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The Political Value of Time

Book description

Waiting periods and deadlines are so ubiquitous that we often take them for granted. Yet they form a critical part of any democratic architecture. When a precise moment or amount of time is given political importance, we ought to understand why this is so. The Political Value of Time explores the idea of time within democratic theory and practice. Elizabeth F. Cohen demonstrates how political procedures use quantities of time to confer and deny citizenship rights. Using specific dates and deadlines, states carve boundaries around a citizenry. As time is assigned a form of political value it comes to be used to transact over rights. Cohen concludes with a normative analysis of the ways in which the devaluation of some people's political time constitutes a widely overlooked form of injustice. This book shows readers how and why they need to think about time if they want to understand politics.


'Time is the ultimate scarce resource, defying every human attempt to defy its inevitable reckoning. As a result, time is intimately bound up with struggles over power and resources; indeed it often gives those struggles their meaning and point. Yet political theorists have paid scant attention to time. Elizabeth F. Cohen sets out to remedy this situation in her lucid and engaging new book. She develops a political economy of time and exhibits its implications for a host of debates about rights, power, and distribution. This is an important and novel contribution.'

Ian Shapiro - Sterling Professor of Political Science, Yale University, Connecticut

'The Political Value of Time is packed with stunning insights into politics and time. Cohen explains that time can help political actors bargain over incommensurables and that not all deadlines are the same … Political theorists and empirical researchers will learn invaluable lessons from Cohen’s remarkable study.'

Susan Stokes - John S. Saden Professor of Political Science, Yale University, Connecticut

'In this path-breaking book, Elizabeth F. Cohen asks what politics would look like if we used the dimension of time as a lens to rethink our core political concepts. The frame is original and the implications of her argument for an array of areas - from punishment to citizenship - are important. This is a book political theorists and public policy scholars need to read.'

Corey Brettschneider - Brown University, Rhode Island

'The Political Value of Time enables us to see many of the ways in which time matters in modern political life. The connections Cohen makes are surprising and illuminating. The time spent reading this excellent book is time well spent.'

Joseph H. Carens - University of Toronto

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