That time is relative, as we know since Einstein. Physics has greatly dealt with this concept, so in that context, among physicists of that kind, we can add Stephen Hawking: time begins with the big bang (Hawking, 1996). Thus, talking about time before the big bang would actually be similar to talking about more northern points than the North Pole. The physics of time causes great fascination, but it is inseparable from philosophy, which also has much to say on the matter. For philosopher Augustin, time has its beginning, and that which is beyond, divine, stands outside of time, outside the limited temporal mind of man. Furthermore, Augustine in the Confessions (2012) talks about time, which depends on the subject; for him, time does not exist outside of ourselves, our experience, and our action.

This is, of course, true if we only consider isolated individual perceptions, (which do not exist by themselves). However, if we place the individual in his or her natural environment, the approach to time is somewhat different. Time exists separately from the isolated individual; it determines him in its own way, especially in today's societies. Here, sociology comes into play, which views time as a kind of social construct. Augustine was not wrong, and each of us has a certain concept and way of experiencing the flow of time, a physical phenomenon, but this construct is largely determined by the society that is adopted, internalized, and meaningful for the person. Berger and Luckmann, in their well-known book The Social Construction of Reality, thus state that time is an intrinsic property of consciousness (Berger and Luckmann, 1992). This sentence tells us a lot about the social nature of time. Namely, time is woven into our consciousness; it determines it in its own way in many ways. I get up at 6 o'clock in the morning, so I can drink coffee by 8 o'clock when my lecture starts (and in the meantime, I buy a certain amount of time to read some books). My lecture lasts 90 minutes, after which I have a 5-minute break in which I manage to go to the toilet. A new series of lectures begins. I know I finish at 6 p.m., so I plan to meet with a friend at 6:30 p.m. I organize my social world over time.

But this everyday aspect of time is not the only form of time we have internalized. Awareness of time means that we are aware of both the past and the future. In this sense, Rosa and Trejo-Mathys (2013) mention three types of time. The first time they mention the time of everyday life, we have already described. Second is historical time, which determines us in a certain historical context. For example, we do not live in the 18th century, nor do we live in the 20th century, but in the 21st century, in the year 2024, which carries its challenges. Historical time is the time we can control the least. However, it greatly affects the ways and possibilities of our realization. The third time is life, that is, the time given to us at our disposal. This is the life span of a certain person. We assume that we will live, and through this assumption, we arrange our own future. This is the time characterized by "major" decisions that can predetermine the future of all smaller decisions. It is time we can influence, but it does not forgive mistakes. It comes down to more significant life moments, like "graduation" or university enrollment. Depending on our past activities, we choose the desired universities and professions that will later largely determine us. But one mistake in the present will determine the ways of manifesting in the future.

Every person, in their own way, based on their own authenticity (which is also a social construct), has internalized each of these aspects of time. We are aware that we exist in the year 2024; we are aware of our age and what is appropriate according to it; we are aware of the obligations of everyday life. We regulate our actions based on all three determinants of time. We are aware of the past, present, and future. The past has passed; it cannot be returned. Although certain components of that past help us in overcoming everyday life and planning the future (e.g., through certain knowledge) or help us establish a certain sense (e.g., traditional values), we cannot live oriented to the past. Orientation to the past and even to a kind of fetishization of tradition is characteristic of the alienated person. A person who cannot create anything but what has already been created. The glorification of the tradition of modern society in this sense is an attempt to close in on what is certain. But the world is not certain; it is the opposite. The social, technological, and natural risks that we have created with our existence in the spirit of modernity make life more uncertain than ever. First, ecological crises we face in a global context make us insecure and confused in constructing that life or historical time directed towards the future. In other words, the life future, but also the historical future of the human species, is becoming more and more unclear pessimistically understood.

Furthermore, economic, political, and cultural instabilities tell us that there probably isn't even a future. It is important to note here that the future cannot be understood outside of the present. It gives us the orientation of current action. We direct ourselves toward the future in the process of creation. Ultimately, this should also be a characteristic of a realized individual in a disalienated, healthy society. But in the collective negation of the future, new representations arise. If there is no future, then we do not have to be overly focused on it. Thus, the contemporary understanding of the future can be seen as a kind of legitimation of the hedonism of the present. In its own peculiar way, in the general pessimism of the future, the present imposes itself as a bright point that we must use before the dark prophecy of the future comes true. Therefore, the cultural industry offers us different variants of this consolation of the present. One of the most visible ways is the film industry, which is largely oriented towards a dark future—a future in which human civilization has collapsed. Thus, just in the franchise The Walking Dead, 2022 and 2023, we saw the start of three new seasons, with several more announced. Silo, The Last of Us, Resident Evil, Bird Box, and Bird Box Barcelona are just some of the titles we can mention in this attempt to consume the dark future in a way that provokes but also encourages the hedonism of the present.

Thus, this kind of future falls into the hands of capital, power, and discourse. Discursive control of time consists of creating tangled images of a dark future through which it is easier to direct a person to the consumption of products of the present. Time control, primarily of the future, is thus the main tool of consumerist capitalism. This control is used to continue the meaningless consumption that truly leads to downfall. Because ultimately, the capitalist ethos is one that is contrary to survival. By securing a non-future, capitalism secures its future and deprives individuals of creating and orienting towards the new, the future. New levels of alienation in modern society thus arise from capitalist control of the future (for example, in the initial stages of capitalism, control focused on the control of the present—a certain fragment of the daily time of individuals—e.g., 8, 10, or 12 hours of work per day). Both in early capitalism and in late, it is about the alienation of time, which is an intrinsic property of the consciousness of the individual, thereby alienating the individual as well.

Our basis is creation and the new. The new cannot come without a future. The human mind is focused on controlling and dominating the world, and it largely relies on the possibility of creation, imagination, and prediction. Without prediction and the future, or if the future is understood deterministically, there is no real creation and no motivation for solving problems. We are condemned to the present with the fear of the future. Therefore, we pray that the future comes as late as possible, partly because that future is not ours—that is, we do not control the outcomes of the future, only the temporary pleasure of the present—and partly because we are no longer able to separate ourselves from the hedonism of the present.

Is there a way out of this type of alienation? Can we become dis-alienated while making the future look a bit brighter? We should not be deluded. The future is uncertain (as it has been before) and brings new challenges, such as ecological ones. The forecasts are not good, but the future is still unwritten. In other words, although one should be aware of the dangers, excessive pessimism leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Therefore, the first step for society is to accept the problem as potentially solvable. Only then does the future open up possibilities for action that are oriented towards the new, not towards the hedonism and comfort of the present. Changing the present, therefore, is the basis for changing the future, because ultimately the future is created in the present—today.


1 Hawking, S. (1996). Kratka povijest vremena. Zagreb: Izvori.
2 Augustin, A. (2012). Ispovijesti. Zagreb: Verbum.
3 Berger, T.; Luckmann, T. (1992). Socijalna konstrukcija zbilje. Zagreb: Naprijed.
4Rosa, H.; Trejo-Mathys, J. (2013). Social Acceleration: A New Theory of Modernity. Columbia University Press.