Abstract: The emergence of carbon-intensive systems of production, distribution and consumption as part of the modernisation process in Europe and beyond coincided with fundamental changes in how people view and use time. Predictions by advocates of modern time management that time-saving technologies will radically reduce working hours and enhance people’s quality of life did not materialise, partly because of the subsequent intensification of work and consumption. Material and time-related rebound effects have also cancelled out many technology-aided efficiency gains. Overall, the fundamental question how people spent the time they save and how this impacts society and the environment has never been satisfactorily answered. This paper argues that a reduction in working hours alone cannot address over-production and -consumption and associated reductions in human wellbeing and ecological integrity. Instead, the quality and resource intensity of people’s time use is equally important. Time-sociological arguments presented in this paper are highly suitable for investigating the (un)sustainability of particular time use patterns and can significantly contribute to the advancement of sustainability and degrowth debates.
This media entry was a contribution to the special session “SCORAI I: Degrowth from a sustainable consumption perspective” at the 4th International Degrowth Conference in Leipzig in 2014.