No Future: Recessionary Time
This paper is concerned with forms of critique that have no time, or better said, forms of critique that have run out of time or are dispossessed of time and therefore make demands for time itself. Such demands have been heard across austerity hit Europe, and have been encapsulated in the cry of ‘No Future’. From a sociological point of view, what is of significance regarding these demands is that they seek not different kinds of time but the right to time itself and especially the right to a future. This is of particular importance when we consider that sociologists typically understand critique as thoroughly entangled in the logic of the former, that is, in demands and hopes for different kinds of time. Thus in Boltanski and Chiapello’s The New Spirit of Capitalism the time of critique, change and the new is the time of the singular, the authentic and of difference. The context of demands for access to time or the right to time itself, therefore, demand that sociologists rethink the dynamics of critique, change and the new and in particular directly confront the issue of time in the making. This includes the issue of how futures can – or cannot – be actualized in the contemporary moment. In this paper I aim to contribute to this rethinking and do so by recommending the development of a pragmatic sociology of the future.
Lisa Adkins holds the BHP Billiton Chair of Sociology in the School of Humanities and Social Science. Before coming to the University of Newcastle in 2010 she was Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. She has also held posts at the University of Manchester, the Australian National University, and the University of Kent.
Lisa Adkins' research interests and contributions to sociology fall into three main areas: economic sociology (especially the sociology of post-industrial economies and the new political economy), social and cultural theory, and the sociology of gender. Her contributions to economic sociology have included both empirical and theoretical interventions. A current project considers changing temporalities of labour and value. In the area of social and cultural theory her work includes a wide-ranging critical exploration of the work of Pierre Bourdieu. Finally, in the area of the sociology of gender her interventions have included a broad scale exploration of shifting formations of gender in late modernity.
The BHP Billiton Research framework brings together and extends Professor Adkins’ extensive research and publication record in the areas of economic sociology, social and cultural theory and social science methodology. Details of the BHP Billiton Research Framework “Labouring Futures” can be found @ www.labouringfutures.com
Jane Elliott (King's College London)
'Decision Time: Neoliberalism Personhood, Popular Aesthetics, and the Inexorability of Agency'
In this talk, I examine the challenges that the hegemony of neoliberal forms of governance presents to our understanding of the relations among time, power and agency. While many such theorizations seek means through which agency might be located or enhanced—Judith Butler’s performativity would be one classic example—the work of many contemporary thinkers has made clear that neoliberal governance works through rather than against individual agency; it constantly requires that people make meaningful choices whose outcomes differ significantly, and it assigns sole responsibility for these choices and outcomes to the individual in question. I consider the effects of this transformation by turning to a series of texts that focus on what I term suffering agency, or the experience of agency as a form of anguished entrapment rather than self-enhancing empowerment. These works, which include texts from Dave Eggers’ novel What is the What to the torture-porn Saw franchise, offer visions of neoliberal personhood in which to be an individual making agential choice appears either akin to or literally a form of torture. I offer an account of how these works map suffering agency and the role that time plays in both generating this experience and in imagining potential alternatives.
Dr Jane Elliott's research focuses on three main areas: post-1945 fiction, with a particular emphasis on the intersection between popular forms and political theory; contemporary theory; and the novel during and after postmodernism. She also has interests in contemporary fantasy fiction and film, ethnic American literature, and contemporary American popular culture.
Dr Elliott's current research explores the conjoined aesthetic and political developments that have emerged since the turn of the 21st century and the waning of the postmodern moment. This interest is reflected in the twenty-essay collection she has recently co-edited, entitled Theory after 'Theory' (Routledge 2011); the second editor for the collection is Derek Attridge. The collection draws together a diverse body of thinkers from various disciplines, including Rey Chow, Roberto Esposito, Simon Gikandi, Brian Massumi, Elizabeth Povinelli, Bernard Stiegler and Eugene Thacker, in order to examine the ways in which theory has taken on new forms that challenge some of the fundamental intellectual stances that once defined ‘Theory’. Dr Elliott is currently working on a monograph that explores the intersection of neoliberal microeconomics, popular aesthetics and the Left theorization of agency in a variety of American and British novels and films, from the novel and film Never Let Me Go to the horror franchise Saw to Hurricane Katrina documentaries. Essays from this project have appeared in Novel and the collection Old and New Media after Katrina.
