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Gender and the politics of time

Gender and the politics of time: Feminist theory and contemporary debates

Valerie Bryson
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  • Book Info
    Gender and the politics of time
    Book Description:

    Women's increased role in the labour market has combined with concerns about the damaging effects of long working hours to push time-related issues up the policy agenda in many Western nations. This wide-ranging and accessible book assesses policy alternatives in the light of feminist theory and factual evidence. The book introduces mainstream ideas on the nature and political significance of time and re-frames them from a feminist perspective to provide a critical overview of policies in Western welfare states. Themes covered include gender differences in time use and the impact of 'time poverty' on women's citizenship; the need to value time spent giving and receiving care; the social meanings of time and whether we can talk about 'women's time' and 'men's time'; and the role of the past in framing policy options today. The book is essential reading for all those interested in gender inequality, time-use or work/rest-of-life balance. It will be an invaluable resource for students and academics throughout the social sciences.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-297-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    This book is motivated by the hope that political theory can improve our understanding of the societies in which we live and thereby contribute to policies aimed at reducing exploitation and enabling more people to realise their human potential. More specifically, it is grounded in feminist political theory and the belief that unequal power relationships between women and men are real, important and unjust. Focusing on Western welfare states, it rejects the widely articulated claim that feminism is now redundant, and it treats naming and contesting gender inequalities as a matter of political priority. It sees feminist politics as inseparable...

  2. Part 1: Time, politics and society:: mainstream perspectives

    • ONE Time, temporality and political thought
      (pp. 9-22)

      To think about our relationship with time is to raise profound questions around mortality, transience, memory, continuity and identity. Even the most cursory reflection suggests that we do not experience time in any straightforward, externally measurable way; rather, our sense of time changes over our life span (so that the days of childhood seem endless, but months and years rush past in later life), while time can appear to stretch out or speed up in the course of a day, and the transitory moment of the present can acquire significance through anticipation, or a retrospective importance that becomes frozen in...

    • TWO Time culture(s) and the social nature of time
      (pp. 23-34)

      Chapter One included a discussion of the changing temporal assumptions that underlie political thought. Although the literatures are largely distinct, the idea that our understanding of time is historically and socially variable is also supported by a growing body of work elsewhere in the social sciences. After providing a brief overview of the ideas of anthropologists and sociologists, this chapter considers the development of distinctive ‘time cultures’ associated with the shifts from traditional to modern and postmodern times. It relates these changes to issues of power and control, and the final section of this chapter identifies sources of resistance to...

    • THREE Time use in capitalist societies
      (pp. 35-48)

      This chapter considers how time use is and should be organised in today’s advanced industrial societies. The first section confirms that the distribution and availability of free time is a matter of political justice and legitimate political concern. The second section shows that welfare policies have significant effects on patterns of time use, and extends existing work to explore the value of identifying ‘temporal regimes’, based on variations in time culture and temporal orientation as well as time use. Here it finds that although there are identifiable patterns, these are often fragmented and contradictory. The third section addresses the extent...

  3. Part 2: Feminist perspectives:: reframing the issues

    • FOUR Women and men in feminist political thought
      (pp. 51-66)

      The ideas about time discussed in Part 1 will be re–visited in Part 3, which seeks to develop a specifically feminist theory and politics of time. Part 2 sets the scene by showing how feminist perspectives can reframe our understanding and reveal aspects of our human relationship with time that are invisible in mainstream approaches.

      This chapter focuses on the vexed question of whether it is meaningful to treat ‘women’ and ‘men’ as groups that have distinct qualities, experiences or ways of knowing the world, and the implications of this for relationships with time. After a brief outline of...

    • FIVE Public and private in feminist political thought
      (pp. 67-82)

      This chapter builds on the feminist critiques of binary, either/or thought discussed in Chapter Four to examine the temporal implications of feminist challenges to political theory’s conventional distinction between the public and the private. After outlining feminist arguments for those unfamiliar with them, it applies these to the time we spend as workers and citizens. Rejecting the mainstream view that women’s traditional responsibilities are simply a negative constraint on their ability to participate as full members of society, it insists that these are highly valuable in their own right. It also draws on feminist theories of justice to argue that...

    • SIX Feminist politics and welfare states
      (pp. 83-96)

      Chapter Five indicated that the time–related problems and disadvantages faced by women require collective, political solutions. The form these might take depends on the extent to which the political processes and structures of contemporary welfare states are open to feminist intervention: this is the focus of this chapter.

      The first section draws on recent feminist state theory to argue that effective feminist politics requires both engagement with the state and autonomous activity. It also finds that policy outcomes can have an important long–term impact on gendered identity and time norms. The second section returns to the welfare regime...

  4. Part 3: Towards a feminist politics of time

    • SEVEN Time and temporality in feminist political thought
      (pp. 99-120)

      Part 1 of this book considered three interconnected and overlapping areas: the temporal assumptions that frame mainstream political theory, the nature and significance of different time cultures, and the ways in which time is used and controlled in capitalist societies. Part 2 explored feminist theory at a general level to consider how this might reframe mainstream approaches. This third part draws these approaches together to focus directly on time in recent feminist political theory and practice, and the ways that this can inform policy debates in Western welfare states.

      Later discussion of whether women have a distinctive ‘time culture’ (Chapter...

    • EIGHT ‘Women’s time’
      (pp. 121-144)

      As discussed in Part 1, the dominant model of time in contemporary capitalist societies is the linear, goal–oriented, commodified time of the clock: time that can be individually owned, bought, sold, invested, spent or wasted, and that can be measured as a series of discrete activities. In this model, time is money, profitability requires long hours and/or the intensification of work time and we are constantly looking to clearly identifiable outcomes. However, this hegemonic understanding coexists with other ways of relating to time; in particular, human relationships and caring interactions may have a very different temporal pattern and logic,...

    • NINE Women and time use in contemporary capitalist societies
      (pp. 145-168)

      Earlier chapters in this book indicated that time has many meanings, but that in capitalist societies it is primarily treated as a commodity, something that can be bought and sold. In this context, free time is an unevenly distributed and increasingly scarce resource, valuable both in itself and as an important resource for democratic participation. As discussed in Chapters Four to Eight, many feminists argue that women have less of this scarce resource than men, that this is bound up with other forms of temporal disadvantage, and that gender differences in the experience and use of time are central to...

    • TEN The time(s) we want and the time(s) we’ve got: political implications and conclusions
      (pp. 169-186)

      This final chapter draws on the theoretical and empirical findings of earlier chapters to provide an overview of political alternatives and possibilities. It uses a self–consciously temporal framework to identify some long–term goals and more immediate policy proposals, while recognising that these must be grounded in a realistic appraisal of particular historical circumstances. Focusing on three key areas (underlying temporal perspectives, time cultures and the ways that time use is organised and rewarded), the chapter considers what a feminist temporal utopia or ‘uchronia’ might look like, before providing a comparative overview of temporal values and practices in contemporary...