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Fighting For Time

Shifting Boundaries of Work and Social Life

Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, Arne L. Kalleberg

Publication Year: 2006

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.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

title page

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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Chapter 1: Time and Work: Changes and Challenges

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pp. 1-22

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). ...


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Chapter 2: Understanding Changes in American Working Time: A Synthesis

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pp. 25-45

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 ...

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Chapter 3: Employment in a 24/7 Economy: Challenges for the Family

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pp. 46-76

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. ...

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Chapter 4: The Health and Family-Social Consequences of Shift Work and Schedule Control: 1977 and 1997

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pp. 77-110

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 ...


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Chapter 5: Temporal Depth, Age, and Organizational Performance

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pp. 113-149

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 ...

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Chapter 6. Bicycle Messengers and the Dialectics of Speed

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pp. 150-190

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 ...

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Chapter 7. Engineering Overwork: Bell-Curve Management at a High-Tech Firm

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pp. 191-218

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 ...

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Chapter 8. The Power of Time: Leadership, Management, and Gender

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pp. 219-249

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 ...


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Chapter 9. Gender, Work, and Time: Gender at Work and at Play in Futures Trading

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pp. 249-281

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 ...

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Chapter 10. Work Devotion and Work Time

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pp. 282-316

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 ...

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Chapter 11. Border Crossings: The Constraints of Time Norms in Transgressions of Gender and Professional Roles

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pp. 317-340

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 ...


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pp. 341-354

E-ISBN-13: 9781610441889
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871542878
Print-ISBN-10: 0871542870

Page Count: 384
Publication Year: 2006