Time and Agency: A Critical Reflection on Marxist Temporalities
Marxists have an ironically contradictory approach to time and the scope of agency in time. Time is the essence of value and the primary expression of what is exploited in the commodified system of production - “As values, all commodities are only definite masses of congealed labour-time.” (Marx 1998 Capital p60). It follows that the re-appropriation of time, the re-evaluation of how time relates to value and the transformation from the quantitative measure of exchange value to measures of value in quality and are central to Marxist critique. Yet critical attempts to subvert chronormativity within post-structural influenced critical temporalities appear to query this radical project in two senses. First it engages time outside of some measure and concept of time outside of subjective experience – as a material condition and variable. Second, it queries the relationship between categories of time, labour, quality, utility, quantity and exchange, and so diminishes the Marxist diagnoses of exploitation and alienation in contemporary capitalism. This double bind in relation to theorising time – in diagnosis and emancipation project, sets an agenda for Marxist engagements with the idea of critical temporalities, and there are fruitful sources from which to engage. Drawing from Marx and critics such as Lukacs, Thompson, Marcuse, Meszaros, Jameson and more recently Negri and Postone, this paper will emphasise the dialectical tensions between chromonormativity and critical temporalities, and argues for a critical temporality that recognised the constitution of time as conjunctural, contextual and phenomenological, yet allows for a materialist basis for time from which a Marxist radical critique can critique both subjective and objectivist notions of time.
Paul taught at Universities in Hull, York and Leeds in areas as varied as political economy, political sociology, public administration, politics and social sciences before taking up a lectureship at Edge Hill in 1992. His current teaching and research reflects his main trans-disciplinary interest in the intersection of ethics and politics with identity and difference, with particular reference to sexuality. Paul leads teaching in the 2nd and 3rd year modules on sexuality and on Marx and Marxism in the Sociology Programme, and leads the 1st year module on social and cultural theory and thinking for sociology, early childhood and childhood and youth programmes, as well as leading the professional practice module in the 3rd year of the childhood programmes. His current writing interests include sexual ethics and politics, focused on the relationship between sexual consent, sexual literacy and sexual well-being, and the problems of sexual law and citizenship, although he also writes on radical intellectuals and the ethics and politics of political radicalism.
from our workshop on Power, Time and Agency held in Manchester, January 2013