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Everyday your most important asset further depreciates, that asset is time. 86,400 seconds and once they are gone, they are gone forever. Your time is limited, or if you like scarce.

Scarcity is supposed to create value in economics given the nature of supply and demand. But of course, your limited supply of time is mostly valuable to you and perhaps close friends and family. Capital is not particularly concerned with the intrinsic value of your time, rather the 1% are concerned with the relationship between your time and their money. So in order for them to get the most bang out of you for their buck they want to colonize your life and take as much time as they can and pay as little as possible for it.

And how can they do that? Mark Fisher offers a theory.

Precarity is a condition of existence without predictability or security, affecting material or psychological welfare. Specifically, it is applied to the condition of intermittent or underemployment and the resultant precarious existence. The social class defined by this condition has been termed the precariat.

From Mark Fisher writing for Gonzo (circus):

At the most simple level, precarity is one consequence of the “post-Fordist” restructuring of work that began in the late 1970s: the turn away from fixed, permanent jobs to ways of working that are increasingly casualised. Yet even those within relatively stable forms of employment are not immune from precarity.

Many workers now have to periodically revalidate their status via systems of “continuous professional development”; almost all work, no matter how menial, involves self-surveillance systems in which the worker is required to assess their own performance. Pay is increasingly correlated to output, albeit an output that is no longer easily measurable in material terms.

For most workers, there is no such thing as the long term.

No long term work, no stability. All you can do is cling on for dear life to any job you are lucky enough to find - before it too vanishes. Take a deep breathe? You're just fighting for air.
It isn’t only work that has become more tenuous. The neoliberal attacks on public services, welfare programmes and trade unions mean that we are increasingly living in a world deprived of security or solidarity. The consequence of the normalisation of uncertainty is a permanent state of low-level panic. Fear, which attaches to particular objects, is replaced by a more generalised anxiety, a constant twitching, an inability to settle.
This echoes similar sentiments Naomi Klein made regarding The Shock Doctrine which was documenting a form of "disaster capitalism." But according to Fisher this strategy is not just implemented in severe times but attempts to make moderate times severe.

People in a state of panic and fear have difficulty thinking critically or really thinking much at all. And that's the point.

Curiously, however, we subjects of late capitalism act as if there is infinite time to waste on work. Work looms over us as never before. “In an eccentric and an extreme society like ours,” argue Carl Cederström and Peter Fleming in their book Dead Man Working, “working has assumed a universal presence – a ‘worker’s society in the worst sense of the term – where even the unemployed and children become obsessed with it.” (2) Work now colonises weekends, late evenings, even our dreams. “Under Fordism, weekends and leisure time were still relatively untouched,” Cederström and Fleming point out. “Today, however, capital seeks to exploit our sociality in all spheres of work. When we all become ‘human capital’ we not only have a job, or perform a job. We are the job.”

Me am job
. So if I am the job then work should really take all of my time, shouldn't it? Every day of the week, "free" time, any mental space I have should be devoted to thinking about work. Free range workers!

And now we arrive at the point of the piece.

Given all of this, it is clear that most political struggles at the moment amount to a war over time.
Enter the debt crisis. What is debt if not a claim on time, a claim on the future? For those lucky enough to get a job coming out of college it will take years, perhaps decades, to pay off those student loans. You wanted to go to college? Now pay the price! You better stay at that job, you may never get another one. What? You just lost it? Better take whatever you can get and you better work even harder - off the clock if necessary (it's necessary) to make those payments which are not dischargable in personal bankruptcy.

Oh you wanted to have a family? Now we really got you. You'll do anything to keep this job. Play ball, give us your weekends or you and your kids are out on the street.

Welcome to Neoliberalism. All your time and therefore life will be subject to "market discipline." There is no alternative.

The neoliberal era – the time when, we were repeatedly told, there was no alternative – has been characterized by a massive deterioration of social imagination, an incapacity to even conceive of different ways to work, produce and consume.

