AuthorPreda, Marian
  1. Introduction

    'Social capital' (Bourdieu, 1986) and 'human capital' (Coleman, 1988) are two influential concepts that have been firstly theorized in the academic community, but which were later infused in public policy, administrative practices and strategic management. Starting from those two analytic concepts, various international organisms, academic authorities, institutions of public administration and private organizations have developed initiatives to identify the mechanisms and laws that might support the monitoring and evaluation component of strategic planning and inform the governance of sustainability in public administration (Bohringer and Jochem, 2007; Hak, Moldan and Lyon, 2007; Morse, 2015; Strezov, Evans and Evans, 2017). Specifically, the Human Capital Index (developed by the World Bank) and the Social Capital Index (developed by OCED), as well as the Economic Capital Index, Civic Capital Index and Cultural Capital Index (developed by Global Ties U.S) have subsequently become key resources in designing policy interventions.

    Starting from this observation, we consider that a Time Capital Index might complement and support administrative approaches by acting as a composite measure of sustainability that functions both as a heuristic tool in knowledge production and as a cognitive device in strategic management. As long as strategic planning indices and sustainability metrics are key planning instruments in present-day society, we discuss the concept of 'time capital' and propose a multileveled 'theory of time capital' based on mathematical formalizations as instruments to make sense of various social processes and phenomena that might translate different realities into sustainable systems.

    This paper represents a programmatic and conceptual outlook that might establish a tradition of thought and inform administrative practices. The first part of the paper elaborates on how time capital might be understood as a cognitive tool in the effort of knowledge production and as a heuristic device to make the world more intelligible, more controllable and more predictable through strategic planning and scientific management. The second part of the paper presents the concept of time capital by outlining its main attributes (multicausality, convertibility, and transferability) and levels of analysis (individual, microsocial, mesosocial, and macrosocial). This conceptual clarification is followed by a discussion of the implications of a 'theory of time capital' for strategic planning and public administration.

  2. Foundations for a mathematical theory of time capital

    An understanding of the world in terms of time capital relies on a paradigm that assumes a mathematical intelligibility of collective life and depicts the social world as a measurable, controllable and predictable space (Fararo, 1997). The theoretical models that are based on the interpretation of social reality in terms of time capital support the production of meaningful metrics and analytics that might be used to explore the relationship between various social phenomena that impact the sustainability of socio-cultural and economic systems. Therefore, the paradigm of time capital facilitates the production of explanatory models able to capture laws and regularities of the social world in a process that has both theoretical and practical implications, as well as ethical and political ones.

    The concept of time capital is a cognitive instrument that plays a representational and depictive function in the production of scientific knowledge in public administration and strategic management. As a cognitive instrument, time capital offers a conceptual resource to think about various aspects in the social world through simplification. In general, simplification is used in social theory to make various phenomena and processes accessible to human thought. Therefore, the concept of time capital helps researchers navigate the complexity of the social world by revealing reality as a coherent system that might become known and understood through mathematical models and analytical reasoning.

    Moreover, the theoretical advantages of a paradigm of time capital correspond largely to the advantages of introducing mathematical formalizations into the practice of knowledge production. As any mathematical formalizations, time capital has a performative character (Matei and Preda, 2019) thus representing a conceptual instrument that acts on and upon the practice of knowledge production.

    The social theory of time capital is based on a commodification of social processes and material instantiation of temporal resources by constructing reality as an object that becomes intelligible through measurement practices. A theory of time capital is useful especially in the current context of real-time and interrelated data collection processes in which more and more actions and parameters are measured, recorded and stored. Such an understanding of the world relies on rationales, representations, methods and instruments through which knowledge is gathered, accumulated and used based on mathematical formalizations. In this sense, the instruments through which time capital is measured contribute to the very definition of time capital and make time capital possible as a reality in the actual world.

    The notion of time capital is not only valuable because it contributes to the production of systematic and articulated knowledge, but also because the notion of time capital favors practices of knowledge production in applied research. Accordingly, the paradigm of time capital facilitates interdisciplinary collaborations because it comprehensively assimilates the conceptual repertories of various scientific fields and provides a common language through which social issues might be addressed (Matei and Preda, 2019). Therefore, the constitution of a community of practice formed by academics, researches, practitioners and public officials who assume time capital as an object of interest facilitates the circulation of ideas and contributes to the improvement of decision-making in public administration and management.

  3. Time capital: a conceptualization and taxonomy

    Time capital is understood as a measure of sustainability or durability. Time capital is a measure of sustainability that defines the individual or collective potential for action projected into the future. Time capital is a numerical measure of durability that operationalizes a generic potential of action, thereby representing an estimation of an emerging capacity to perform individual or collective actions.

    Accordingly, time capital is a performative abstraction that assimilates a generic potentiality to circulate and control tangible or intangible resources. Time capital is a teleological concept that bears a heuristic function and influences the direction towards which individuals, primary groups, communities and societies evolve, as well as the momentum of their development process.

    Actions are concrete manifestations of the social and environmental affordances, being dependent on the positions that different agents adopt in relation to these possibilities. Actions are possible if certain types of capital (economic, human, social, relational) are circulated and materialized either in tangible assets (money, objects) or in intangible resources (power, knowledge, prestige). Accordingly, time capital is the ultimate resource beyond which any other type of capital would become irrelevant: all the other material or symbolic resources are useless unless they are assigned with the time capital of individuals, groups or societies. Time capital is not only an umbrella term that incorporates various resources that define the temporal horizon for action, but is itself the sine-qua-non condition for the manifestation of agency. In this sense, time capital is distributed in a flow in and through which change occurs, but which also gives direction to change.

    Moreover, time capital incorporates a capacity for acceleration and deceleration. As such, our approach to time capital is inspired by Stephen Hawking's perspective on acceleration and deceleration of the flow lines to relativistic velocities (Hawking, 2010). Stephen Hawking introduces the principle of 'agency over acceleration' that might be used as an analogy for the social world: the elements that could be accelerated or decelerated are not only physical phenomena but also social phenomena where the human component plays an essential role. Therefore, this principle might be applicable when conceptualizing sustainability in terms of time capital. Time capital is a resource that is subject to transformation, so that sustainable change and development might be achieved by assuming and working with a commodified notion of time. Consequentially, strategic planning and public administration might be understood as modes of directing human actions towards certain goals through temporal acceleration and deceleration. In other words, the work of strategic planning and the practices employed in public administration do not lie only in the effective management of resources, but also in the exercise of 'agency over acceleration'.

    Time capital integrates an acceleration and deceleration potential over which people might gain control in order to create sustainable systems. Figuratively, we might consider that strategic management could be put into practice by controlling the laws upon which the time passes within our individual and social world. Sustainability implies a specific form of 'time work' (Flaherty, 2003) accomplished through mathematical formalizations, thus creating and enforcing a sense of direction, with ethical implications in establishing a more responsible view towards the future.

    Based on the above mentioned rationales, we consider that the variation in time capital has two components: (1) a quantitative component (chronological duration, which is a quantification...

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