Teresa Brennan separates the social time of labour and production, from a natural reproductive time. Social time is furthermore characterised as artificial time, which via the speed of the acquisition of money (capital) diminishes or degrades natural reproductive cycles.

Money…is essentially time. Marx measured money in terms of labour-time, but by this argument it should be measured in terms of the speed of acquisition. Thus inflation and interest would be the measures of distance between sources of energy and the speed with which they are consumed, a measure which intersects with reproduction, especially but not only that of labour-power. We will regard money, then, as the phenomenal form of the socially produced time of speed, rather than of labour-time as such. This retains some of the reasoning behind Marx’s definition of money, although that definition conflated the social time of production with natural reproductive time, and it is these we are separating in this redefinition of the relation between value and price. The price of a commodity becomes inflated the further removed it is from its value, and especially inflated if its production has removed the source of value altogether. The price of money, measured in interest, would be affected by the same variable. Once more, time, as money and speed, literally encapsulates the natural energy whose flourishing it must diminish. For if the quantity of use-value overall as the basis of surplus-value is diminished, as I have argued it must be, something has to take its place. This something is the creation of an artificial space-time. This creation is the means whereby money rivals natural time in its imitation of reproduction.

Short-term profitability, with its inflated price, must lead to a diminution in long-term profit and productivity. In that the substantial material embodiment in productivity and profit has to be reduced or rendered unreproducible by the logic of production geared to speed, capital is its own worst enemy. How this is played out in total terms should be reflected in the crisis of capital, in its ‘long waves’ and ‘laws of motion’. In sum, what Marx saw clearly and before all was the inherent contradiction in capital as a mode of production. He saw it in terms of labour and technology, or constant and variable capital, as he defined it, where the former, to keep pace, had to expand at the expense of the energy input of labour. The contradiction is recapitulated in this account, although its terms of reference have changed. Or rather, its terms of reference have been stripped of their phenomenal forms, so that the contradiction emerges as what it is essentially: one between substantial energy and artificial speed. Yet we have established that the contradiction between energy and speed is not simple. Two forms of time are at issue: the generational time of natural reproduction, and speed, the artificial time of short-term profit. Speed, as I have already indicated, is about space as much as time as such. It is about space because it is about centralization and distance. Speed, measured by distance as well as time, involves a linear axis, time, and the lateral axis of space. In what follows, I will begin by emphasizing how, in the consumptive mode of production, the artificial space-time of speed (space for short) takes the place of generational time. For to the extent that capital’s continued profit must be based more and more on the speed of acquisition, it must centralize more, command more distance, and in this respect the artificial space-time of speed must take the place of generational time.

It is clear that generational time suffers because capital tends inevitably to speed up the production of all commodities, including naturally formed or agricultural ones. While there are countervailing tendencies in agriculture and labour-power, in terms of scarce or apparently irreplaceable sources, the speed imperative will override them wherever possible. As production speeds up, it is also clear, capital will diminish or degrade the conditions of the specific or overall natural reproduction of natural and agricultural products. But this is not the only way that generational time is short-circuited by short-term profit.

Brennan, Teresa. 2000. Exhausting modernity: Grounds for a new economy. London and New York: Routledge.


Raymond Monelle observes the belief that there are simultaneously plural cultural temporalities, which musical temporalities exemplify. This is distinguished from the impression of natural time, as a flow that is uniform and singular.

One could hardly exaggerate the importance of temporality – cultural time – in musical decisions, because music is predominantly an art of time. Although we live in the “monochronic” west, where time is imagined to be uniform and linear, we nevertheless possess a musical culture that reflects several forms of temporality.

It is important to distinguish time from temporality. These two aspects, the first natural and the second cultural, have quite different functions in music as well as in perception. Natural or “objective” time is a condition of life, a “transcendent form” in the expression of Kant. It is continuous and irreversible, the present always poised between a past and a future…Apparently, natural time flows at a uniform pace in one direction and penetrates all that occupies it…It is the time in which events can be placed, the tabula rosa on which the temporal forms of life are written.

