Western Civilization and Time


Book            Western Civilization and Time

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Content Information

Time has become one of the most important values that manifests itself in compulsion and the expectation to Act Faster And Faster and to Live Longer And Longer. These are currently civilization priorities – for several decades they have caused the most significant changes for what purposes we use our resources, i.e. raw materials, capital, labor, time and qualifications.

Reaching back to the past, we perceive clear links between the current appreciation of time and the historical processes of secularization and modernization.

When we ask what the consequences of changing time into value are, we observe an amazing trend increasingly denying the inevitability of death. When we ask what underlies the historical transformation of time into value, we see Christianity.

In the period 2012-2014 the book was downloaded from my site 45,734 times

more information about the content of the book (in Polish)     

Full text of the book (in Polish), version pdf      12 MB, version 5.8, March 2012

synopsis – extended version   pdf in English

Readers’ Opinions

Critics of my book complain that I am not serious about serious matters. Some of its enthusiasts proclaim that this is the first postmodern theory of civilization. Neither these nor those are right.

Readers are also divided into those who are delighted with the form of this book and those who, just because of this, are unable to read it at all. Rate it yourself. You can download it in one file to your computer or tablet.

As the popularity of the book increases, so does the number of reviews. I really value these critical, emotional and malicious ones (sociological comic for youngsters, pictorial gibberish, theory of civilization for tabloids).

At the other extreme, I found reviews that link my analysis with the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS), Sociology of Scientific Knowledge (SSK), Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) and Social Shaping of Technology (SST).

I am very flattered by this affinity. My intention was to point out the factors that determined the historical direction of Western science, technology and the economy. Showing the process of increasing value of time and showing the consequences of this axiologization of time fits perfectly in SSK, STS and similar analyzes.

Graphic Form

The book is a colourful computer presentation. Text in condensed form. A lot of photos and graphics. The book is fully interactive, easy to use on computers and tablets with touchscreens.

Each page is a slide with the title of a sub-chapter. The title is a link to the table of contents. A table of contents is a collection of links to relevant places in the book. You can go to any place in the book from any page thanks to bookmarks.

Such a book is easy to read on a monitor or tablet. Navigation on it is trivial thanks to ubiquitous links.

You might print it as well. I suggest printing two slides on an A4 page, one below the other.

Editorial Information (in Polish)

Plik z książką liczy 12 MB. Zanim go ściągniesz, możesz przeczytać krótką informację o książce zamieszczoną powyżej, obok zdjęcia okładki. Lub streszczenie. Ocenisz, czy Cię interesuje. Formę graficzną ocenisz otwierając którykolwiek z zamieszczonych poniżej rozdziałów w wersji pdf (najlepsza jakość).

Ebook, wersja 5.8 z marca 2012 roku jest nieco zmienioną wersją ebooka opracowanego w listopadzie 2011 roku. Zmiany w wersji 5.8 są przede wszystkim techniczne, polegają na przystosowaniu książki do czytania także na stosunkowo małych, 9-10 calowych, dotykowych ekranach tabletów (dziękuję czytelnikom za zwrócenie na to uwagi). Jedyna istotna zmiana merytoryczna to nowa wersja Aneksu 3.

Poniżej: streszczenie i rozdział po rozdziale. Jest to wersja 5.7 z roku 2008. Wszystkie pliki są w wersji on-line i w formacie pdf. Planowana jest aktualizacja książki, głównie rozdziału VII. Zrobię to w roku 2014 lub 2015, po zakończeniu pracy nad książką o fenomenie europejskim. Tekst książki “Cywilizacja zachodnia i Czas” (poza cytatami) oraz koncepcja i opracowanie graficzne Jacek Kwaśniewski, 2004, 2008, wersja 5.7. Wersja 5.7 jest wersją roboczą, nie przeznaczoną do publikacji i rozpowszechniania. Udostępnione pliki można wykorzystywać dla własnych potrzeb. Jeśli tekst jest wykorzystywany – proszę zrobić odnośnik do mojej strony

my email address: adres-mail-gmail-9520

Chapters  (synopsis)

synopsis extended version (incl. The Main Idea and Chapter VIII)  pdf in English  

Even if you do not speak Polish, look at the online version of some chapter to see its graphic form


/summary/ Time is an increasingly important value. We experience that value chasing deadlines, chasing escaping youth and finally, chasing escaping life. We built the value of time gradually. In a sense, the whole of Western history is the process of transforming time into value. This is what this book is about. How the time has been changed into precious value and time value continues to increase, what were the causes of it, what are effects and what may be ahead of us in the future.