Dr Elliott's first book, Popular Feminist Fiction as American Allegory: Representing National Time was published by Palgrave in 2008, and her work on contemporary literature and theory has also appeared in Cultural Critique, Modern Fiction Studies, and the PMLA. In addition, she serves as the Humanities Editor for The Public Intellectual, an online journal devoted to bringing academic insights to a mainstream audience.
I am developing new ideas for a post-globization ethics – an eco/alter ethics. Using ideas rooted in the work of Emmanuel Levinas, I am developing theory for “receptive affection” in which the world creates possibility to make time and space for what is ‘other’ than the desires satisfied by the social and political economy of market liberalism. The pace of economic productivity and development moves at a speed that has little time or space for the rhythms of the natural body and the time it needs to regenerate. The ‘time out’ to care, heal and repair, when it does not exclude, exploit or marginalize, can then take on a diversity of socio-political expression. Patience is the resistance that can pause and wait (a ‘making of time’) despite the imperatives for speed and efficiency. Generosity is the extension of self to alter-positions – others – in which one ‘makes room’ for what remains in marginalized and excluded spaces, in which receptive affections manifest as the ‘welcome’ and the ‘gift.’ A language that seeks world habitability and respect for what is already ‘rooted’ is what I hope emerges out of these efforts, thinking of this also as a post-Holocaust ethics.
I am an Associate Professor of Philosophy at The College of New Rochelle and Chair of Philosophy and Religious Studies. I have my Ph.D from The New School for Social Research. My work is in Continental Philosophy, particularly in Phenomenology and Ethics. I have written on Levinas, Heidegger, and Arendt. My teaching expertise is in feminist theory, environmental ethics and I use critical pedagogy in my Philosophy of Education curriculum. I am beginning to develop and research in disability theory.
Marli Huijer (Erasmus University)
Today, power over time is primarily conceptualised as an individual task. Rather than being submitted to collective or institutional disciplinary forces, which impose time regimes that maximally exploit the human body, contemporary individuals aim to discipline themselves, thus imposing self-chosen time regimes on their working and life styles. However, the more free the institutional time orderings are, the more difficult it is to discipline oneself. Today self-discipline seems to become a burden, which ultimately deprives the individual of his/her power over time.
Marli Huijer has a Civis Mundi Chair in Philosophy of Culture, Politics and Religion in the Faculty of Philosophy of the Erasmus University. Huijer studied Medicine and Philosophy (University of Amsterdam). She obtained a doctorate in Philosophy of Medicine in 1996, with a dissertation on AIDS and Michel Foucault’s aesthetics of existence. Huijer was employed as senior researcher in Practical Philosophy at Groningen University, visiting academic at the London School of Economics and Political Science (UK) and from 2002 till 2005 she was extraordinary professor in Gender and Biomedical Sciences at Maastricht University (Center for Gender and Diversity).
Her research focuses on rhythm, culture and religion; time (how social and technological developments transform our experience and dealings with time); philosophy of science and technology; gender and biomedical sciences.
Paul Reynolds (Edge Hill University)
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.
