So much of the modern world seems to hinge on the value of time. We value time on the stock markets and it almost seems that the wealth goes up and down with these moment-by-moment changes in valuation. Before we dive into discussing the variety of ways in which time can be valued, let's dwell for a few minutes on the phrase, valuing time itself. This is in fact a very telling phrase that reveals a lot about the fact that we do indeed value time. It's one of our most precious belongings. To value time is a metaphor. Time, an abstract concept, cannot be valued in the sense that goods or materials can be valued. In fact, as with all abstract concepts, we rely on metaphors to describe time in order to come to terms with it. Cognitive metaphor theory claims just this, that human thinking is fundamentally metaphorical. We perceive the world through metaphors, which of course are culturally dependent, because in different languages we find different metaphors. That we tend to associate metaphors with poetry and thus with a highly artificial and artistic usage. This is according to cognitive metaphor theory not the case. All other language use is metaphorical. Yet it is only in poetry where poets take pains to come up with new and unusual ones, that we perceive them as true metaphors. The everyday metaphors we use for instance, when we talk about time, can be linked with our embodiment. The fact that we have bodies and make sense of the world through them. These are linked to underlying assumptions of the world, which in turn influence how we think about certain concepts or issues. Time, because it's so abstract, is conceptualized through a whole array of cognitive metaphors, all of which point to the implicit understanding that time is a valuable commodity. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson make a case for this in their study, Metaphors We Live By. The overarching metaphor could be termed, time is money. We find it's traces everywhere in the English language. So we waste time, we save time, we spend time, something costs us time. We invest time, we borrow time, we lose time, and so on. Further conceptual metaphors that are linked to that metaphor of time as a valuable commodity, relate to time as a limited resource. At the same time, time falls into another conceptual category. That of time as a moving object. Time comes, time flies, time arrives, etc. In these phrasings, we imagine time as something that moves and eventually is somewhere. In both of those sets of metaphors, time is treated as an object or an entity. Linguistically, we make sense of it by turning it into something we can deal with, something concrete. These considerations may not explain how exactly we value time, but it makes unequivocally clear the fact that we do value it. Time is precious, and even in our language we pay tribute to that. Or is it the other way round? Because we talk about time in these terms of value. Is that why we come to appreciate it? In the 19th century, several social scientists began to examine the historical factors, that which the equation of time and money may have emerged. According to the German sociologist, philosopher, and economic scholar Max Weber, the merging of religion and morality with the spheres of commerce and economics created something he called the spirit of capitalism. While the evaluation of time as money existed in the middle ages and even in ancient times, Weber finds a spirit of capitalism in a particularly modern drive to accumulate more and more capital as an end in itself. No longer a means to satisfy basic needs, and loosen from its prior connection to greed. This drive to accumulate is read by Weber, through the workings of a particularly partisan work ethic. Here it takes on a moral inflection, whereby more wealth accumulation is equated with harder working and more virtuous individuals. By this model, the medium for capital accumulation is time itself, and wasting or misusing time is directly equal to wasting or throwing away money. To emphasize the importance of proper time management as it relates to financial management, Weber looks to Benjamin Franklin's writings, including advice to a young tradesman, from an old one, about the importance of valuing time. Here Franklin writes, "Remember that time is money. He that can earn 10 shillings a day by his labor and goes abroad or sits idle 1.5 of that day, though he spends about six pence during his diversion or idleness, ought not to reckon that the only expense. He's really spent or rather thrown away five shillings besides." Weber highlights Franklin's emphasis on industry and his hatred of sloth or laziness to define the spirit of capitalism. It's particularly striking to see that for Franklin and the spirit of capitalism for Weber, time spent actively involved in the management of objects is rarely idle or ill used. Yet time spent with other humans connecting through speech, proximity, and social development is quite often considered wasted or poorly used. Perhaps the qualification of time spent with family and friends or even when it's own thoughts as quality time, is an effort to redeem an essential social dimension of life in the eyes of capitalist productivity. While Weber formulated the basis for the spirit of capitalism in the 19th century, the same structures of virtue and vice derived from the effective use of time, continue to be pervasive and assessments of social relations. In Weber's world for example, the status of one's boss or advisor would be shaped by their industriousness. If you went to your boss and asked for a meeting and she responded and told you she had a very busy week and couldn't fit you in until the following week, Weber would argue that her stature and importance to your workplace, would be implied in that busyness. But imagine again, and instead of e-mailing you from her desk, she walked down to your desk and replied, "Sure, I have all the time in the world and before we meet, let's just go for a walk and we could talk after that." If she did this once, you might think she was simply taking it easy for the day, but for Weber, if she did this every time someone asked to meet with her, people might quickly get the idea that this boss has too much idle time on her hands, and it's likely her status or seniority as seen by her direct reports would quickly diminish. Another way that Weber sees the spirit of capitalism at work as it relates to time, is through a shift in labor relations. Rather than paying laborers in a manner sufficient to sustain a healthy living, a romanticism he ascribes to pass labor relations. For Weber, contemporary capitalist employers are constantly to be testing the work ethic of their employees by testing their willingness to put in their time and to earn their salaries. Workers paid out in smaller and smaller segments, whose payment must be managed to correlate with the quality of the product produced, namely effective use of the employer's time. It's a sad commentary on our contemporary world that so many people have considered Weber's writings to be accurate descriptions of how things ought to be. Perhaps by the same structures of thinking, we can better understand one of the many reasons why culturally, in our present time, we no longer ascribe skill or genius to innate talent, but instead value the virtuoso who's proficiencies come from hours spent putting in the time to create a great work of art, literature, or technology. Is it true that in effect we've come to value virtuous time management above all else? Through the labor theory of value, the commodity, that which is bought, sold, or exchanged, has value because it represents a discrete averaged quantity of human labor, or the average active time invested by the worker or workers in question. Marx recognizes that this averaged quantity of time can be valued in one of two ways, either for the use value it provides, derived from a given commodity's ability to service or satisfy a need, or for its exchange value, structured by what a commodity produced by human labor can be traded for, or what it can be considered equal to within a given market. Let's think this through using a coat as our example. As Marx does in Chapter 1 of his most famous book, Das Kapital. A coat's use value, for example, is its ability to keep a body warm. Exchange value is derived from the ability to trade a given commodity for another commodity that may be of direct use value. If I trade one of my two coats, for instance, for a pair of much needed boots to cover my bare feet. Or it can be again, exchanged for something of further exchange value. If I trade one of my coats for a pair of boots, so that I can trade those boots with a glove maker for the gloves that I need. Money steps in to make infinite trading links shorter and simpler. The labor time used to produce my coat can be equated to $40, which I then give directly to the glove maker for a pair of gloves. The glove maker can then go and buy the boots he wanted or save the money for dinner. But through the purchase of each item for $40, we're agreeing that the average labor time in each item is equal in value to the purchasing power of $40. There are lots of ways in which this oversimplified explanation is errant. Supply and market demand alone throw things off. But for now, through Weber and Marx, we have at least two theories of how the idea that time equals money, might have emerged.