The Chinese had no word or concept for 'productivity' before the 20th century. Similarly, they had no need for scientifically accurate clocks despite inventing them in the 10th century. The were more interested the variable time of social events (festivals, seasons, etc.). When European clocks were imported, they were merely ornamental or tinkered with to fit with esoteric Chinese 'heavenly' time. Clocks that recorded accurate scientific time simply didn't fit their non-capitalist social formation.
Moishe Postone wrote:
The example of China clearly indicates that the problem of the emergence of abstract time and the mechanical clock is a social and cultural one, and not merely a matter of technical ability or of the existence of any sort of constant time units. In many respects, the level of technological development in China was higher than that of medieval Europe prior to the fourteenth century. Indeed, some Chinese innovations such as paper and gunpowder were seized upon by the West, with important consequences.Yet the Chinese did not develop the mechanical clock or any other timekeeping device that both marked equal hours and was used primarily for that purpose in organizing social life. This seems particularly puzzling inasmuch as the older system of variable hours, which had been in use after about 1270 B.C. in China, had been superseded by a system of constant hours: one system of time reckoning used in China after the second century B.C. was the Babylonian system of dividing the full day into twelve equal, constant "double hours." Moreover, the Chinese developed the technical ability to measure such constant hours. Between A.D. 1088 and 1094, Su Sung, a diplomat and administrator, coordinated and planned the construction of a gigantic water-driven astronomical ''clocktower" for the Chinese em- peror. This "clock" was perhaps the most sophisticated of various clockwork drive mechanisms developed in China between the second and the fifteenthcenturies. It was primarily a mechanism for displaying and studying the movements of the heavenly bodies, but it also showed constant hours and "quarters" .Nevertheless, neither this device nor its marking of equal hours seems to have had much social effect. No such devices—not even smaller and modified versions—were produced on a large scale and used to regulate daily life. Neither a lack of technological sophistication nor ignorance of constant hours, then, can account for the fact that the mechanical clock was not invented in China. What seems more important is that the constant "double hours" were apparently not significant in terms of the organization of social life.
According to David Landes, there was little social need in China for time expressed in constant units, such as hours or minutes. Life in the countryside and in the cities was regulated by the diurnal round of natural events and chores, and the notion of productivity, in the sense of output per unit time, was unknown. Moreover, to the extent that urban timekeeping was regulated from above, it seems to have been with reference to the five "night watches," which were variable time periods.
If this was the case, what was the significance of the constant "double hours" used in China? Although a full discussion of this problem lies beyond the bounds of this work, it is significant that those time units were not numbered serially, but bore names. This not only meant that there were no unambiguous ways to announce each hour (for example, by drum or gong), but suggests that those time units, although equal, were not abstract—that is, commensurable and interchangeable. This impression is reinforced by the fact that the twelve "double hours" were linked in a one-to-one correspondence with the astronomical succession of signs of the zodiac, which are certainly not interchangeable units. There was a conscious paralleling of the daily and yearly course of the sun, with the "months" and the "hours" bearing the same names. Together, this system of signs designated a harmonious, symmetrical cosmic system.
It seems, however, that this "cosmic system" did not serve to organize what we would regard as the "practical" realm of everyday life. We have already seen that the Chinese waterwheel towers were intended not primarily as clocks but as astronomical devices. Hence, as Landes notes, their accuracy was checked "not by comparing the time with the heavens, but a copy of the heavens with the heavens." This apparent separation between that aspect of the cosmic system inscribed in the Chinese clockwork mechanisms and the "practical" realm is also suggested by the fact that, although the Chinese measured the solar year, they used a lunar calendar to coordinate social life. They also did not use the twelve "houses" of their "Babylonian" zodiac to locate the position of heavenly bodies, but used a twenty-eight-part "moon-zodiac" to that end. Finally, as already noted, the constant "double hours" used in China apparently did not serve to organize everyday social life; that Su Sung's technical device made no difference in this regard suggests, therefore, that the constant "Baby- lonian' ' time units used in China were not the same sorts of constant time units as those associated with the mechanical clock. They were not really units of abstract time, of time as an independent variable with phenomena as its function; rather, they might best be understood as units of "heavenly" concrete time.
Standardized clock time, can therefore be seen as related to the capitalist productive mode, and therefore a form of social domination, through the introduction of measurable productivity (i.e. managers on the factory floor with stop-watches; the taylorisation of work; the stringency of Henry Ford's assembly line that enforced an automatic rate of production, etc.).
A guaranteed wage for all citizens (employed or unemployed) would release a massive amount of leisure time and unshackle human creativity.