Nadav Spiegelman

Saving Time

Author
Jenny Odell
My last highlight
2023-06-27
Number of highlights
28

My Highlights

I think the reason most people see time as money is not that they want to, but that they have to. This modern view of time can’t be extricated from the wage relationship, the necessity of selling your time, which, as common and unquestionable as it seems now, is as historically specific as any other method of valuing work and existence. The wage relationship, in turn, reflects those same patterns of empowerment and disempowerment that touch everything else in our lives: Who buys whose time? Whose time is worth how much? Whose schedule is expected to conform to whose, and whose time is considered disposable
On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane, Emily Guendelsberger
WHEN LOOKING AT the history of how productivity has been measured, it is always illuminating to ask: Who is timing whom? The answer to this question often identifies a person who has purchased someone else’s time or owns it outright—and who, in either case, wants to make the most of
While the systematic management of other people’s time is often associated with Taylorism, the roots of modern management can readily be found on West Indian and southern U.S. plantations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management, Caitlin Rosenthal surveys the bookkeeping practices of these plantations and finds an uncomfortable analogy with more contemporary business strategies: “Though modern practices are rarely compared to slaveholders’ calculations, many planters in the American South and the West Indies shared our obsession with data. They sought to determine how much labor their slaves could perform in a given amount of time, and they pushed them to achieve that maximum.” Plantation owners were some of the earliest users of what we would now call spreadsheets, producing preprinted work logs and conducting labor-timing experiments similar to the ones Taylor would become famous for many decades later.
the goal of capitalism is not free time but economic growth; any time freed up goes right back into the machine to increase profits
Seasons give us one example of a context in which trying to separate time and space would be functionally meaningless. Whereas, as Giordano Nanni notes, the abstracting of time made it possible for Europeans to “carry the four seasons with them, superimposing them on local seasons wherever they went around the globe,” most places did not (and do not) have four seasons
In Barbara Ehrenreich’s Natural Causes, a book I will return to in more detail in the final chapter, she articulates an understanding of agency that is atypical of the Western mindset and closer to Kimmerer’s. Drawing on her doctoral studies in cellular biology, she describes cellular decision-making, positing that “second by second, both the individual cell and the conglomeration of cells we call a ‘human’ are doing the same thing: processing data and making decisions.” Ehrenreich sees this on an even smaller scale as well, quoting the physicist Freeman Dyson: “There is a certain kind of freedom that atoms have to jump around, and they seem to choose entirely on their own without any input from the outside, so in a certain sense atoms have free will.” For Ehrenreich—who would, I suspect, agree with Kimmerer about the rocks and the moss—agency simply means “the ability to initiate an action
One word that comes up frequently in Tinker’s treatise on rocks is respect. For example, discussing the reductionist view of the mind as “the physical processes of the brain,” he complains of the presumption “that a highly developed neocortical brain is somehow the ultimate achievement in terms of consciousness.”[*8] In contrast, Tinker observes that “the lack of a
To experience something is to be present for it, to be the responsive co-creator of something that is happening—like the ducks and geese who make migration happen by sensing the weather and deciding when to leave. Mel Baggs, the late blogger on autism and disability, demonstrated their own form of experience in a generous and moving video called “In My Language
Although some frontierspeople learned from indigenous tribes and continued burning, the budding U.S. Forest Service was promoting a program of fire suppression by the early twentieth century. They saw forests as the nation’s storage shed for wood during a time of exploding economic growth
One man who has been in L.A. since 1916 tells McPhee, “The people who buy the houses don’t know that sooner or later stuff is going to come down through here like shit through a tin horn
In Overheated: How Capitalism Broke the Planet—and How We Fight Back, Kate Aronoff
It was BP that popularized the notion of an individual carbon footprint, for example, by releasing a carbon footprint calculator in 2004. This was one of several ways energy companies would imply that the responsibility for solving climate change lay with the consumer
In 2019, Thom Davies wrote a study of a place in Louisiana informally named Cancer Alley. He interviewed residents of Freetown, once part of the Landry-Pedescleaux Sugar Plantation, founded as a settlement by formerly enslaved people during Reconstruction and now overrun by the petrochemical industry. While Davies was writing, the Bayou Bridge crude oil pipeline had yet to be completed, a process that saw sixteen protestors and one journalist arrested and charged with felonies. But things were already so bad that a resident told Davies the air some days was “so full with gas you can hardly breathe.” For Davies, what happens in Cancer Alley illustrates the concept of slow violence, a term coined by Rob Nixon, of the High Meadows Environmental Institute, for harms that remain below the level of public perception because they’re too gradual and lack a spectacle. But Davies makes one important clarification: “Instead of accepting Nixon’s oft-cited definition of slow violence as ‘out of sight,’ we have to instead ask the question: ‘out of sight to whom?’ ” A spectacle means something different for those who view it on the news for a week than it does for the people who live in it
HOW DO WE make a home for desire? This is a formidable question for anyone living in the kind of bootstrapper society that casts their dissatisfaction as little more than a private shame, and where what you want and the way things are can seem completely unrelated. Cynicism and nihilism will make you dry up, like soil compacted by neglect and abuse. But soil holds the memory of life, and with some water and a garden fork, you might be able to bring it back. It helps to remember that you’re not alone. Look around. Is it really true that everyone sees time as money? Or is it true that everyone spends
