The theoretical literature on immaterial labour suggests that work in post-industrial economies has become based principally around the creation and manipulation of ideas, symbols, selves, emotions and relationships, inhabiting as a result the full range of human capacities and activities occupying life itself. As such, for those employed in these forms of production, the boundary between time engaged in immaterial labour and time away from paid employment becomes increasingly indistinct, as the activities of work take on the characteristics of those of leisure and of everyday life, and those of leisure and everyday life assume the characteristics of work. Immaterial labour can thus be seen to transcend the formal confines of the working day to invest the whole of life with its value-producing processes. This paper details a research project exploring how work time is structured in the digital industries in the UK, drawing upon a case study a Bristol web enterprise situated in the ‘Silicon Gorge’ high-tech hub incorporating ethnography, interviews, observation and time diaries. The long and non-standard working hours found in the ICT industry are well-documented, with a veneer of fun-loving flexibility sustained upon an undertow of eighty hour weeks, unpaid overtime and the destruction of the boundary between home life and work. This work pattern is deeply integrated with the production of subjectivities. The culture of flexibility that abounds in the creative digital industries harnesses the subjectivities and selves of individual employees to a cycle of ‘project time’ centred around specific tasks and deadlines, completely divorced from recognition of one’s contribution based upon traditional temporal measures. Thus, an ‘objective work schedule’ is replaced by a ‘subjective demand for commitment’. Thus, greater flexibility and variability of the working day actually erodes worker control over their own time, subordinated to the ebb and flow of the project cycle.
Frederick H. Pitts is a PhD student at the University of Bath, UK. His research concerns work and work-time in post-industrial occupations, informed by the Marxian critique of political economy.
Key words: labour, work, time, value, immaterial labour, creative/cultural/digital industries
In my lightning talk I would like to flesh out some central concerns of my PhD project. My research deals with time and temporality in contemporary literary post-apocalyptic fiction. This genre is always intertwined with discourses on time. After all, according to the Christian view – which still founds the western conception of apocalypse, no matter how secular this might have become – apocalypse equals the end of history and of time. The general argument of my thesis is, thus, that the apocalyptic imagination is temporal in its very essence and that conjuring up post-apocalyptic worlds always entails a change in the way time is conceived of. In particular, in my talk I would like to focus on how the novels I analyse often experiment with counter-narratives to the Western paradigms of linear time, history and progress. Cyclical temporalities and plots abound, and so does the phenomenon I term “temporal inversion”, namely representing the post-apocalyptic future as a return to a past state in man’s evolution. These alternative temporalities, critical of the Western classic conceptions of time, are obviously aimed at communicating a sense of apocalyptic change to the readers. However, when coupled with utopian depictions of the post-apocalyptic future, they may also contribute to foster social change. In the last part of my talk I will briefly focus on Jim Crace’s The Pesthouse (2007) as an example of how, by imagining a different temporality than the linear and progressive one, these authors afford a revelatory dimension which touches upon the contemporary world and its issues - from climate change, to excessive technologization, from inequalities to wars.
I graduated in Philosophy (MPhil) from the University of Milan, Italy, in 2010, with a dissertation on contemporary non-mimetic theories of representation. I am now a second-year PhD student in American and Canadian Studies at the University of Nottingham. My research deals with time and temporality in contemporary literary post-apocalyptic fiction. It looks at texts written from the nineties onwards by authors coming from different national backgrounds – American, Canadian, British and French. The general argument of my thesis is that the apocalyptic imagination is essentially temporal and that conjuring up post-apocalyptic worlds always entails a change in the way time is conceived of. I have attended an Erasmus year at the department of Philosophy, Université Paris-Sorbonne, and an intensive programme in Critical Theory at Utrecht University. I have presented papers at BAAS (British Association for American Studies) annual conference and at the American Literature Symposium, University of Cambridge.
Key words: post-apocalyptic literature, temporality, critique of teleology, critique of the ideology of progress
from our workshop on Power, Time and Agency held in Manchester, January 2013