If today’s society people generally enjoy the sense of poverty in time, then where does the sense of acceleration of time come from? Fast-paced, long-term work conditions make people uneasy, anxious, and insomnia, while shopping, consumption as a relief, embracing materialism, it is difficult to promote happiness. Today, the proportion of depression and anxiety in our disease is much higher than 40 years ago. This is not without reason. In the words of Lu Xun, “Time is life.” The price of speed is time, and losing time because of the pursuit of speed is almost a problem for everyone. This is almost an unbearable light. We are not only facing an increase in working hours, but also the time constraints of the era of digital capitalism.
Has technology brought acceleration?
Today’s people are always surrounded by things that are changing with each passing day, so that people have slowly forgotten that today’s high-speed world is actually a very late product. – Mark Taylor
Milan Kundera wrote in his novel “Slow” that “speed is a form of madness, a gift from the technological revolution.” At the beginning of the 20th century, the aesthetics of the speed of futurists were arrogant. Revolutionary feelings: “We must cooperate with the machine to destroy the songs of distance and loneliness, the exquisite homesickness, and replace it with the ubiquitous speed.” However, when we truly embrace the “absolute speed” rule, not just work, the whole life and experience world experience the pain of losing control.
In 1991, the essay of the French philosopher Paul Villior’s essay “The Aesthetics of Disappearance” pointed out how technological progress has fatally wiped out time and space, and has also transformed our perception, consciousness, aesthetics and ethics. Mark Taylor’s “Which speed is faster, less time”, from today’s big data era, the hodgepodge generally deals with “toxic speed” in various fields such as religion, philosophy, art, technology, fashion and finance. Back to the beginning of Western modernity, our worship of speed is a modern invention, which has two side effects: one is the disappearance of long-term planning, and the other is the collapse of long-term memory.
How is the sense of acceleration today caused? The most obvious answer seems to be technology, and behind the technology is the economic and social orientation. Today’s technology is inseparable from the new form of capitalism, the promotion of financial capitalism. Today’s technology acceleration is obviously much more complicated than the end of the last century, and even difficult to understand. As Taylor said, information, communication and networking technologies are creating a new world, and this new world has transformed human life into its own appearance.
For example, the virtual economy compared to the rise of the traditional real economy, the monopoly of information and data on the big platforms such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, and the rapid electronic trading speed in the financial market have changed the pace of today’s work. Engineers are constantly writing algorithms to adapt to the rapidly changing investment environment, we are in and involved, but understanding the speed of today’s financial markets has become quite difficult or even impossible. In the virtual economy, the gap between the rich and the poor is actually the speed gap. In the fast-paced economy of digital capitalism, the “winners” and “losers” share only the uneasiness, anxiety and dissatisfaction created by speed.
Conversely, this can also help us understand why the technology is so developed that many people are worried that the current work time will be reduced by the majority of people. Young scholar Wang Xingkun’s article “The Ideology of Work and the Future of Post-Work” points to the fact that from the end of the 19th century to the 1980s, labor time did show a downward trend. Since the rule of capitalist neoliberalism was established in the 1980s, the power of the labor side has been weakened. Automation technology has solved some of the low-end work, and jobs belonging to the middle class are shrinking. Through the intermediary of platform digital technology, the workforce has become more flexible and forced to adapt to the various needs of the market; at the same time, it has become more and more diligent to make ends meet. All workers are invested in the huge fast-moving production machine of capitalism. All the workers are uneasy, and they don’t only have to work for their livelihood, but also have physical and mental health. It is the opposite relationship between capital and labor, which has caused the unrelenting increase in labor time. As Marx said, capitalist production undermines the source of all wealth—workers and land (think of ecological crisis).
Busy culture’s “time-critical paradox”
In the past, the color of the day became slower/car, horse, and mail were slow/only enough to love someone in a lifetime. – Wood heart
The unhurried mindset has become a personal literacy that needs to be cultivated under the “busy culture” of today. For example, at work, we must try to restrain ourselves from the desire to play mobile phones; when we are on vacation, we must entangle ourselves whether we should deal with the call of work information quickly, often suffering from loss and disappointment. However, is time urgency really caused by technological advances (especially information and communication technologies)? Do everyone feel the urgency of the same level?
In “Time urgency,” Wackerman pointed out that we are faced with a “time pressure paradox.” In fact, since the Second World War, the leisure time of Western countries has increased, but people still feel that time is tight, and even unprecedented urgency. Time urgency is a multi-dimensional phenomenon. Different groups, such as men and women, farmers and urban people, elites and the public, have a significant sense of time at work.
However, Wang Xingkun believes that Wackerman did not notice the opposite relationship between capital and labor, which is the key reason for the increase in labor time. This is a huge blind spot. Today, our time is experiencing tears in distribution, allotted between (“my”) free time and working hours (which are dominated by the boss) 24 hours a day, while the latter continue to invade the former. EP Thompson’s classic study, Time, Work Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism, raises a key point about time allocation. In the agricultural society, there is no distinction between “life” and “work”. The peasants have to live and work, and they have no time to rest. It is not necessary to time to complete the task. As long as the land is not ridiculous, the particles will not be collected. In industrial society and post-industrial society, it is considered shameful to kill time.
Wackerman pointed out that the sense of time urgency is more caused by the modern “busy culture.” The successful people that “busy culture” admire are always busy. “Today’s standard for measuring social status is not the conspicuous consumption of leisure, but the degree of investment in time-intensive industries.” Accompanying it is the polarization of work. We have a good MacJob (high-tech, high-paying work represented by Apple) and a bad MacJob (low-skilled, low-income work represented by McDonald’s). Platform capitalism represented by Uber has reinforced the proliferation of such bad work.
When we try to explain the connection between technology and time urgency, we are often either trapped in technical optimism or pessimistic. Both are essentially technical determinism, that is, technology necessarily brings certain social results. . However, Wackerman emphasizes the social shaping theory of technology. In other words, technical equipment does not directly determine our sense of time, but is influenced by factors such as social systems and daily cultural life.
Obviously, email and mobile phone information are not the culprit that makes us feel the urgency of time. We can choose to reply to the email at a specific time, and the mobile phone allows us to establish closer interaction with friends and relatives and more flexible time. The reason why work encroachment on private time is determined by the social system; and the sense of time and urgency in life and work is determined by labor politics under digital capitalism.