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BUSYNESS / Vol. 72, No. 2 (Summer 2005)

Arien Mack, Editor

This special issue of Social Research was occasioned by an all too familiar and equally banal exchange right before a meeting we were both attending. Just to be polite, I asked how he was. Not surprisingly, he answered “Busy, aren’t we all?” He then went on to say, “Why not do an issue on Busyness?” And hence this issue was born.

This article discusses the relation between busyness and industrialization. Busyness was a false doctrine of modern capitalism, which was devoted to endlessly extending and intensifying work. Before and after Paul Lafargue, many fought to win freedom from busyness with the reduction of work time. But Lafargue's dream that mechanical progress would liberate humanity from labor did not happen. Instead, the overproduction that ceaseless toil created was absorbed by mass consumption. Lafargue's instincts were right that capitalism was in part built on increasing output by increasing labor time. Repeatedly, governments tried to restrict holidays or even impose a minimum workday.

This article argues that there may have been changes in the connection between the external circumstances of work and leisure and internal feelings of busyness. Fundamental shifts have occurred in the relationship between the pattern of daily activities and patterns of societal sub- and superordination. Individuals' representations of their states of busyness play an important and changing role in establishing their positions in the order of social stratification. A leisure class at the end of the nineteenth century perhaps, but the dominant groups in the early twenty-first are in the most straightforward sense of the word, workers.

Discusses the author's views on busyness in the US. Background on the quality of work life before the Industrial Revolution, the relationship between economic conditions and busyness, and the decrease in the average workweek in the country.

This article argues that modern family is a society within the market, and under strong pressure to incorporate aspects of market culture. It responds to this pressure by resisting, capitulating to, or simply playing with it through an ongoing process of symbolization and re-symbolization. The degree to which families resist or welcome market culture depends on the fit between individuals' embrace of market culture and their orientation to time. Temporal strategies preferred by employees at the top of the corporate ladders pose market culture's first port of entry into the home. Or to put it another way, market culture slips into the family through a crack on the edge of the time bind.

This article discusses the cultural differences in busyness. The subjective experience of feeling busy has two main components: speed and activity. Speed refers to the rate at which an activity is performed. It is the amount of activity per unit of time. The second component of busyness, activity, is the absence of unscheduled time. It is the amount of time that is consumed with activity; or, the ratio of doing things to doing nothing. For many people, however, busyness may have a very different meaning. Factory workers in third world nations who work long hours, for example, may be driven less by the value they place on achievement than by simply trying to earn enough money to feed their families.

The notion of “busyness” called up conflicting images for Americans. It denoted the scurry and bustle of dynamic civilization; it also suggested pointless and unproductive nervousness, and even degeneracy or decline. This essay argues that while technological change can help produce a feeling of nervous busyness, Americans also experienced “nervousness” over the dual character of individualism in the period.

This article explores philosophical issues in the context of US national survey data concerning trends in time pressures and stress in the activities of individuals, as of June 2005. Some changes in time pressure and busyness since 1965 may be expected due to the increased presence of newer technologies that consumers now have in their homes. Not only did more households contain dishwashers or microwave ovens, but these appliances now featured more options and conveniences. There was a parallel growth in home entertainment systems. Cellular phones allowed people to be on call and reachable, anytime, anyplace.

This article discusses the episodes in the history of ideas about work and leisure. People's attitude to real work is deeply ambiguous. On the one side, work is a curse, the labor to which we are doomed as a result of the Fall; its side effect of enforcing upon us a necessary discipline and self-discipline is small consolation. On the other side, work is the expression of distinctive human powers and aspirations; work brings imagination into the world as well as drudgery. The Fall was a happy Fall, and the need to labor was the first step in teaching the human species how to make the most of its potentialities.

This article examines the relationship between busyness and citizenship. The intimate nexus between capitalism and social acceleration also helps explain why in modern society when fast and slow time meet, fast time wins on most occasions. Social acceleration not only renders busyness an endemic feature of modern social existence; it also means that people become increasingly busy or preoccupied with fast rather than slow activities. Of course, medieval peasants were busy to the extent that during bad economic times, they were forced to engage in exhausting forms of tedious backbreaking agricultural labor.

This article focuses on the concept of work ethic in the US. The work ethic warrants and positively encourages the accumulation of wealth, but the shyness about the possession of that wealth is understandable for all that. There is the suspicion that if you already have all you need, you are likely not to be working very hard when others are not looking. And there are the disquieting remarks Jesus made about rich men and the kingdom of heaven. In a largely Christian culture even those who are not churchgoers know better than to boast about money they have inherited. Max Weber concluded that for the well-to-do Puritan, the real moral objection is to relaxation in the security of possession.


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