It’s now clear that, from the start (and with good reason) neoliberalism declared war on this alternative mode of time. It remains tireless in its propagation of resentment against those few fugitives who can still escape the treadmill of debt and endless work, promising to ensure that soon, they too will be condemned to performing interminable, meaningless labor – as if the solution to the current stagnation lay in more work, rather than an escape from the cult of work.

Well hello public and private sector unions.

Nothing is more hilarious/depressing than seeing the precariat in the private sector (99%) angrily condemn public sector workers for having higher wages and more secure retirement benefits than themselves. The solution given by the neoliberal elite (aka Koch brothers) is to take away the wages and benefits from those "greedy" unions never to gain similar compensation in the private sector. Talk about being a sucker.

If there is to be any kind of future, it will depend on our winning back the uses of time that neoliberalism has sought to close off and make us forget.
Will you fight for your time? Will you fight for your life?

Occupy Wall Street before it Occupies You.

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Comment Preferences

  •  working to buy life only to spend it on more work (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Any ideas for how to fix this?

    To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

    by Visceral on Wed Aug 29, 2012 at 12:23:22 PM PDT

    •  New Rules (0+ / 0-)

      What is a reasonable amount of time to use for work and what is not? Let's make that decision and decide how to structure our economy accordingly.

      The economy is a nice servant and a horrible master.

      •  Can legislation change corporate culture? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DSWright, Thestral

        For example, no-one can legally force you to work overtime, but lots of people do it even if they don't want to because they know they'll be fired anyway if they don't (for formally unrelated reasons as it will turn out if they can afford to sue), or because they can't make ends meet otherwise, and so on.  People know that getting your work done fast and going home early will be interpreted by management as proof that you: A) don't have enough to do and can be safety let go, B) must be overqualified and costing the company more than it needs to pay, or C) that you aren't taking the initiative to contribute more even if it's not expected.  People take work home because they have to; they know that they'll get blamed if the work doesn't get done on time, regardless of management incompetence.   People know that doing your job as spelled out in your contract isn't enough anymore; employers expect you to be a "team player" who'll do whatever is asked of you (even and especially between the lines) and who is as emotionally invested in the company as the owner allegedly is.  People know that it isn't enough to do your job right anymore; you need to do it the way management tells you even if it's stupid.

        "Union rules" about how long a job should take, how many people are needed to do it right and safely, and what equipment is needed is a common conservative complaint ... as if absent those rules, work would magically get done faster and cheaper.

        To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

        by Visceral on Wed Aug 29, 2012 at 02:10:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I meant reforming Corporations themselves (0+ / 0-)

          But I take your point.


          •  Mondragon is an interesting case (0+ / 0-)

            Though they're really more of a cooperative than a corporation, at least in spirit, being owned by its employees rather than by absentee owners who just want maximum profit and who contribute nothing to the company.

            I would be curious to see how employee ownership can change the nature of work itself.  Who would want to work in one of the old "dark satanic mills" even if you owned it?  Business practices are (at least in theory) optimized for profitability: the assembly line, invasive management, etc., and probably also with an eye towards creating hierarchies of status and power.   The challenge is to figure out how a company, even a workers' cooperative, can succeed with practices designed to promote work-life balance, re-introduce skill and creativity into work, minimize or hopefully eliminate management by moving decision-making as far down the ladder as possible, subordinate administrative staff and their functions to the people who actually make the the product, etc., with profit either unimportant or a byproduct of higher-level activity.

            To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

            by Visceral on Wed Aug 29, 2012 at 02:31:05 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  There is way to take the stolen money back (0+ / 0-)

    from Wall Street.

    It is called inflation -- inflation coupled with massive welfare.

    The reason the Wall Street crowd hates inflation is that it destroys their true net worth. If inflation were to reduce the net worth of the fat cats, while at the same time, deficit-funded welfare were given to lower income Americans to keep them above inflation, the net effect would be a transfer of wealth from the rich robbers to the poor they robbed.

    And it could happen without raising taxes.

    This is a scenario the robber barons dread, which is why you hear about "deficits" and "austerity" all the time. This why they deliberately fan racism in association with "welfare", "government handouts" etc. These policies are redistributive, even without raising taxes.

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