Value, time and technology in educational institutions

I will be presenting this at WSU in Sydney on the 14th of November (I better write it soon).

Institutions have always had a reciprocal relationship with an ordered, regulated experience of time. This point was underscored by the British historian E.P. Thompson who argued that the shift from “task orientation” to “timed labour” that occurred in industrialised society such that “time is now currency: it is not passed but spent” (Thompson, 1967, p.61). In their analysis of Thompson’s argument, Glennie and Thrift (1996, p. 277) summarise Thompson’s thesis as arguing changes in time-discipline “involved much broader cultural changes” than simply work conditions. In other words, the extension of time becomes an intension a “the imposition and eventual internalization of a specific ‘time orientation’ to labour and life” (Glennie & Thrift, 1996, p. 277). Thompson (1967, p.84) went on to argue that this was especially true of the school, it became a place where “time-thrift” could be internalised as an aspect of (largely) Protestant virtue. However, Glennie and Thrift (1996, p. 278) go onto argue that there is an historical specificity to Thompson’s argument that the period in which he wrote was the high point of the “synchronization of societies”. More recent accounts of the politics of time stress what may be termed desynchronization, or social time “as intrinsically manifold; as multiple and heterogeneous; as a discontinuous process” (Glennie & Thrift, 1996, p. 278).

This paper consists of 3 key arguments:

  1. That time and education are co-constitutive and there have been numerous examples of time and/or education being altered due to shifting emphases in these relations. In particular, all value is essentially temporal, there is no value outside of its location within broader social, political and cultural determinations.
  2. Further, that there is a relationship between value (what is valued, how it is valued and why it is valued) and perceptions of time itself, as the German sociologist Hartmunt Rosa (2010; 2009) has shown.
  3. That technological change is impacting on institutional education in a number of ways, not least of which through a reconfiguration of value.



Glennie, P., & Thrift, N. (1996). Reworking EP Thompson’s ‘Time, Work-Discipline and Industrial Capitalism’. Time & Society, 5 (3), 275-299.

Rosa, H. (2010). High-speed society: Social acceleration, power, and modernity. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Rosa, H. (2009). Social Acceleration: Ethical and Political Consequences of a Desynchronised High-Speed Society. In H. Rosa, & W. Scheuerman, High-speed society: Social acceleration, power, and modernity (pp. 77-112). Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Thompson, E. P. (1967). Time, work-discipline, and industrial capitalism. Past & Present, 38, 56-97.