Nevertheless, Americans are imposing a kind of nepreryvka on ourselves—not because a Communist tyrant thinks it’s a good idea but because the contemporary economy demands it. The hours in which we work, rest, and socialize are becoming ever more desynchronized.
Whereas we once shared the same temporal rhythms—five days on, two days off, federal holidays, thank-God-it’s-Fridays—our weeks are now shaped by the unpredictable dictates of our employers. Nearly a fifth of Americans hold jobs with nonstandard or variable hours. They may work seasonally, on rotating shifts, or in the gig economy driving for Uber or delivering for Postmates. Meanwhile, more people on the upper end of the pay scale are working long hours. Combine the people who have unpredictable workweeks with those who have prolonged ones, and you get a good third of the American labor force.
The personalization of time may seem like a petty concern, and indeed some people consider it liberating to set their own hours or spend their “free” time reaching for the brass ring. But the consequences could be debilitating for the U.S. in the same way they once were for the U.S.S.R. A calendar is more than the organization of days and months. It’s the blueprint for a shared life.