It is argued nowadays that natural time is itself a cultural convention…A musical writer confesses that natural time is “little more than a social convention agreed to for practical reasons” (Kramer 1988, p.5)…Nevertheless, for ordinary purposes we base our serialities on a conception of linear and uniform time. But it is impossible to live in natural time; in order to perform any of the ordinary functions of daily life, we must somehow grasp time imaginatively, either in the present or in the longer scope…

The unifying imagination which enables us to grasp time is furnished by culture. As was realized by Henri Bergson, our freedom and our power to act are founded in imagined or experienced time, not in natural time. But different cultures furnish different times, and culture normally offers several simultaneous times. Every anthropologist stresses this, but nevertheless one sometimes hears of “monochronicity.” Modern western culture is apparently governed by one time alone, the time of the clock…

If we adopt “temporality” as the term for cultural time, then we are obliged to make a further distinction. Sign systems may proceed in time; however, it is not necessarily the case that the levels of content and expression acknowledge the same temporality, or that pertinent juncture occurs correspondingly on the two levels. In other words, the levels of content and expression may be temporally nonconformal…Language and music are temporal signs, of course, but the time within which they are structured is not necessarily connected to the time they may mean.

For example, most linguistic and musical syntagms in traditional styles end with closure, the grammatical completion of the phrase…Of course, closure is not the only temporal feature permeating linguistic syntax and semantics. Yet the condition of music is even more complicated. As in language, there is a temporality of syntactic structure. But theorists have studied this sort of time, in its typical forms of meter, rhythm, and phrasing, with such profound attention that we forget that music can also signify time. There is a temporality of the signified, as well as a temporality of the signifier.

Unlike language, music usually signifies indexically, and every temporal feature of its syntax is available to signify some temporal meaning. We are apt to find often in music…that syntactic features acquire semantic load, by indexicality. But musical syntax does not necessarily carry semantic weight; the failure to distinguish syntactic and semantic temporality has led to much confusion in the temporal theory of music.

Monelle, Raymond. 2000. The sense of music: Semiotic essays. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.


Jawaharlal Nehru states regarding recording the birth of a child that the time that humans construct during periods of war is artificially separated from solar time. This separation occurs because human, war time, is abstracted and ahead of solar time.

Your message about the birth of the little one reached me the same afternoon as your letter giving fuller details…In my letter to Indu, I suggested to her to ask you to get a proper horoscope made by a competent person. Such permanent records of the date and the time of birth are desirable. As for the time, I suppose the proper solar time should be mentioned and not the artificial time which is being used outside now. War time is at least an hour ahead of normal time (Nehru 1963, 162).

Nehru, Jawaharlal. 1963. Nehru’s letters to his sister: Edited with an introduction by Krishna Nehru Hutheesing. London: Faber and Faber.


James Greer argues that given the pervasiveness of time-technologies, primarily involving the clock, humans have domesticated and artificialised time. The result is that increasingly, natural time becomes absent.

In a music recording studio, just like in a Las Vegas casino, there is no evidence of the passage of time. You work in the dark. There are no windows because windows are not soundproof.

In the absence of natural time, artificial time rules everything that happens in that room. Recording sessions can now take place continents away, simultaneously. For example, say a band has recorded a drum part in Los Angeles but the lead guitarist is in London pretending to go out with Kate Moss. He can go into a London studio, connect via broadband using Pro Tools, which is probably the most common recording software in use today, and lay down a guitar solo that will sync perfectly with the drum part.

Pro Tools synchronizes the two sessions using an artificial time code to establish what sound engineers call positional reference. The code is recorded onto one audio channel of whatever recording device the session is using (these days, usually a computer’s hard drive). In effect, it creates its own time. Anything stored on the device can be precisely located and synchronized by time-code reading devices anywhere, at any time.

