Harari (2015) discussed how the Industrial Revolution socially constructed the notion of time. Before the Industrial Revolution and the significance of markets, time did not have much meaning. Even different cities in England were set at different times. The need to set trains on the same timetable to get workers home and to work on the trains led to Greenwich Observatory being set as the standard time (p. 354). Harari (2015) also pointed out that the Industrial Revolution changed culture by “urbanization, the disappearance of the peasantry, the rise of the industrial proletariat, the empowerment of the common person, democratization, youth culture and the disintegration of patriarchy” (p. 335). Harari mentions that culture was also changed by the collapse of the family and the community by urbanization, imagined communities created by the supply and demand of market economies, political and social movements that resulted in revolutions and new governments, more peace-time than in the past, retirement of imperial interests, and more cold wars as opposed to military conflicts. The state and its economic interests have led to these changes in culture. It is no longer about an interest in controlling more people and land; it’s about who has the most money.
At the beginning of Chapter 18, Harari discussed how Homo sapiens significantly impacted global climate change. It is interesting to note that Harari wrote, “Many call this process ‘the destruction of nature.’ However, it is not destruction; it is changing” (p. 351). Historians along with scientists can help educate the public on these changes. Work such as Dr. Cathy Whitlock’s investigation of climate change in Montana could be benefited by historians. As Dr. Whitlock and other scientists travel the state discussing the problems associated with climate change with Montanans, historians can help tell the story of how we are changing the earth. Homo sapiens will be benefited by this type of multi-disciplinary work.
2 thoughts on “Tic Toc Time is Almost Up”
Dexter- Nice engagement with Harari in demonstrating how the synchronizing of time was critical to the rise of the Industrial Revolution, which paved the way for the state and markets to subsume roles previously filled by the family unit. The quote you chose for your second paragraph- “it is not destruction; it is changing”- really stuck out to me in the reading as well. Although I support Harari’s reasoning, I think that a lot of these changes are still just as destructive to us, if not to nature itself. I agree that climate science would benefit from a historical perspective- I’ll admit that before this class, I didn’t realize how long and to what extent scientists have been aware of climate change. Do you think historians have a role in other areas as well? With regards to developing new technologies, perhaps, or in informing the roles of institutions?
I like that you used Cathy Whitlock’s work as an example of the role historians can play in the future of homo sapiens. The use of an exact, modern example makes the possibilities of historical and scientific research impacting how we understand the changing earth a tangible reality, rather than academic speculation. The multi-disciplinary aspect you mention certainly strengthens historical context into something which can have a broader impact.
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