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Re-thinking queue culture: the commodification of thick time

Mark N. Wexler (Department of Management Studies, Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 7 April 2015




The purpose of this paper is to highlight both the contribution and the present need to reconfigure the literature on “queue culture” as a precursor of the sociology of waiting.


The study employs a legal-structural lens in comparing the initial conceptual treatment of the archetypal “waiting line” with the “line” modifying sociology of waiting that results in waiting rooms, number and telephone queues and in the experience of online waiting.


The initial conception of the culture of the queue understates the importance of three factors: first, the role of third parties in the design, management and inculcation of rules binding those experiencing thick time; second the degree to which communication technology and its attachment to the “mobilities” paradigm has thinned the experience of thick time and lastly the degree to which the increasing commodification of the wait has resulted in the creation of waiting time as a form of pay as you go flexitime.

Social implications

The social construction of waiting and the experience of thick time are shown to be increasingly part of the privatized market experience where queue management innovations not only are commercialized but have strong implications for the egalitarian social assumptions imbedded in the initial queue culture based sociology of waiting. Policy implications support the present pay for use philosophy increasingly applied in the transition from public to private management of space.


The self-policing “fairness” of the waiting line is now open to scrutiny given the proliferation of the newly shaped distributional logics imbedded in the management, design and use of waiting spaces.



Wexler, M.N. (2015), "Re-thinking queue culture: the commodification of thick time", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 35 No. 3/4, pp. 165-181.



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