Atone point in Western history, time suddenly became a lot more valuable — and it’s Britain’s fault.
It’s the reason Westerners feel such intense pressure around productivity today. It’s why we bring our phones to yoga class, we eat at our desks, we stack our weeks with gig after gig, and have little regard for a “weekend.”
Before Britain invented the mercantile system in the 15th century, the management and appraisal of time was on a much more personal scale. The agrarian economy meant small towns exchanged goods and services in sync with the seasons and were subject to the limitations of hyperlocal resources. Time and productivity ebbed and flowed according to a natural rhythm.
But with mercantilism, one of the first major economic theories, how a person spent his or her time directly corresponded with the wealth of the entire country. According to economists of the time, any form of waking idleness lost a country money — and was declared a grave sin. The time between seasons and harvests, the time between anything at all, if not spent at work, was simply and suddenly a waste.
It was the birth of “time is money,” but only a select few enjoyed the benefits.
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