Another post of Jodi‘s got me thinking, and empathizing. It’s called “why bother?” and strikes me it can be considered an iteration on the theme of deadtime.
What’s deadtime? The name of a band I was friends with once, for whom I have a tattoo. Also a term in physics, a friend once told me, signifying the time it takes the computer to count, during which the particles passing through the counting … thing … while the computer is counting can’t be counted. A loss.
This was written a while ago, rather frantically to squeeze out some time to think and to breathe while working and planning my wedding, it’s a post at the Work Time blog that Angela set up, thought I’d repaste it here as a reminder to self, among other things once in a while one gets what one wants.
Dead Tired Time
Nate writes, “My job expects 42-58 hours per week. It’s a ‘progressive’ ‘non-profit’ organization, so I’ll be dying for the cause, I suppose. And I was looking over budget stuff today and they may only have money to keep me employed through the end of February or March! So it’s wring as much ‘social change’ from my aching body (and social life) as quickly as possible before the grants run out.
It’s endemic in this kind of work. I want out, bad. It make me think about what Virno talks about, the distinction between labor time and production time. I’m thoroughly sold on Harry Cleaver’s reading of Marx – value a social process, power, not a substance – and yet, there is a difference I think. There’s the work we do for the boss, directly, and then there’s the work we do to maintain our labor power – which my job shortchanges, both due to quantity of time spent working directly for them, and in that I spend my off hours stressed, wound up, complaining to my friends on the other side of the planet.
The inability to sustain one’s labor power leads to burn out, also endemic in the nonprofit industry. My bosses want me to kill myself for their organization, and the arrangement of work means that the quantity of unpaid work time is very high as well (notes for a materialist theory of stress?), and some of this unpaid work time maybe isn’t productive work time for the boss, it’s more like ‘the job fucking up my life’ time, a time that is at least sometimes unproductive for the boss too: if I’m tired because I can’t sleep at night because I’m worrying about a meeting then I don’t work as well the next day, which maybe counts as resistance, but feels more like illness – something I don’t like and that also isn’t functional for the boss, a dead time like the old Situationist slogan, but not just dead for me (like all worktime!) but also dead for the boss, not a time of value production.
I think revisiting absolute and relative surplus value is a really good idea. And I think the stuff on work time etc is very relevant to Negri etc and to the materialist feminist stuff we’ve been talking about reading on aut-op-sy, I’ve been reading Power of Women and Subversion of the Community by James and Dalla Costa, and I definitely get the sense that they differ from Hardt/Negri: the latter sound to me like they’re saying the productivity (for capital) of domestic work is a recent historical phenomenon in capitalism, whereas I think the former are saying this was always part of capital. An important difference I think. “