Class Status and Instantaneity

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Class status affects one’s perception of time. Those with higher class status wait less for services than the lower class. This can be demonstrated simply – those with access to private jets do not have to wait for airport security in order to board a plane. Similarly, they do not have to wait in a public waiting room for access to medical services. Sometimes, they are given higher preference for the donation of organs from organ donors.

The idea of instantaneity has driven much of the development of the middle class consumer society. The idea of compressing the power of number of living things into a single device, tamed and always-ready leads us to use descriptors such as horse-power.


The idea of the washing machine giving the modern (but not postmodern!) housewife the ability to do the amount of work it would take six servants signaled an era in which formerly incapacitated people could live like kings. This seemingly higher standard of living drove purchases of many ready-made, instant products. It also forced innovation on the part of the designers, processes and machines that created those machines. (For more, see Thomas Velben’s The Leisure Class).

Instantaneity and Technology

The idea of instantaneity has been fetishized by the marketing industry, which constructs and markets technology as a replacement for labor and a means of freedom of the repetitive drudgery and inherent labor of everyday life. Those with access to instant products have the power of multiple servants. Instant popcorn removes part of the labor of making popcorn the traditional way. The washing machine removes part of the labor of washing dishes by hand.

Technology has traditionally been constructed as a replacement for physical labor, and increasingly, servants in the kitchen. Because mass society looks to the upper class and their servants as a desirable outcome, the automation, or technological equivalent of servants in the form of a machine is very attractive.

The attractiveness of technology lies in its ability to reduce the time and space it takes to complete a task. Dish washing takes time. A dishwasher takes less time. One can sleep while the dishwasher is running in the kitchen. One can purchase pre-constructed, microwavable meals.

The picture of the sunny orchard on they package of orange juice that we purchase is a reminder of the labor we do not have to pick oranges in order to have orange juice. Similarly, the package serves as a reminder of where the product originated, because the average person goes to a supermarket, and not to a tree, in order to obtain orange juice.

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