Social science opposes social time from natural time – Urry.


John Urry reviews how social science in general, and sociology in particular, regularly positions social time in opposition to natural time. For Urry, a key parameter in this distinction is the portrayal of social time as contingently pluralistic, given its differing constructions between societies.

Most social scientific accounts have presumed that time is in some sense social, and hence separate from, and opposed to, the time of nature. Durkheim (1968) argued in Elementary forms that only humans have a concept of time, and that time in human societies is abstract and impersonal and not simply individual. Moreover, this impersonality is socially organized; it is what Durkheim refers to as “social time.” Hence, time is a “social institution” and the category of time is not natural but social. Time is an objectively given social category of thought produced within societies and which therefore varies between societies. Social time is different from, and opposed to, the time(s) of nature (Urry 2000, 417).

Urry, John. 2000. ‘Sociology of time and space.’ In The Blackwell companion to social theory: Second edition, 416-44. Edited by Bryan Turner. Malden and Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

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