Decimal Time: Misadventures of a Revolutionary Idea, 1793–2008

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  • 1 Department of Sociology and Historical Studies, New School for Social Research, 79th Fifth Ave. 9th Floor, New York, NY 10003; ;, Email:

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This article traces the idea of decimalized systems of time reckoning, from their first articulated designs and implementation in the French revolution to our day. The paper analyzes how decimal time was the product of a broader rationalizing project that successfully reformed weights and measures (with the invention of the decimal metric system) and money (with the introduction of the franc as a decimal currency), but failed in bringing the chronological and calendrical reform into fruition. Finally, some hypotheses are suggested to explain why contrary to the global success of the metric system and decimal currency, plans for a fully decimalized time system were never accepted.

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