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
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.
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
from our workshop on Power, Time and Agency held in Manchester, January 2013