The answer lies with a number of micro-social and cultural changes that make people view the larger macro-changes with growing alarm. One reason progress has lost its shine today is that most people’s lives also no longer follow a linear, forward looking trajectory. The structured, sequential progression in the same job that characterised industrial and professional society is becoming the exception. Similarly, in their private, intimate lives, people no longer marry once, settle down and have first children and then grandchildren, but divorce, remarry or live in alternative families with overlapping generations of kids, if they have children at all. Admittedly, this single, structured model of a patriarchal family and secure job was more an ideal than reality for many people in modern times, except, perhaps, for the 1950s.
Then, there is the decline of a whole number of institutions which had provided our lives with a sense of temporal order and security in the highly dynamic and uncertain age of progress. With their bells and regular hours, the Church and the factory did a lot of organising our time for us. Today, shopping and mobility is a 24-hour juggernaut. Leisure is no longer leisurely, but packed with a seemingly endless and ever changing combination of activities, especially among the professional middle classes. Contrary to popular perception, it is not true that today we have no time and work longer than our great grandparents. In America, it is women in their 30s and 40s especially who have seen their leisure time shrink since 1980, but even they are no worse off than their sisters in 1900. Other age groups, and especially those over 60, have much more free time now than a century ago. Part of the problem is that time is so unevenly distributed across generations and increasingly out of synch with the multiple demands of career and caring that converge for the so-called sandwiched generation. What has changed, too, is that we are now much busier in our free time and, on top of it, have to coordinate our schedules ourselves. Hence we feel as if we are living in turbulent times.