What might be called the domestication of time is nothing new, but the pace at which it is developing seems to have recently accelerated. For centuries, because the human race was ruled by the “sunup, sundown” method of timekeeping, the sundial provided a sufficient answer to the eternal human question, “Why can’t anyone ever be on time for anything?” (Maybe because it’s cloudy.) During the Middle Ages, monks—required by monk law to know at what hour a particular prayer was to be performed—needed a more reliable system for keeping track of the time. They developed (or stole the idea from the Greeks, whatever) a clock that worked by allowing water to drip at a nearly constant rate from a small hole in a vessel. This was apparently not good enough: Between A.D. 1280 and 1320, the first references to partly mechanical water clocks show up in church records.

From there it wasn’t a huge technological step to the purely mechanical clock, prodded in large part by the twin developments of the Industrial Revolution (factory workers needed to show up on time) and the railroad (it would be nice if 10 o’clock in London meant the same thing everywhere in England). Next came the pendulum, which is more or less how your grandfather’s grandfather clock operates. We have arrived today at the atomic clock, the one to which “official” clocks are linked. As quantum physics develops, we may yet see even more accurate clocks, which will be useful to astrophysicists trying to fix the coordinates and movements of distant celestial objects.

For us ordinary people, though, the clock is a tyrant. The tyranny of the timepiece has burrowed its way into the fabric of our daily lives—flashing on our iPhones, embedded into every e-mail we send, printed on every ATM withdrawal slip. We never do not know what time it is anymore, and this, I think, is a by-product of our appetite for speed. Many readers will remember the first computer modems, which connected us to the Internet at the then lightning-quick rate of 14.4 kilobytes per second. We may as well have carved our messages into stone and flung them across the country, given the 10-megabit rates now achievable by broadband technology. With an outpouring of data from the Large Hadron Collider, a huge particle accelerator starting up near Geneva, we can look forward to something called the Grid, which will make the Internet seem like a very old man walking his broken bike on the shoulder of the highway…

Artificial codes have erased natural time, and distance, too. The speed of sound is irrelevant; time zones are irrelevant; we can implant code on anything, transmit it over a fiber-optic cable or via satellite, and machines at any spot on the globe will be in sync.

The very notion of “on time” has been replaced by the notion of “in sync” (Greer 2008).

Greer, James. 2008. ‘What is the future of time.’ Discover: Science for the curious. 21 October.


Luke Mastin states that a temporal illusion is where our internal clock changes speed. This distorts or misconceives the time that occurs naturally in the world. 

A temporal illusion is a distortion in the perception of time that occurs for various reasons, such as due to different kinds of stress. In such cases, a person may momentarily perceive time as slowing down, stopping, speeding up, or even running backwards, as the timing and temporal order of events are misperceived. When we say that time slows down, what we actually mean is that our internal clock speeds up, which gives the impression that time in the rest of the world slows down…

The kappa effect is a form of temporal illusion which can be verified by experiment. It refers to occasions when the temporal duration between a sequence of consecutive stimuli is thought to be relatively longer or shorter than its actual elapsed time, as a result of the spatial separation between consecutive stimuli…

Chronostasis, also known as the stopped clock illusion, is where the first impression following the introduction of a new event or task demand to the brain appears to be extended in time. The most commonly encountered example is when the second hand of an analog clock appears to freeze in place for a short period of time after a person initially looks at it. A similar illusion can also be found within the auditory system…

The so-called “oddball effect” occurs when the brain experiences something unusual or out of the normal run of events. In this case, the brain pays special attention and spends more time processing the event, recording as much information as possible on the novel circumstances, which can lead to a feeling that time has slowed down (Mastin 2019).

Mastin, Luke. 2019. ‘Temporal illusions.’ Exactly what is…time?


James Gleick posits that the world should remove its various time zones, given the confusions they cause. Instead, it is argued that our timings should reflect how our biological clocks obey solar movements, a permanence that is in contradistinction to the arbitrary, changeable constitution, of numerical, clocked times.