A look at history through the filter, which is the transformation of time into value (axiologization of time), gives an ordered image of logically related, countless facts, phenomena and problems. The very list of chapters here and reading the following summary shows what – seemingly distant – problem areas are interrelated if you look at them from this perspective.[/five-sixths]

Chapter I      Western Civilization and Speed

/summary/ In this chapter we analyze the specific phenomenon of modern Western civilization – its growing speed in many areas. We define the concept of civilization speed and indicate ways to measure this speed.

We also define the very concept of Western civilization by indicating its five dimensions: geographical location, historical heritage, elements of technopolis, value systems and the sphere of everyday life.

We show the acceleration of civilization from bird’s-eye perspective glancing at the entire economy and from below, from the perspective of the individual.

By analyzing macro acceleration, we present its economic sources. They are the principles of a private market economy combined with the West’s unique ability to transform social property into productive capital. This ability to mobilize productive capital arose relatively recently (XIX century), thanks to the agreeing on a uniform definition of property rights throughout Western civilization and establishing uniform ways of managing them. We discuss the historical process that led to this unification and explain why unification accelerates the creation of productive capital. The Western ability to create productive capital has been contrasted with the situation in Third World economies, where assets often do not become capital (being so-called dead capital).

To examine the acceleration of civilization from the perspective of the individual, we identified a set of BNF (Better-New-Faster) values, through which civilization pressure Faster affects the individual. The BNF set is based on a system of incentives and demands towards the individual as a consumer, employee and producer. We show a feedback mechanism: civilization pressure transforms the individual’s value system, and thus his preferences, habits, interests and assessments. On the other hand, such a transformed value system reproduces and strengthens civilization pressure.

We also show a list of factors that differentiate sensitivity to civilization pressure in different countries, regions, social groups and areas of the economy.[/five-sixths]

Chapter II      Increasing Value of Time

/summary/ In the constantly accelerating Western civilization, time has become the resource scarce and highly valued. The economy has made it subject to market rules. Time resources can be rationally managed and control over them is a new form of power.

We show examples of time resource management and examples of products where trade means direct or indirect time trading. We show and explain the relationship between the degree of sensitivity to BNF (Better-New-Faster) values and the perceived attractiveness of these goods.

Value of economic time and speed of civilization processes are interdependent. Therefore, the increasing value of time can be measured by the growing amounts of resources earmarked to accelerate the various processes. We present the outline of such a measurement. Interdependence between value of time and civilization speed is measured by comparing growing computing speed of IT hardware with investments outlays in IT sector.

In the main part of the chapter we show the mechanism of the emergence in Western civilization of two mass expectations and demands related to the growing value of time. Both expectations are increasingly affecting the allocation (intended use) of civilization resources and thus become an increasingly important element of our civilization identity.

The first of these expectations is the desire to be young as long as possible. The sources of this desire are pragmatic. In fast civilization, economic time gains value. Such a civilization rewards people who act quickly, effectively, adapt well to changes, who like newnesses, and do not avoid risk. These are behaviors and personality traits more common among young people. In older people they weaken. So being young and energetic becomes a useful, pragmatic value. Big industry works so that we can meet the expectations of fast civilization. We present a process that has transformed this pragmatic expectation into an intrinsic (autotelic) value, detached from pragmatic, instrumental roots. The desire to be young as long as possible turns into a cult of youth, becoming an independent factor in accelerating civilization, stimulating specific allocation processes.

The second of these expectations is the desire to Live-As-Long-As-Possible. It is the result of the growing value of our temporal time. It gained value as a result of the “eschatological reduction” caused by the secularization process (a historical outline since the 11th to 19th centuries presented in the chapter). Secularization weakened our conviction of “transcendent continuation” after death. From XVII century new science, including astronomy, has radically dwindled the position of man in the universe. A human ceased to be the centre of universe. The degradation of man in the hierarchy of beings and the weakened perspective of eternal life raised the meaning and value of mundane life because unlike uncertain afterlife this one was possessed for sure. As the only one. That’s why its value raised.