Emily Grabham (University of Kent)
A Likely Story: HIV and the Definition of Disability in UK Employment Equality Law, 1996-2005
Cancer is first of all a disease of the body’s geography, in contrast to syphilis and AIDS, whose definition depends on constructing a temporal sequence of stages. (Sontag, 1988: 110) This paper engages the question of how to understand legal temporalities. In particular, it asks what fresh methodological approaches we can use to animate socio-legal studies on time. Drawing on approaches from material culture, legal anthropology, and actor network theory, my current work analyzes what ‘things’ do within equality law networks; how objects create legal time. One example of this is how anti-retroviral drugs, biological phenomena, and medical reports, contributed to the legal construction of ‘HIV futures’ in disability discrimination law in the 1990s. Many HIV positive workers in the UK during the 1990s faced employment harassment and dismissal. HIV/AIDs was widely represented, in racialised and homophobic terms, through tropes of moral decline and impeding apocalypse (Sontag, 1988), a socio-temporal phenomenon that we would now analyze for its ‘chrono-normative’ (Freeman) or ‘chrono-biological (Luciano) effects. Despite many of their problems being to do with stigma, the only legal route for positive people was to claim disability discrimination. This required proving, on a case-by-case basis, that HIV was a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 through ‘likelihood of future impairment’. Legal status was thereby intimately linked to a person’s future through medical prognosis and discussions about their T-cell count and viral load. Importantly, even though developments in anti-retroviral therapies had led to a rapid shift in how positive people viewed their own futures (from ‘near death’ in the 1980s to ‘chronic and treatable condition’ by the late 1990s), claimants had to eschew these brighter futures to gain legal rights. Drawing on interviews, case reports, and interdisciplinary research, this paper attempts to analyze the role of objects such as anti-retrovirals, medical reports, and T-cell counts on the construction of legal futures for HIV positive claimants at this key juncture in recent legal history, asking what objects add (and do not add) to our understanding of law and time.
Emily Grabham is a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Kent. She is currently writing a book on how concepts of time influence equality laws ('In Law's Time: Legal Temporalities in Equality Projects', under contract with University of Toronto Press). Her recent article 'Doing Things with Time: Flexibility, Adaptability, and Elasticity in UK Equality Cases' won the Canadian Law & Society Association 2011 English Article Prize. She has published widely on law and time, sociological theories of time, and feminist and queer legal theory. She is the holder of a 2012 ESRC Future Research Leaders award for a 3 year project studying gaps in equality and employment law affecting precarious workers with care commitments.
Exploring Interspecies Temporality (with Tarsh Bates)
In the context of the global honeybee crisis, there is perception that we are running out of time. The race is on to save the bees and ourselves. Albert Einstein is rumoured to have claimed that “if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man [sic] would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more man [sic].” This presentation describes an artistic research project by Tarsh Bates and Sue Hauri-Downing that explores ideas of multispecies agency in the space/time entanglements between humans and the European honey bee Apis mellifera. This ongoing project traverses the globe, investigating historical and material bee/human naturecultures in Australia and Switzerland, combining sculpture, performance, evolutionary biology and ethnography to understand interspecies agency, ecology and place. The 'busy bee' has long been considered by humans to be a metaphor of industry and efficiency. Strangely however humans in contemporary technologically rich societies seem to be increasingly time poor. Industrialization does not seem to have made us more efficient. In fact this project has shown that having to engage, research and perform at the pace of the 'busy bee' forces us to slow down; to shift into bee time. This paper explores the challenges and complications of our attempts to shift into bee time, to understand (and fail to understand) the material affects of interspecies space/time.
Susan Hauri-Downing is an Australian artist living in Switzerland. She is interested in Biocultural diversity, Biopolitics, Solastalgia and the Intricacy of interspecies relationships. Her work includes explorations of the personal and cultural implications of the global cultivation of native and foreign plant species, including aesthetics; ties to ‘home’; food security; traditional food availability; materials for artifacts; and medicines.
