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.
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.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.
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.
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.Well hello public and private sector unions.
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.
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.