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Fighting For Time

Fighting For Time: Shifting Boundaries of Work and Social Life

Cynthia Fuchs Epstein
Arne L. Kalleberg
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Fighting For Time
    Book Description:

    Though there are still just twenty-four hours in a day, society’s idea of who should be doing what and when has shifted. Time, the ultimate scarce resource, has become an increasingly contested battle zone in American life, with work, family, and personal obligations pulling individuals in conflicting directions. In Fighting for Time, editors Cynthia Fuchs Epstein and Arne Kalleberg bring together a team of distinguished sociologists and management analysts to examine the social construction of time and its importance in American culture. Fighting for Time opens with an exploration of changes in time spent at work—both when people are on the job and the number of hours they spend there—and the consequences of those changes for individuals and families. Contributors Jerry Jacobs and Kathleen Gerson find that the relative constancy of the average workweek in America over the last thirty years hides the fact that blue-collar workers are putting in fewer hours while more educated white-collar workers are putting in more. Rudy Fenwick and Mark Tausig look at the effect of nonstandard schedules on workers’ health and family life. They find that working unconventional hours can increase family stress, but that control over one’s work schedule improves family, social, and health outcomes for workers. The book then turns to an examination of how time influences the organization and control of work. The British insurance company studied by David Collinson and Margaret Collinson is an example of a culture where employees are judged on the number of hours they work rather than on their productivity. There, managers are under intense pressure not to take legally guaranteed parental leave, and clocks are banned from the office walls so that employees will work without regard to the time. In the book’s final section, the contributors examine how time can have different meanings for men and women. Cynthia Fuchs Epstein points out that professional women and stay-at-home fathers face social disapproval for spending too much time on activities that do not conform to socially prescribed gender roles—men are mocked by coworkers for taking paternity leave, while working mothers are chastised for leaving their children to the care of others. Fighting for Time challenges assumptions about the relationship between time and work, revealing that time is a fluid concept that derives its importance from cultural attitudes, social psychological processes, and the exercise of power. Its insight will be of interest to sociologists, economists, social psychologists, business leaders, and anyone interested in the work-life balance.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-187-2
    Subjects: Business, Economics

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Chapter 1 Time and Work: Changes and Challenges
    (pp. 1-22)
    Cynthia Fuchs Epstein and Arne L. Kalleberg

    Time is a basic human concern. It orders the lives of all individuals and groups. Time differentiation is a basic component of social structure and of the cultural value system: time designations structure human effort, experience, and expectations, and cultural values are embedded in them (Durkheim 1902/1947; Merton 1984; Sorokin and Merton 1937).

    Throughout history claims on people’s time have come from formal and informal authorities—from the state, from the church, from the firm and corporation, and from the family. The “natural” pace of life, in earlier times determined by the rising and setting of the sun, has given...


    • Chapter 2 Understanding Changes in American Working Time: A Synthesis
      (pp. 25-45)
      Jerry A. Jacobs and Kathleen Gerson

      Time on the job is a central and increasingly contested terrain in the lives of Americans. Working time sets the framework for both work and family life, and since time is not an expandable resource, long hours at the workplace must inevitably take time away from the rest of life. Long schedules of sixty hours a week or more mean that a worker is forced to scramble for time at home, inevitably missing even simple daily rituals such as breakfast or dinner with family and friends. Yet short workweeks of thirty hours or less, which offer more time for private...

    • Chapter 3 Employment in a 24/7 Economy: Challenges for the Family
      (pp. 46-76)
      Harriet B. Presser

      Over recent decades, the U.S. labor force has been experiencing greater temporal diversity in the nature of employment. The total number of weekly hours people are employed has been spreading to both ends of the continuum, so that more people are working very few as well as very many hours (Smith 1986; U.S. Department of Labor 2002). Which hours people are working has also been changing with flextime on the rise (Golden 2001; U.S. Department of Labor 1998) and more people working the “fringe times”—several hours before or after the traditional nine-to-five workday (Hamermesh 1999). It is interesting that...

    • Chapter 4 The Health and Family-Social Consequences of Shift Work and Schedule Control: 1977 and 1997
      (pp. 77-110)
      Rudy Fenwick and Mark Tausig

      Recent changes in the U.S. economy and labor force have led to great diversity in the time workers spend on the job. The increased diversity refers not only to changes in the absolute number of working hours, as many workers work more hours per week and many others work fewer hours, but also to which hours and days they are working and how much flexibility they have in determining which hours they work. The so-called “standard shift”—thirty-five to forty hours per week, nine to five, Monday through Friday—has increasingly become the exception rather than the standard, since fewer...