We present a list of conditions, the fulfillment of which has relatively recently transformed this increase in value of earthly life into a widely and increasingly stronger articulated expectation and demand to Live As Long As Possible.

Both civilization priorities, to live as long as possible and to be young as long as possible, become autotelic values, stimulating very significant allocation processes, described further in Chapter IV.[/five-sixths]

Chapter III     Death Taboo

/summary/ Secularization that has progressed over the past centuries, has raised the value of our earthly time. And the first half of the 20th century brought an unprecedented increase in life expectancy. This was not followed, however, by massive articulation of expectations for longer life or demands that it happen. This articulation has been suppressed for several decades. This was due to the culmination of a peculiar phenomenon in the second half of the 20th century – the taboo of death. In this chapter, we subject Western death taboo to detailed analysis. We find that the taboo of death, as a repression of the topic of dying and death, was a classic psychological defence mechanism against the state of mass existential frustration at the time.

We presented statistics of twentieth-century demographic processes in the area of Western civilization, which are the basis for inferring the frustration as the genesis of the phenomenon.

At the root of the taboo of death lies a specific phenomenon that occurred in the first half of the 20th century. There was a great rise in life expectation of younger generations (+45%) and at the same time no improvement (only3%) in this respect towards the elderly (2/3 of the population) and the “scientific” pessimism as to their future life extension, because scientists’ general opinion was that life expectancy of elders was close to the limit imposed by the biology. The elders saw that the young stopped dying but they had no chance for a longer life. That caused a state of mass existential frustration. One of the basic responses to this situation was muting, repression of the topic of death and dying. Death became taboo.

The second half of the 20th century has been a radical change in health care policies and spending. The fight against diseases of adults and older people has become a priority. Postponed by several dozen years, the effects of these actions reversed the dynamics. In the last 30-40 years, it was elders that have gained more than the young (relatively). This weakens frustration and gradually, though slowly, extinguishes the phenomenon of death taboo.[/five-sixths]

Chapter IV    Towards Being Witout End

/summary/ The chapter discusses the main consequences of increasing the value of time. These are several characteristic areas which attract more and more civilization resources what results in specific perceptible direction of development of Western civilization. Second, the widespread desire and demand that life to be getting longer created a myth that this desire is eternal. Thirdly, the different speed of the process of secularization and modernization in the West and in other cultural territories has created very strong inter-civilization tensions.

We showed how to measure the growing value of worldly time. For this purpose, we used proxy data – a statistical analysis of the dynamics of expenditure on health care. These outlays reflect our preferences Longer. We presented statistical data for the period 1880-2000 and forecasts until 2075. They all show an almost exponential increase in spending on healthcare, which is associated with our preferences for extending life. This largely reflects social preferences and values. Their combined effect consists in the most significant reallocation of civilization resources that can be observed since the mid-twentieth century. An increasing portion of Gross National Product (GNP) is and will be allocated to the realization of the preferences to Be Longer

In the further part of the chapter we indicated that the expectations for increasingly longer life and for increasingly longer youthfulness meet the criteria of mythical perception of reality. The value of time, transformed into mythical structures, becomes an autonomous and very powerful factor of reproducing the civilization mechanism that created these expectations.

In conclusion, we have found that the ever-growing strength of the demands and desires to live a longer-and-a-longer time, forecasts in this regard, and lack of imaginable boundary of these expectations allow us to see the direction of the development of Western civilization. It goes beyond the goals usually considered temporal. For just as the exponential function goes to infinity, although it does not reach this limit, so does Western civilization go towards its limit, also at infinity, except that it is infinity in terms of human time. That is immortality.[/five-sixths]

Chapter V     Death in Retreat

/summary/ In the chapter, we present increasingly common cultural responses resulting from the collision of ever greater medical and technical achievements in the field of Being Ever-Longer with the eternal phenomenon of death. We pointed to the existence of mental, psychological and moral changes that are more and more lasting effect of these reactions.

