioning and development of societies of different levels, focusing on their time in the cumulative sense rather than understanding it as the duration of their existence.



Almost all publications, mentioned in this article, were formally outside the frameworks of sociology as it was understood at that time (except for P.A.Sorokin's theoretical and empirical attempt to use time indicators to study the influence of professions on people, and also partially V.N.Muravyov's works.). However, it does not impede us to consider them as inherently sociological ones, proceeding from our understanding of the essence of sociology.

In the considered works the term «social time» was not used yet, though more often the term «time» meant not an abstract, absolute or even simply astronomical time, but the time of a person or a society which, accordingly, is used somehow.

On the one hand, revolutionary period has «tightened» time, intensified and accelerated many economic, political, and cultural processes. A stable and fitting with the reality attitude/mood was formed concerning the possibility to «operate» the time, and, in essence, to organize life in such a way that time becomes not an adversary who has to be overcome, but an ally in life and in its improvement.

Since one of the tasks of the work is to show the priority of the Russian sociology of time budget, it seems relevant to examine what was done by the researchers in other countries.

In course of the research, the works of such authors as Merton, Zimmel and Bergson were studied. The analysis of these works has shown their insignificance; as such, the relation between the Russian authors and their foreign colleagues was rather weak because of the lack of contacts, which were completely impossible that time. Moreover, the level of the developments in this sphere was rather low in the West.

There was no discourse on theoretical aspects of social time because of rare publications as well as political reasons and clear priority of empirical tasks in that period (the 1920s-1930s.).

There was no ground for the discourse. The overall concept of social time, i.e. its separate aspects of fundamental and applied character seemed more relevant rather than the discourse per se.  It was not a discourse, but a totality of statements and estimates on the aspects of social time.

As a result, the statements given in the article, in fact, supplement each other and seem mutually complementary, paving the way towards a systemic concept of social time.

Those were the first and very important cornerstones in the theory of social time, which is their true significance.

The authors of the statements presented in the article did not respond to the statements and propositions of the others since there was no discourse per se that time; it was the complementarity of the statements and researches of the authors that was of particular interest rather than the criticism of each other.

The works considered in the given article have become a very important step towards the theory of social time.

In general, we arrive at the following tendency in the directions of thought and practice: in theory, in philosophy there is time «overcoming», and in practice, sociology, and management – «getting control» over time.


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