Science fiction is tackling the issue of economic inequality using the metaphor of rationed time and mortality. Radical blogger and professor of ‘cultural analysis’ Mark Fisher doesn’t see this as too far from the truth.
His writing examines autonomy, workerism, post-Marxism, post-Fordism, punk, post-punk, neoliberalism, new atheism and anarchism. As fear of losing one’s job, debt closing in, mortality, apocalypse, the devastating end of capitalism or Malthusian collapse tick away in our background, all of us feel that constant tremor, further emphasized by the endless updates to our devices, making us addicted to our own anxiety. Society stalls and experimental innovation is crushed under the systemic pressure of time constraints. As he writes: “Given all of this, it is clear that most political struggles at the moment amount to a war over time.”
Via Gonzo Circus:
For most workers, there is no such thing as the long term. As sociologist Richard Sennett put it in his book The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism, the post-Fordist worker “lives in a world marked … by short-term flexibility and flux … Corporations break up or join together, jobs appear and disappear, as events lacking connection.” Throughout history, humans have learned to come to terms with the traumatic upheavals caused by war or natural disasters, but “[w]hat’s peculiar about uncertainty today,” Sennett points out, “is that it exists without any looming historical disaster; instead it is woven into the everyday practices of a vigorous capitalism.”
It isn’t only work that has become more tenuous. The neoliberal attacks on public services, welfare programmes and trade unions mean that we are increasingly living in a world deprived of security or solidarity. The consequence of the normalisation of uncertainty is a permanent state of low-level panic. Fear, which attaches to particular objects, is replaced by a more generalised anxiety, a constant twitching, an inability to settle.
The consequence is a strange kind of existential state, in which exhaustion bleeds into insomniac overstimulation (no matter how tired we are, there is still time for one more click) and enjoyment and anxiety co-exist (the urge to check emails, for instance, is both something we must do for work and a libidinal compulsion, a psychoanalytic drive that is never satisfied no matter how many messages we receive). The fact that the smart phone makes cyberspace available practically anywhere at anytime means that boredom (or at least the old style, ‘Fordist’ boredom) has effectively been eliminated from social life. Yet boredom, like death, posed existential challenges that are far more easily deferred in the always-on cyberspatial environment. Ultimately, communicative capitalism does not vanquish boredom so much as it “sublates” it, seeming to destroy it only to preserve it in a new synthesis. The characteristic affective tonality for the insomniac drift of cyberspace, in which there is always one more click to make, one more update to check, combines fascination with boredom. We are bored even as we are fascinated, and the limitless distraction allows us to evade confronting death – even as death is closing in on us.