On work & its suckness
I cannot begin to express how much THIS article resonated for me this morning while trawling Twitter (emphasis mine):
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.”
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.
(Reminder: emphasis mine.)
The contemporary culture of work is becoming – I’ve noticed – an increasingly large theme in my latest fiction writing. As usual, though, my fiction is an exploration of – not a conclusion on – the theme, and so I don’t yet have a clear response. Except to say that I’ve noticed in myself a dichotomy between “work” & “a job”, the one being a meaningful engagement in a craft I value (oh, fiction writing, say, for argument’s sake) & the other being ‘stuff done for money’. And also a dichotomy between “a job” and “real life”.
This latter has unnerved me the most, since it implies that any 8 hour/day or any 40 hour/week is time spent ‘out of time’. Time spent channelling someone else’s chaos into cash. Time spent wasting time until you can resume your “real life” which is left behind at the office door or lift well, like a ghost, a skin – or like the soft insides of the hardened carapace that is sent into that lift or through that door.
The real you is left in your real life. The exoskeleton – emptied of life – is sent inside.
Possibly more later, after I’ve finished sounding my barbaric yawp & had some clear ideas about an actually intelligent reaction.