The West’s general response is the growing recognition of death as an aberration and anomaly. The longer we live on average, the more we feel the death of children and adults, but not old ones, as an abnormal phenomenon. This interpretation of death reconciles its existence with the demand of Being Ever-Longer and optimism about the future. It legitimizes the allocation of more and more resources to the struggle for a longer life. It also changes the attitude towards death, into active opposition and intensifies the willingness to fight this Eternal Inevitability.

This spiritual change occurs barely noticed, but is becoming more common. It manifests itself in objectiontowards death of older people, dying however below the rising average. This objection is gradually preparing the Western man to accept the increasingly remarkable ideas of prolonging our temporal existence and growing demands in that area, as attainable and justified.

We also presented techniques for alleviating terminal stress. They are a compromise solution of our pragmatic civilization and concern the ways of alleviating the anxiety of a dying man. In the secularized era he sees his coming end  as a transition to a fearful non-existence./five-sixths]

Chapter VI    Victories Over Time. XX century

/summary/ In the chapter we showed what, in the second half of the 20th century, were the main directions for research and expenses aimed at extending our lives.

In the second half of the 20th century, the problem of time became one of the leading issues of modern physics. This is undoubtedly related to the growing sensitivity of Westerners to this aspect of reality. Since Newton’s physics thesis that absolute time exists has been replaced by the theory of relativity, a field has been opened for serious study of the possibility and ways of moving through time. Although technologies that serve this purpose still seem impossible, the theoretical aspects of such travels have become the subject of serious theoretical studies.

We have presented methods of time analysis in theories of modern physics (block, relative, frozen time and controversies over its ontological status) and paradoxes resulting from the collision of the linear experience of time with theories that negate its linear nature.

The main part of the chapter discusses the successes of science, medical practice and prevention in the second half of the 20th century in overcoming the basic causes of death of mature and old people, i.e. cardiovascular diseases and cancer (2/3 of deaths). After a period of catastrophic increases in morbidity and deaths caused by these diseases, a breakthrough was made in 1960-2000. The upward trend in morbidity and deaths caused by these causes was managed to contain and reverse, as evidenced by the presented statistical data.

Finally, we indicated a new and dangerous phenomenon related to the state of health of Western societies – physical inactivity and obesity. It takes on epidemic proportions, which causes so dangerous health effects and grim survival chances that it can cancel out the positive effects of fighting cardiovascular and cancer diseases.

Chapter VII   Time and Being in the Future

/summary concerns the planned and revised version/ The chapter discusses the latest (2002-2008) achievements of science and technology (especially medicine, pharmacy and biotechnology) in treating diseases and preventing the aging process. Experimental, planned and expected technologies and products in this area were also described, as well as discussions about possible consequences, including social and cultural that these products and technologies can evoke.

After crossing the line of 80-85 years of life expectancy, not the particular diseases but the very aging process becomes a major problem. The biological and biochemical aspects of the aging mechanism were shown, as well as the big concepts for longer life but only partly satisfied in the second half of the twentieth century: transplantation, implantology as well as biotechnology and genetic engineering.

Particular attention was paid to discussing the most promising way to extend life at present – biotechnology. We have presented next generations of drugs based on genetically modified proteins. We presented the applications of genetic engineering techniques for embryo selection (PGD and PGH) and the state of advancement and problems associated with genetic therapies and germline cell modification (sperm and eggs).

The techniques of human modification already available, based on designed and hereditary physical and personality traits, as well as techniques soon expected, trigger heated discussion on the social, cultural, political and ethical consequences if would be used wider. We have shown opposing beliefs on the chances of introducing these technologies. Has been presented current of transhumanism, whose representatives very positively and optimistically assess the possibilities and pace of introducing deep hereditary changes to our genotypes.

At the end of the chapter we presented the hypothesis about the possible weakening and even demise of desire to live longer and longer. This may happen after a very significant increase in life expectancy (e.g. up to 400 years). Then, perhaps we will lose the desire and need to keep our own identity in our lifespan. Perhaps dramatically longer life in fast civilization will eliminate the need to identify with ourselves from before hundreds of years ago./five-sixths]