Wednesday, May 05, 2010

work, non-work, and numerical time

X is disappointing, discouraging, and sometimes restraining. I don´t know what to think about it because there´s not much I can do about it at the moment. Many people at X impose what Jameson calls the "machine logic of time" and Lefebvre "linear time," which quantifies the time an individual spends producing "work." But what the heck is "work"? The general idea and definition come from the factory or office job--individuals as part of mass production of things-that-can-sell; the agents of mass production carve out the mass work day as: 9:00:00 am to 5:00:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Although I do produce things-that-sell (I do "work" according to that 19th century defintion), I don´t think much about what day or time it is. And since I pursued a career that I enjoy--one that is being done always, at all times--I can´t comprehend how people divide work from non-work, and give a numerical value to each. (And much less when they impose this logic on others.) Of course, when I´m tired, doing something can seem like "work" but, unless I´m tired most of the time, then the awareness of "I´m doing work now" doesn´t dawn often.

Well, I shouldn´t say that I can´t comprehend it. I understand obviously that those who reinforce this (what EP Thompson calls "a new Puritan discipline and bourgeois exactitude") have their reasons. They may need lots of structure or control in their life; or they might run a factory where they want to squeeze out maximum profits; they might do work that they don´t enjoy; or they may be paid by the hour or minute. I guess what I meant by not comprehending is that I find people of the machine-logic nature unpleasant to... work with! Perhaps they make work feel like "work" in the tick-tock sense?

Of course, to survive, time nowadays = money, but what good does it do to be constantly reminded? Well, the reminder does remind us to think of better alternatives.

Speaking of which, is my belief "better" or "different" from other beliefs on work and time? If one believes in normative relativism, it's simply different. However, if one´s objective is a more quality and social oriented life (as opposed to quantity and less-social oriented life), I think it can be "better." What does my imaginary audience think?

I remember now when I was a teenager and worked an hourly-paid job at a calendar store at a suburban mall in the US, a coworker and I used to mess around with the wallclock near the sign-in sign-out sheet...We found it pretty funny to see our coworkers faces when they went to jot down their sign-out time.

(I made that last paragraph up.)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I feel the same way, or rather I wish that I was doing some kind of work that actually gave me a monetary return at the moment and that I felt the same way about my work as you do, like it's just part of your life, what you choose to do, and not some prison you're forced to go to every day to make license plates.

justin

Anonymous said...

What frustrates me is something about money. I can love my work, I can be thinking/working/writing/teaching/reading all day long. But I am not going to be as well paid as I wanted to. And it is not this only. Also, I have to stand my colleagues than don't give a damn about work and don't like the discipline. Here, everything pushes you to stand still and watch the life go on without move any of your fingers.

Miguel