Frida Buhre (Uppsala University)
Borders and Change: The Temporalities of an Emerging Critical Rhetorical Theory
Claiming powerful conceptions of time is often used to legitimize the growth of an academic discipline. This study analyzes the temporal argumentation put forth in academic journals concerning the growth of critical rhetorical theory in the USA from the 1970s through the 1980s. What time did the scholarly agents presume or argue in favor of when they tried to legitimize rhetoric’s values in relation to other knowledge regimes in academia? The study shows that the various agents assumed a conception of rhetoric that was not only limited with regards to gender, class, race, and to Western liberal democracies, but that it also excluded non-progressive temporalities. The scholars at the time argued that the role of rhetoric was to study how people became good citizens, active in creating a morally sound community in search of either the ideal future or the eternal present that would enable social change. This study shows how the first, the teleological and normative temporality of rhetoric, along with the second, the eternal present temporality, both became tied to values of unity and knowledge borders in the name of change. The study shows that any temporality can become the function or underpinning logic of exclusion of alternative knowledge production when used to gain power. It invites further studies of knowledge producers’ conceptualization of time in order to find less exclusive alternatives.
Frida Buhre is a doctoral fellow in rhetoric at the department of Literature, Uppsala University, Sweden. Her research interests include, but are not limited to: critical rhetorical theory; feminist theory intersecting with postcolonial theory; rhetorical enactments of space and time; nomadism and borders; and knowledge production.
Progress’ Time: The Individualization of the Future in Southeast Angola
Until recently, southeast Angola was known as “the lands at the end of the world.” In the last four years, however, the region started to be under the government’s spotlight, and now bears the slogan “the lands of progress.” The implementation of new public infrastructures is essential in the shifting of representations. Accordingly, since the end of the civil war, in 2002, infrastructures of communication and transportation have become the visible side of the national effort to (re)construct and unify the nation around a common ideal: “One People, One Nation.” Drawing on anthropological fieldwork done in the last two years, I intend to approach the effects of the agency generated by the interaction between the new asphalt road EN140 and the residents of a village in southeast Angola. Against the political imagination promoted since the country’s independence, such an interaction agency reconfigured and introduced a new language of time in the region; from a socially repressed past, a present of crisis, to privatized versions of liberated futures found on restless quest for self-fulfilment. As I intend to demonstrate, the perpetual deferrals of social progress promised by the government have led to the emancipatory privatization of the future. This new emancipatory individual politics of time contradicts not only the demagogic propaganda by the government around the ideal of national commonness but also the scientific sustainability discourse that started populating the country, and which relies on a homogeneous conception of time to legitimize itself: “Our Common Future.” Southeast Angola shows how the individuation of the future has become one of the most conspicuous unintended causalities of our increasing networked world.
I hold a PhD in Social Anthropology from the Martin Luther University, Germany. I’m currently a lecturer and researcher in the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, at the University of Hamburg. My main research and theoretical interests are (key words) political ecology, progress, Africa, (de)commodification, and tourism.
Time-Horizon and Agency
I argue that our subjective sense of remaining time is vital to our agency. The argument, in outline, is this:
(1) A diminishing time-horizon diminishes one’s capacity to self-reauthor.
(2) The capacity to self-reauthor is constitutive of agency par excellence.
(C) Therefore, a diminishing time-horizon attenuates agency.
(1) says that the sense that we are running out of time saps our ability to deliberately change our characters. (2) says that this ability is essential for being creatures maximally in control of what we do. (2) is intuitively obvious: since your actions are partly determined by your character, the more control you have over your character, the more control you have over your actions. The argument for (1) has two stages. First, I argue on conceptual grounds that self-reauthoring requires, at a minimum, the capacities (a) for negative self-evaluation and (b) for long-term planning. Second, I adduce empirical evidence (from Socioemotional Selectivity Theory) that these are precisely the capacities that get eroded with time. If these arguments work, (C) follows deductively: our agency wanes with the waning time-horizon. Thus, if we ignore the integrity of the time-horizon to agency, we will miss both a vital feature of agency and the central tragedy of running out of time.
I obtained my PhD in Philosophy from Cambridge in 2007. Since then, I have held three Philosophy postdocs - in South Africa, Mexico, and currently at Vienna University. Although my areas of specialization are epistemology and metaethics, I have recently become really interested in the philosophy of old age. (A forthcoming publication in the area: ‘Age and Agency’, Ageing and the Elderly, special issue of Philosophical Papers).
from our workshop on Power, Time and Agency held in Manchester, January 2013