It was in Bluedorn’s book The Human Organization of Time that I learned the German word zeitgeber, something that organizes and patterns your time. If you recall from chapter 2, one zeitgeber can conflict with and overpower another
As I describe in chapter 2, time management often sees units of time in individual time banks: I have mine, and you have yours. In this world, when I give some of my time to you, I have less. Our interactions can be nothing other than transactional. If that is not true—if you and I exist in a field of mutual influence where time is neither fungible nor commodified—then what could “time management” mean
In “Plotting the Black Commons,” J. T. Roane uses the term plotting to refer to (1) the plots of land on nineteenth century American plantations that enslaved people were given to grow their own food and create medicines; (2) the burial plots where West African funerary customs were drawn upon and molded to a new context; and (3) the wider context of the river and “interstices” that allowed foraging, hiding, and covert communication. In all cases, enslaved people “used the plot as stolen time to engage in their own independent visions of self, family, and community.” Plotters found a way to speak a forbidden language, like the Lakota dancing on the Fourth of July: “By hiding in plain sight and developing social-geographic grammars unintelligible even as outsiders watched, the enslaved rendered Black holes in the landscapes of ostensible total control, mastery, and surveillance, providing the very basis of the Black commons.
One helpful illustration of this comes at the end of The Colonisation of Time. Nanni writes that, in 1977, a local town council erected a giant electrically operated clock in the middle of a remote Australian town. The town’s inhabitants were mostly Pitjantjatjara and had no need for clock time. Thus the tower went unheeded: “Ironically, a white community worker pointed out a decade later that the clock was simply ‘a waste of time.’ ‘The fact is,’ the same person explained, ‘that nobody looks at [it]. The clock has not been working for months. No one knew that it was not working.’
One worker, toiling at a video desk terminal (a frequent target of PW), wrote: One day, at seven a.m. (much too early for the bosses to be there) I begin my shift and find a copy of Processed World that someone has left on my desk. Feeling dramatic and trying to be nonchalant, I slip it into my drawer, to later joyously suck in each page. In this partitioned, soundproof, PCB lined office jungle, truly the worst fate is to believe in your boss’s dream, to strive for the company good. Thank you Processed World, for letting me know there are others who despise the purposes to which they are employed
the work becomes more fragmented, and there is less guarantee of a shared physical space or time where conversation and solidarity might grow
Nicole, an IAATW member who helped coordinate the Uber protests, described this new map of resistance: “A worker in California is intimately connected to the Uber driver in Kenya, to the driver in India or Malaysia….We all are suffering for a San Francisco billionaire’s $40 million home
Legally, traditional union organizing is bordered by space in ways that multinational companies are not. One Kenyan worker with GigOnline, when asked about the possibility of unionization, is clear-eyed on the matter: “They’ll just take the job somewhere else if the unionised labour of freelancers in Nairobi don’t want to do the work at a certain dollar amount….They’ll take it to Nigeria, they’ll take it to Gabon, they’ll take it to [the] Philippines. They’ll take it to all kind of countries….The unions will not have enough power, because I’ve seen what globalisation can do.
In Against Creativity, Mould observes that jobs of all sorts now encourage their employees to be “creative,” which often translates to competitive flexibility, self-management, and individual assumption of risk. Meanwhile, even nominally anti-capitalist creative work, whether art, music, or slogans, is handily appropriated by the market. Mould writes that, in either case, creativity is not actually creative, because it merely “produces more of the same form of society.” If it makes progress, it is the progress of capitalist logic into ever-more-minute corners of our daily lives, making what Braverman calls “the universal market” even more universal
In If Women Counted, Waring recommends a change in imputation: altering official criteria to more accurately reflect what should be considered productive activity. The Wages for Housework movement, founded in the 1970s, represents a more expressly anti-capitalist body of thought based on similar observations.[*9] The phrase “wages for housework” was first put forth by Selma James, who also coined the now-common term unwaged labor to refer to the housework, care work, and child-rearing that women were expected to do for free. She and others in the movement campaigned with mothers who were on income support in the United Kingdom and the National Welfare Rights Organization in the United States (led largely by Black mothers), which had a similar demand for a Guaranteed Adequate Income (GAI) and a recognition that “women’s work is real work.”
Terre Nash’s 1995 documentary on Waring’s career shows her piecing together the relationship of personal, state, and international economics. She travels to countries in the Global South, talking to rural women about their unending work, producing visual time studies, and finding that things like inexpensive water pumps and new stoves would actually be the most “productive” interventions. Waring also visits the public accounts committees, treasury boards, and budget appropriation committees of other countries, gathering more information. Having thought that the “enormous paradoxes and pathologies” she’s discovered in her own committee might be specific to New Zealand, Waring begins to realize that “it’s nothing to do with New Zealand. These are the rules everywhere.”
In The Problem with Work, Weeks uses this kind of energy to lay out a demand for a universal basic income and a shortened workweek with no loss of pay.[*10] Having spent the majority of her book probing the centrality and unquestioned goodness of work in modern life, Weeks sees something like universal basic income as operating on both a pragmatic and a moral-idealistic plane at the same
It was as serious as many jokes are, which is to say about half. Saying it meant that you could take time and give time, but also