SR 2021: The Time of Our Lives /w Bryan Palmer
Will time continue to be compressed into capital’s needs, or will it be reimagined as liberation, struggled through and over in ways that enhance the project of human emancipation? Watch video »
For socialists, time and its meaning and organization have always been a central concern, if only because capitalism has placed such a premium on controlling time and subordinating it to its imperatives. At the current conjuncture, time has become the challenge for socialists to address, not only because it defines what does and does not constitute the working day, but because it is increasingly obvious that time and its organization defines life itself. Will time continue to be compressed into capital’s needs, or will it be reimagined as liberation, struggled through and over in ways that enhance the project of human emancipation?
What follows presents an argument about time that: 1) outlines how class struggles over time have been essential to the rise of the workers’ movement; 2) explores the complexity of Marx’s understandings of these conflicts and their tendency to be incorporated into capital’s project, resulting in the intensification of exploitation; 3) locates E.P. Thompson’s writing on time and work discipline within the particular concerns and context of the 1960s New Left, offering a suggestion of how this treatment of time extended orthodox Marxist understandings of primitive accumulation; and 4) closes by discussing how time and its meanings in twenty-first century capitalism demand a rethinking of positions, espoused by Andre Gorz and others in the 1980s, that associated the need for new policies around time with dismissals of the role of the working class in social transformation. Time, always a frontier of class struggle, has been pushed today to the forefront of contentious labour-capital relations.
Bryan D. Palmer is Emeritus Professor of History at Trent University, Ontario, Canada. He is also the author of Revolutionary Teamsters: The Minneapolis Truckers’ Strikes of 1934 and co-author of Toronto’s Poor: A Rebellious History.
Moderated by Sam Salour of marxedproject.org.
Part of the Socialist Register 2021 launch. This is based on Palmer’s essay “The Time of our Lives: Reflections on Work and Capitalist Temporality.” Recorded 9 February 2021.