The time-zone map is a hodgepodge — a jigsaw puzzle by Dalí. Logically you might assume there are 24, one per hour. You would be wrong. There are 39, crossing and overlapping, defying the sun, some offset by 30 minutes or even 45, and fluctuating on the whims of local satraps.

Let us all — wherever and whenever — live on what the world’s timekeepers call Coordinated Universal Time, or U.T.C. (though “earth time” might be less presumptuous). When it’s noon in Greenwich, Britain, let it be 12 everywhere. No more resetting the clocks. No more wondering what time it is in Peoria or Petropavlovsk. Our biological clocks can stay with the sun, as they have from the dawn of history. Only the numerals will change, and they have always been arbitrary…

People forget how recent is the development of our whole ungainly apparatus. A century and a half ago, time zones didn’t exist. They were a consequence of the invention of railroads. At first they were neither popular nor easy to understand. When New York reset its clocks to railway time on Sunday, Nov. 18, 1883, this newspaper explained the messy affair as follows:

“When the reader of The Times consults his paper at 8 o’clock this morning at his breakfast table it will be 9 o’clock in St. John, New Brunswick, 7 o’clock in Chicago, or rather in St. Louis — for Chicago authorities have refused to adopt the standard time, perhaps because the Chicago meridian was not selected as the one on which all time must be based — 6 o’clock in Denver, Col., and 5 o’clock in San Francisco. That is the whole story in a nut-shell.”

Geoincidence that H. G. Wells invented his time machine then, nor that Einstein developed his theory of relativity soon after. With everything so unsettled, Germany created Sommerzeit, “summer time,” as daylight saving time is still called in Europe.

“There was much talk of relative time, physiological time, subjective time and even compressible time,” wrote the French novelist Marcel Aymé in “The Problem of Summer Time,” a 1943 time-travel story. “It became obvious that the notion of time, as our ancestors had transmitted it down the millennia, was in fact absurd claptrap” (Gleick 2016).

Gleick, James (2016). ‘Time to dump time zones.’ New York Times, November 5, 2016.


Samuel Blankson describes cultural time as a human, quantifiable invention. The time that is being quantified, natural time, would not manifest in measurable ways, if not for human intervention.

…relation between points brings into question the origin of points. Since that is human, it still means man is part of the definition of time, an uncomfortable notion for all those mathematicians who believe that time occurs as a natural entity without human intervention so that it can be treated materially with mathematics alone.

Let me explain that I agree (or I know) that there is such a thing as natural time, of course. But cultural time, as quantified time (that is ‘something’ quantified or extracted from natural time), is a human invention – somebody must be there to count the orbits of the sun as ‘years’ or there will be no years and no seconds derived as fractions of the year (Blankson 2011, 14-15).

Blankson, Samuel K.K. (2011). The logic of time in the universe: A critique of Professor Yourgrau’s “World without time”. Morrisville: Lulu.


RobinB Creative posits that the subjective experience of time is not a true reflection of objectively quantifiable time. However, in order to appreciate the quality of one’s time, one must dedicate themselves to a quantifiable amount of objective time.

Just because “time flies when you’re having fun”, or a boring lecture may seem “the longest hour of my life”, does not mean that we really believe that units of time literally changed to our dis/advantage. We all understand that subjective experience of time has no true relationship to time as an objective measurement.

More seconds, minutes, hours, days, and/or years = a greater quantity of time. Simple.

Quality of time, is quite a bit harder to pin down. There is no objective measurement for time-quality, as there is for time quantity. Quality of time is purely subjective. Two people, experiencing the same things, at the same time, may have completely different, even opposite opinions regarding the quality of that time. Think, for example, of a father, attending a Justin Bieber concert with his tweenie daughter — or, family game night.

I recently read a very good New York Times article, by Frank Bruni, entitled The Myth of Quality Time. In it, he very convincingly proposes, that quality time is a direct result of commitment to quantity time.