    • Chapter 5 Temporal Depth, Age, and Organizational Performance
      (pp. 113-149)
      Allen C. Bluedorn and Stephen P. Ferris

      The first author once toured a manufacturing plant in the United States that was owned and operated by a Japanese company. After guiding him on the tour, the facility’s Japanese manager said, “I have an advantage over my American counterparts: they are expected to show a profit every quarter, but I have years to develop this business before my company expects my operation to be profitable.” The comment could have come from the pages of William Ouchi’s best-seller,Theory Z(1981), which proposed, as did this Japanese businessman, that a long-term perspective gives companies a competitive advantage. Indeed, John Kotter...

    • Chapter 6 Bicycle Messengers and the Dialectics of Speed
      (pp. 150-190)
      Benjamin Stewart

      Bicycle messengers provide a valuable on-demand service to urban businesses that require same-day delivery of time-sensitive material. This chapter analyzes the spatial and organizational contradictions that enable and disrupt the urban bicycle messenger industry’s production of speed. It begins with the industry’s general context, describing the congestion that makes the “low-tech” bicycle the city’s fastest mode of delivery. It then moves to explore two sides of the messenger’s labor situation, the stress that arises conjointly out of that enabling congestion and the industry’s demands for speed, and the stress-mitigating enjoyment that arises out of those aspects of the labor similar...

    • Chapter 7 Engineering Overwork: Bell-Curve Management at a High-Tech Firm
      (pp. 191-218)
      Ofer Sharone

      After steadily decreasing throughout the first half of the twentieth century, in the late 1960s the number of hours Americans work made a sudden U-turn and began to rise (Schor 1991).¹ In 1999, American workers surpassed the Japanese to earn the dubious distinction of working the longest hours in the industrialized world (International Labour Organization 1999). Among American workers, it is the relatively well-off professional, managerial, and technical workers who are putting in the longest work hours (Jacobs and Gerson 1998).² This paper explores the causes underlying long work hours among a group of workers on the front line of...

    • Chapter 8 The Power of Time: Leadership, Management, and Gender
      (pp. 219-246)
      David L. Collinson and Margaret Collinson

      The analytical significance of time has long been recognized in the natural science writings of Galileo, Newton, and Einstein and in the philosophical tracts of Heidegger, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche, among others. Indeed an awareness of a past, a present, and a future, and of the finiteness of life are central features of human existence (Berger and Luckmann 1967). Human beings find meaning and identity in the temporal character of existence (Urry 1991, Collinson 2003). Yet it is only relatively recently that the importance of time has been acknowledged in theories of society (Giddens 1979, 1984, 1987; Adam 1990; Harvey 1990;...


    • Chapter 9 Gender, Work, and Time: Gender at Work and at Play in Futures Trading
      (pp. 249-281)
      Peter Levin

      During a lull following an extremely busy morning of futures trading on the floor of the American Commodities Exchange (ACE),¹ Nancy, a woman clerk at a large international bank, approached the trading pit and, angrily but matter-of-factly, told Carl, a broker, that he’d “better watch out if you’re going to pick off my orders.” This was a suggestion that Carl had been watching the woman use hand signals to relay her orders into the trading pit, and then, knowing what the bank intended to do, had traded ahead of those orders. It is an unethical and potentially illegal practice.


    • Chapter 10 Work Devotion and Work Time
      (pp. 282-316)
      Mary Blair-Loy

      Scholars maintain that a major source of work-family conflict is the lack of sufficient time in the day to meet work and family obligations (see, for example, Hochschild 1997; Parcel 1999). This time crunch is exacerbated by the increase in work hours over the past thirty years, especially for professional and managerial workers and for women (Jacobs and Gerson 2004). Work-family researchers generally see long work hours as negative consequences of employer demands or increased competition wrought by globalization and industry consolidation (Schor 1992; Hochschild 1997; Jacobs and Gerson 2004; Blair-Loy and Jacobs 2003; Fraser 2001). But to fully comprehend...

    • Chapter 11 Border Crossings: The Constraints of Time Norms in Transgressions of Gender and Professional Roles
      (pp. 317-340)
      Cynthia Fuchs Epstein

      How do we account for the constraints faced by women and men who wish to move beyond the boundaries of their traditional sex and gender roles in contemporary society? Despite the opportunities for change made possible by advocates for equality, liberating technological advances, and changes in the law, women find it difficult to move upward through glass ceilings and men find it difficult to moderate time commitments at work to take on childcare responsibilities in the home. Ideologies and institutionalized practices in the workplace and the community form obstacles to breaking down boundaries. Among them are time ideologies and the...

  8. Index
    (pp. 341-358)