Locating value(s) in collaborative commons: measuring time and idleness

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paper


Systemic problems are often the result of our dominant economic growth paradigm based on the assumption that private actors in markets will value and allocate resources efficiently. Solving these problems usually starts with application of the same logic. In relation to climate change, for example, this has resulted in the sale of ‘rights to emit’ carbon emissions and a reduction in the amount of ‘rights’ over time. Yet, carbon emissions are rising. This dominant paradigm is also increasing discrepancies between those who extract and destroy value and those who create value. A collaborative economy, on the other hand, might seek solutions beyond such competitive feedback loops by focusing on planetary boundaries, social connections, embedded markets and creative commons. One area that has received little attention is value creation through doing things slowly and through idleness. In this paper we suggest that time is a key asset of the commons and an under-researched starting point for envisioning post-capitalist collaborative futures. The commodification of time (Tuckman, 2005) has resulted in an intensification of working time along with the ‘individualization’ of working hours. The deregulation of time at work and away from work is restricting the individual’s ability to collaborate and develop meaningful relationships with the commons. This is considered an outcome of the ‘marketization’ of the temporal commons, the way we use and value time in a market-driven value system (Bluedorn & Waller 2006), in which ‘time-free thinking’ (or time to reflect) is not considered economically justifiable (Gleick, 1999). By juxtaposing the commodification of time with idleness (Russell, 1935), we want to explore value creation through doing things slowly as well as through idleness itself. Collaborative processes inevitably take more time than exclusive or unilateral processes and inherent value in collaborative economies needs to be derived from progressive social decisions about what is valued and how. A collaborative economy might seek to assign value to idleness and time as both stand in opposition to the busyness of action. As even actions for sustainability have some form of social or environmental trade-off and/or rebound effects, idleness itself can thus become a valuable asset with time as its currency. Given that our current paradigm does not count, and subsequently does not value, what is not measured, we argue that new approaches to measuring and valuing are needed. Such approaches may convert idleness from something that benefits only oneself into something that also benefits the commons: doing nothing is valuable because it does not exacerbate systemic (social and environmental) problems, while doing things slowly promotes the ‘socialization’ of time in response and opposition to the increasing ‘marketization’ and individualization of time. This approach allows us to square our explorations of the value of time and idleness back into the language of the dominant paradigm.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
Publication statusUnpublished - 25 Jun 2019
EventEMES International Research Conference on Social Enterprise: Sustainable development through social enterprise, co operative and voluntary action - Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, United Kingdom
Duration: 24 Jun 201927 Jun 2019
Conference number: 7


ConferenceEMES International Research Conference on Social Enterprise
Abbreviated titleEMES
CountryUnited Kingdom
Internet address

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