Monday, August 13, 2012

Time Wars: Finite lives frittered away

Cory Doctorow, who writes one of the most read blogs, boing boing, says:

the only resource that is truly non-renewable -- the time of our lives -- is frittered away in "work" that we do because we must, because of adherence to doctrine about how money should flow.

He points to a leftist essay by Mark Fisher which argues that time is the fundamental conflict now.

Given all of this, it is clear that most political struggles at the moment amount to a war over time. The generalised debt crisis that hangs over all areas of capitalist life and culture – from banks to housing and student funding – is ultimately about time. Averting the alleged catastrophe (of the end of capitalism) will heighten the apocalyptic temporality of everyday life, as the anticipation of catastrophe gives way to a sense that we are already living through the catastrophe and it, like work, will never end. The increase of debt justifies the extending of working hours and working life, with retirement age being pushed ever further back. We are in a state of harrassed busyness from which – we are now promised – there will never be any relief.

The state of reactive panic in which most of us find ourselves is not an accidental side-effect of post-Fordist labour. It is highly functional for capital that our time is not only quantitatively short but qualitatively fragmented, bitty. We are required to live in the condition that Linda Stone has called “continous partial attention”, where our attention is habitually distributed across multiple communication platforms.

You don't necessarily have to buy all the assumptions about "late capitalism" to see something here. Fisher argues that real innovation requires time, and there has been less genuine innovation in the culture in the last twenty years because frenetic busyness leaves no time for genuine innovation.

The delirious rise in property prices over the last twenty years is probably the single most important cause of cultural conservatism in the UK and the US.

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