16 July 2012

Neoliberalism is stealing our time!

The emerging critique of time pressure
Part 2 of 3 | Part 1

When Tim Kreider tries to distinguish between people who have time pressures forced on them and people who choose to put that stress on themselves, he has already lost the means to make sense of why his essay resonated with so many people. If it was just a matter of a few neurotic or self-important people who, against their own best interests, load themselves down with things to do, his critique wouldn’t have been relevant on such a broad scale. But Kreider himself writes, “Almost everyone I know is busy.” When a particular kind of behavior or experience becomes socially general, we can be sure it’s not because of personal idiosyncrasy on a mass scale—which is an oxymoron. Rather, something about society itself is causing that behavior to proliferate.

Today time stress is not simply widespread—it’s hegemonic. It is the normal way of being for everyone in mainstream society. Whether you’re the janitor working three jobs to stave off your family’s hunger, the entrepreneur constantly casting about for capital to fund your project, the college student going to two student group meetings tonight even though you have a 20-page paper due tomorrow, the bodega owner who minds the counter all day long and then does inventory after closing, the corporate lawyer cramming in final preparations to win impunity for the big client, the artist furiously networking at all the parties, the logistics worker forced to move more and more freight every day, the politician making the hundredth call today asking a rich person for money, the food prep worker always coping with short staff—that is, whether on the surface it seems that you have chosen your fate or had it forced upon you—we are all completely overwhelmed.

05 July 2012

The long-overdue reaction against being completely overwhelmed

An emerging critique of time pressure
Part 1 of 3 | Part 2
A burst of high-profile essays has recently sought to grapple with the intensifying time pressures afflicting those fortunate enough to be employed. Each of the authors wants to mount a critique of the increasing demands that our work is placing on us, finally giving some visibility to the deadly serious consequences of the seemingly mundane problem of always being busy. Yet if none of them is able to locate the fundamental source of the problem in the neoliberal organization of society, what are the consequences of such critiques likely to be?