Wittgenstein und Sraffa. Zeitproduktion durch Zeit

Peter Weibel


The turn of the millennium was a boom time for time. Time was pregnant with countless models: biological, cosmological, physical, astronomical and many others. In contrast to the popular philosophy of time, this study will focus on a single model of time: the social construction of time, time's economy. For we believe that the economic construction of time is the only relevant one, since it is the one from which all the other forms of time are derived. Our task will be to develop a theory which outlines the dialectics of the concepts of free time and production time, labor time and consumption time, and which explains how these concepts structure and dominate the whole sphere of life. Under the pressures of countable and profitable time, time itself is reduced to mere production time. Where nothing is being counted, time just stands still. Time begins passing again once the flow of money is resumed. If you are making money, you are also making time. Only when time is considered in light of the unity of labor and time is it possible to speak of a waste of time, which is simply time during which no work is being done and nothing is being earned or otherwise acquired. Consumption, leisure time and idling are all time lost. Under capitalism, all non-renumerative activities are a waste of time. Money has been the real clock for quite some time. Every bit of time has its price. The worker sells his or her time, work time and living time. The currency of payment is time. Time becomes capital. Time rings out in the cash registers. Correctly translated, the equation "time is money" means "time is a number" or "money is the commodity form of time." Value is brought into being by countable time. Time's value is variable; from the unskilled laborer all the way to the expert, time has a different price. How are values converted into prices? The famous transformation problem of economics finds its answer in time. For time is expressible in monetary and figures and numerals. Ricardo defined labor as value and time as its measure. Price is thus nothing more than the temporal form of value, and money is the value form of time. This is why values can change into prices, or rather why forms of value change into general money commodities, in the use value of which the exchange values of all other commodities are expressed. Ricardo suggested this approach when he wrote: "I may be asked what I mean by value and how I come to judge whether or not a commodity has changed its value. My answer is that I know of no other criterion for judging whether a thing is cheap or expensive than the sacrifice of labor necessary to preserve it. Everything is originally acquired through labor" (quoted in Pierro Sraffa, Warenproduktion mittels Waren, 1976, p. 159). Pierro Sraffa was not only the editor of Ricardo’s Collected Works but also a friend of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. He was also of considerable influence on the change from Wittgenstein’s picture theory of language (Wittgenstein 1) to language game. (Wittgenstein 2).


20th century philosophy; philosophy; philosophy of time; Wittgenstein Ludwig; chronokraty; consumption; economy of time; monetization of time; neo Ricardian school; Gramsci Antonio; Keynes John Maynard; Sraffa Piero; Taylor Charles

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