The Seven-Day Circle

I’ve finished reading The Seven Day Circle: The History and Meaning of the Week by Eviatar Zerubavel. And it was fascinating.

I expected to learn some facts; historical context and sociological observations into the week would shed light on my project. But I didn’t expect the book to be so full of jaw-dropping revelations.

For instance, as recently as the 1930s, the Soviet Union switched, by governmental decree, to a five-day week. Factories had constant staffing levels, as one-fifth of the work force took the day off each day. I was shocked by this — the seven-day week seems so immovable, yet just last century, a world superpower abolished it. And no one ever heard about it.

I learned of the Journal of Calendar Reform, an American publication that ran for decades, which backed a major effort to reform the calendar. This plan was backed by “Henry Ford, the Secretary of Labor, the publisher of the New York Times, the chief of the United States Weather Bureau, the directors of the Bureau of Standads and the Nautical Almanac, and the presidents of Yale University, Cornell University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, General Motors, General Electric, the National Geographic Society, the American Museum of Natural History, and the American Bar Association.”

And it failed.

Evidence abounds that changing the calendar of the western world is hard. But at the same time, learning how many different calendars have been used around the world over the years is encouraging. People have the capacity to comprehend complex systems, or even multiple overlapping calendar systems in ways I wouldn’t have anticipated. There is hope.

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