clock-timethe measurement of the passage of time in standard intervals and ultimately with reference to a fixed benchmark, e.g. Greenwich Mean Time. Although now taken for granted, the measurement of time in such standardized ways – and the ‘tyranny of the clock’ – is a relatively recent phenomenon in human societies, and is usually seen as associated with the rise of INSTRUMENTAL RATIONALITY and in particular Western capitalism. The term ‘clock’ derives from the bell towers which in pre-industrial societies were used to provide signals for the coordination of human activities. The first mechanical clocks are said to have been invented by monks as early as the 13th century and came into wide use in the 17th century. The coming of railways and other modern forms of transportation was a final stimulus necessitating the standardization of time. The regularized working hours of the modern FACTORY SYSTEM represented a significant break with earlier more informal patterns of DOMESTIC PRODUCTION (see Thompson, 1967), and it is significant that Marx's conception of SURPLUS VALUE is stated in terms of hours of labour-time.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000