Keeping Watch: 2a History of Time in America

Michael O'Malley, Author Viking Books $19.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-670-82934-7
O'Malley here identifies an epic theme: the shift in American consciousness from a ``natural'' to an ``artificial'' accounting of the hours. How did Americans wean themselves from insisting that clocks and time-reckoning scrupulously follow the sun, instead accepting ``standard'' time, the ``time zone'' concept, and notions of ``time as commodity''? The author's answers illuminate and are illuminated by central trends in U.S. history: urbanization, an increasingly interdependent national economy, and the triumph of secular humanism all exerted influence. New York University professor of history O'Malley argues that litigation, special-interest legislation and bitter labor-relations struggles also contributed to the commoditization of American time, while the ``scientific management'' movement and development of motion-picture syntax serve as vital markers. He penetrates the historical record with a painstaking eye, which is complemented by his caution in rendering judgment. Although original and important, the book rests on an aggregation and reiteration of sometimes dry detail--and, much like a textbook, is all too easy to set aside. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/01/1990
Release date: 07/01/1990
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