Here’s the gist. (don’t let it discourage you from reading his excellent article) He speaks of quality and quantity time in relation to relationships — more specifically, family. Quality time, is time spent relating, that specifically results in greater relationship depth, sharing, and/or closeness. His primary point is that such quality time is next to impossible without a commitment to quantity time. In other words, quality time requires quantity time to occur.

Bruni states it in terms of family members being unlikely to open up to each other, unless quantities of time are set aside, just to be with each other. However, the thought occurred to me, that this also directly applies to our creative lives, artistic and/or otherwise creative.

Let me first state it bluntly, and then look at it in more depth. High-quality creativity will occur when you commit to spending quantities of time, working on creativity.

Anyone, who has practised creativity, knows the myth and the reality of the “flash of inspiration”. The reality is that we do, sometimes receive apparently sudden flashes of inspiration. The myth is that these flashes appear out of nowhere.

Inspiration, no matter how sudden, proceeds directly from time spent working on, thinking about, and marinading in our craft, art, problem to be solved, etc. This is true from start to finish (Creative 2017).

Creative, RobinB. “Creative time – quality vs quantity.” August 23, 2017.


Defacto Design argues that religious conventions have contributed to shaping calendars which distance us from natural time. These artificial time structures is furthermore said to have perverted our impression of natural reality.

“The 12 month Julian calendar was inherited by the Christians some time around the 6th century then, in 1582, Pope Gregory the 13th reformed the 12 month calendar and it became known as the Gregorian calendar. It can therefore be argued that it is the Vatican’s calendar and the world lives on Vatican time.

The point though is the lack of reason, logic or intuition upon which this system is based. It remains devoid of methodology which stifles usability as attempts to calculate which days of the week correspond to days of the month make clear. It has no rational grounding, other than 365 days corresponding to one solar orbit, and therefore lacks any significant context: Why does a ‘new year’ begin on January the 1st? What relevance does that day have? Why isn’t the 1st day of the year on the solstice? What practical purpose do we have for months of differing lengths other than to disseminate global confusion? And why, in the UK, do we still change our clocks twice a year to encourage ‘day-light saving’ when it means children must walk to school in the dark?

The ultimate purpose of a ‘calendar’ is not to keep accounts but to synchronise. The Gregorian calendar disconnects humanity from the cycles of the planets and galaxies; from the universal order of ‘natural time’ and therefore nature itself. Jonathan Bate observes in his insightful book ‘The Song of the Earth’ that ‘thinkers from Rousseau (1) to the late-twentieth-century Greens have proposed that man’s presumptions of his own apartness from nature is the prime cause of the environmental degradation of the earth’ (2).

Our artificial time has twisted our perception of reality sufficiently for the Oxford English Dictionary to define nature as ‘the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, and the landscape, as opposed to humans or human creations’(3). Are we really ‘opposed’ to the plants, the animals and the entire system which led to our existence? Have we really out-evolved our environment to such an extent that we are no longer part of it?

The imposition of artificial time has perverted our fundamental perceptions of reality. Robert Greenway (4) concludes that if we can learn to ‘…live within the understanding that we are nature, that we cannot be separate from nature, and that an interactive awareness of our naturalness is the first step towards a vast range of wisdom now closed to us… we can return to the communion that this historic period of objectification has [denied] us’.

The Gregorian Calendar provides the main metaphysical frame of reference for humanity and as such its’ influence is unprecedented. It is single-handedly responsible for the perception that ‘time is money’ which perpetuates materialistic cultures in which greed and exploitation dominate.

The objective now is to realign our consciousness, with the synchronic order of natural time, by changing our metaphysical frame of reference and acknowledging ‘time’ as something other than ‘money’. This single issue lies at the heart of the “crisis of perception” which Fritjof Capra (5) suggests is the single root of our contemporary ecological crisis. The entire system of artificial time is fundamentally flawed; to progress, or arguably, for humanity to ‘survive’, we need a different system. Thankfully one based on natural time, which is not linked to any specific religion, has been tried and tested for thousands of years. It uses 13 months of 28 days, and is know as the 13 Moons.”

