covid-19 is an opportunity to rethink how we work

For decades, the dis­tinc­tion between work and leisure time has been fad­ing away. We can’t afford a return to that old ‘nor­mal’ – after Covid-19, we must fight for a future where work­ers con­trol their lives.

'work' ford maddox brown
‘work’ ford mad­dox brown

after a tir­ing week, the desire to rest over the week­end seems only nat­ur­al. but as i lie on the sofa, hav­ing a leisure­ly read, the sound of the clock tick­ing becomes deaf­en­ing. the cuck­oo strikes at the hour. as it recedes back into its nest, i notice its accusato­ry glare, as if to remind me that anoth­er hour has passed me by, and that time that can nev­er be regained. as i sit up, i ask myself, could i have been more productive?

the feel­ing of guilt as we ago­nise over a ‘wast­ed’ day can’t be sep­a­rat­ed from neolib­er­al­is­m’s tight­ened grip over our psy­ches. as we inter­nalise mar­ket rela­tions our own mind con­stant­ly demands pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. it becomes dif­fi­cult to avoid the feel­ing that activ­i­ties which aren’t root­ed in pro­duc­tiv­i­ty are with­out value.

in time, work-dis­ci­pline and indus­tri­al cap­i­tal­ism, e.p. thomp­son dis­cussed how the indus­tri­al rev­o­lu­tion saw the impo­si­tion of time dis­ci­pline and estab­lished the cen­tral­i­ty of the clock. his work traces the changes in the appre­hen­sion of time with­in west­ern europe, where he notes that time mea­sure­ment enabled farm­ers in the mid-sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry to begin cal­cu­lat­ing their expec­ta­tions of how much work their employ­ees would be able to com­plete dur­ing a shift.

time, as the say­ing goes, became mon­ey — more specif­i­cal­ly the employ­er’s mon­ey, and thomp­son high­lights how it evolved to a point where “it is not passed but spent.”

more here: by Daniel­la Adelu­woye in tri­bune


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