A Geography of Time: On Tempo, Culture, and the Pace of Life

A Geography of Time: On Tempo, Culture, and the Pace of Life

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By (author) Robert N. Levine

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  • Publisher: BASIC BOOKS
  • Format: Paperback | 280 pages
  • Dimensions: 127mm x 203mm x 20mm | 285g
  • Publication date: 22 July 1998
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0465026427
  • ISBN 13: 9780465026425
  • Edition statement: Revised ed.
  • Illustrations note: black & white illustrations
  • Sales rank: 182,872

Product description

In this engaging and spirited book, eminent social psychologist Robert Levine asks us to explore a dimension of our experience that we take for granted--our perception of time. When we travel to a different country, or even a different city in the United States, we assume that a certain amount of cultural adjustment will be required, whether it's getting used to new food or negotiating a foreign language, adapting to a different standard of living or another currency. In fact, what contributes most to our sense of disorientation is having to adapt to another culture's sense of time.Levine, who has devoted his career to studying time and the pace of life, takes us on an enchanting tour of time through the ages and around the world. As he recounts his unique experiences with humor and deep insight, we travel with him to Brazil, where to be three hours late is perfectly acceptable, and to Japan, where he finds a sense of the long-term that is unheard of in the West. We visit communities in the United States and find that population size affects the pace of life--and even the pace of walking. We travel back in time to ancient Greece to examine early clocks and sundials, then move forward through the centuries to the beginnings of "clock time" during the Industrial Revolution. We learn that there are places in the world today where people still live according to "nature time," the rhythm of the sun and the seasons, and "event time," the structuring of time around happenings(when you want to make a late appointment in Burundi, you say, "I'll see you when the cows come in").Levine raises some fascinating questions. How do we use our time? Are we being ruled by the clock? What is this doing to our cities? To our relationships? To our own bodies and psyches? Are there decisions we have made without conscious choice? Alternative tempos we might prefer? Perhaps, Levine argues, our goal should be to try to live in a "multitemporal" society, one in which we learn to move back and forth among nature time, event time, and clock time. In other words, each of us must chart our own geography of time. If we can do that, we will have achieved temporal prosperity.

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Author information

Robert Levine, Ph.D., is professor in the psychology department at California State University, Fresno, where he has received many awards for his teaching and research. He has been a visiting professor at Universidade Federal Fluminense in Niteroi, Brazil, at Sapporo Medical University in Japan, and at Stockholm University in Sweden. He has published articles in Psychology Today, Discover, and American Scientist and has appeared on ABC's World News Tonight, Dateline, NBC, CNN, The Discovery Channel, and All Things Considered.

Editorial reviews

An amusing, informative account of how different cultures and subcultures have different concepts of time. Social psychologist Levine (Calif. State Univ., Fresno) loves anecdotes that illustrate a point, and he packs his report with stories about the frustrations of living in a culture where one is unfamiliar with the rules about waiting, punctuality, and time measurement. As a scientist, though, he employs objective tests to measure these temporal differences. Preceding his look at the pace of life in contemporary cultures, he gives a brief history of clock time that is full of quotable trivia (e.g., in the 1860s the US had some 70 different time zones). Among the factors that Levine says determine tempo of life are economic vitality, industrialization, population size, climate, and a cultural orientation toward individualism. Two questions command his interest: Which are the fastest and slowest cultures, and how does tempo of life affect quality of life? To find answers, he sent teams of researchers around the globe measuring walking speeds, accuracy of public clocks, and work speed, specifically the time required to purchase a postage stamp. The results are fascinating: Of 31 countries studied, Switzerland ranks as the fastest-paced, with other Western European countries and Japan close behind, the US in dead center, and Mexico the slowest. Applying slightly different criteria to US cities, he concludes that Boston is the speediest and L.A. the most relaxed. When he sets up situations designed to measure helping behavior in these same cities - giving change for a quarter, assisting a handicapped person, etc. - those with the most time do not necessarily turn out to be the most generous with it. Some stereotypes hold up: New Yorkers take last place in the civility ranking. Levine concludes with advice for the time-urgent when visiting slower-paced cultures and about taking control of one's own pace of life. Recommended for all time-pressured type As. (Kirkus Reviews)

Table of contents

* Preface: Time Talks with an Accent Social Time: The Heartbeat Of Culture * Tempo: The Speed of Life * Duration: The Psychological Clock * A Brief History of Clock Time * Living on Event Time * Time and Power: The Rules of the Waiting Game Fast, Slow, And The Quality Of Life * Where Is Life Fastest? * Health, Wealth, Happiness, and Charity * Japans Contradiction Changing Pace * Time Literacy: Learning the Secret Language * Minding Your Time, Timing Your Mind