Defacto Design. 2012. ‘Gregorian versus the Mayan Calendar.’ Defacto Design.


Alex Pasternack describes how timekeeping is the measurement of the passage of a second, which equates to how long it takes for a certain amount of radiation to be given off by a cesium atom in the universe.

The primary aim of timekeeping is to measure the passage of a second. To be precise, that is equivalent to the amount of time it takes for the hyperfine radiation given off by a cesium-133 atom at its ground state as it transitions between energy levels, and its electrons oscillate exactly 9,192,631,770 times.

These days, counting a second depends upon firing a microwave beam at one of these cesium atoms and counting the effect on its electrons. At that scale, the slightest aberration can knock a clock off its count. And then there are the effects of gravity, which Einstein’s theory of special relativity showed can shift the pace of time.

“At the nanosecond level—a billionth of a second—every clock has its own personality,” Matsakis wrote in an email. Each clock will tick faster or slower at certain times, and generally, scientists can correct for this using software. The trickier part is understanding the rate–sometimes sudden, sometimes slow—at which a clock’s ticking may be changing. “We must be on the lookout for deviations from the predicted behavior, and be sure to predict well.”…

“Once I had this definition of time, that it’s a coordinate that you can measure the evolution of in a closed system,” Matsakis said. “Now, I think of time as something that, stripped down to its essence, is a measure of interactions,” an idea based on Einstein’s theory of relativity, which pins time and space to the relative motion of objects. “It’s an intriguing thought: if you don’t have interactions, time is irrelevant.”

He offers an example that begins at the end of time. “One way that time could stop is if the universe could reach a cold death. If our universe expands forever, and the suns die out, and they become black holes which evaporate over eons, what’s left is a rarefied gas, a cold gas that’s uniform across the universe. With everything the same, how can you have time? There’d be nothing to measure time. Time would stop, and not with a bang. It would just peter out.”

The relative interactions that govern the movement of time explain why events in the universe don’t easily fit along a timeline. “Imagine that people witness Al Capone robbing a bank in 1930,” he said. “Then, a supernova a thousand light-years away is observed somewhere on Earth in 1987. Did the star explode first, or was the bank robbery first? It depends on the observer.”

In an email later, I mentioned Nieztsche’s proposal of eternal return. Matsakis shot back: “It is very hard to define fundamental things. I haven’t tried to define ‘place.’ Socrates spent years trying to define justice. Maybe they were right about him corrupting the youth.”

It was Aristotle’s contemporaries who first mastered the calculation of the passage of time, or chronos, and it was they who also recognized another kind of time, kairos—the moments that define our pleasures and our pains and our deepest feelings and thoughts.In other words, the kind of time that can’t be metered by any clock.

Tensions linger between this sense of “time,” which Henri Bergson would later describe as “duration,” and the tick-tocks of “the time” overseen by the timekeepers. Now more than ever before, argues Douglas Rushkoff in Present Shock, distractions keep the latter version of time in a kind of tug of war with the former.

“We spent centuries thinking of hours and seconds as portions of the day,” Rushkoff told David Pescovitz last year, “But a digital second is less a part of a greater minute, and more an absolute duration, hanging there like the number flap on an old digital clock.” The rush of the present and its seemingly infinite, hyperlinked possibilities means “a diminishment of everything that isn’t happening right now—and the onslaught of everything that supposedly is.”

But according to time, not everything is happening at once, as Wheeler joked. Could the Master Clock, I wondered, with its steady, orderly pace, remind us that the world isn’t moving any faster?

But not even this ticking will be the same in the future. With new clocks, the way that time is counted will change. And in time, the definitions of time will change too, if not the questions that endlessly circle it.

“What I tell people is, I can’t tell you what time is,” Matsakis said, “but I can tell you what a second is” (Pasternack 2014).

Pasternack, Alex. 2014. “How the master clock sets the time for the world.” Motherboard, November 7, 2014. 3dkd5b/demetrios-matsakis-and-the-master-clock