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Journal Article

The Coronavirus and the Temporal Order of Capitalism: Sociological Observations and the Wisdom of a Children’s Book

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Suckert,  Lisa
Soziologie des Marktes, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Suckert, L. (2021). The Coronavirus and the Temporal Order of Capitalism: Sociological Observations and the Wisdom of a Children’s Book. The Sociological Review, (published online June 16). doi:10.1177/00380261211024890.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-B994-0
Abstract
The coronavirus is not only a medical threat but also collides with the temporal logic inherent to capitalism. While capitalism demands constant growth, acceleration and efficiency, the outbreak urges societies to reduce, slow down and be patient. This article provides a sociological comment on the pandemic that focuses on the role of time and temporality. It explores the multiple ways in which the required responses to Covid-19 are at odds with the temporal order of capitalism. In the midst of crisis, the specific features, contradictions and weaknesses of the time regime governing modern societies become even more apparent – and make sociological scrutiny more necessary than ever. While this comment relates to the insights provided by the sociology of time, it uses a children’s book to illustrate its argument. Drawing on Michael Ende’s story of the orphan girl Momo and the grey gentlemen who steal people’s time, I recapture the main features of capitalism as a time regime: measurement and commodification of time, temporal expansion, acceleration, appropriation of the future, and unequal temporal autonomy. The current pandemic challenges both individual and collective temporalities that are governed by these temporal imperatives of capitalism. I conclude with reflections on the feasibility of a more sustainable temporal order that Michael Ende’s novel hints at and suggest how sociological research could support such an endeavour in the current crisis.