Capitalism will, where possible, quash any activities which are not co-opted into commercial producing or consuming.
What Is Free Time?
Free-time, then, in the true sense of the word where we might imagine lying on the sofa or in the grass daydreaming, or playing eye-spy, must be discouraged. We are neither buying nor selling when we play eye-spy, or watch clouds, or stare into the middle distance. From the perspective of capitalism, any time spent not engaging in market transactions should be minimised.
Making people feel bad about having truly free time has been accomplished by a two-prong attack comprising of:
- the moralising of productivity and busyness
- and the continual expansion of the economy
Generally, I think that this has been admirably well accomplished. Say what you want about Capitalism, but it gets things done.
Hustle culture is the new diet culture, telling us exactly how much to self-hatred and shame to feel based on how many hours of sleep we shoehorned in to the last 24 hour cycle around our portfolio career and personal brand blogging and social media campaigns.
You Are The Product
As the trend of increasingly immaterial forms of capital, jobs, and services has continued, the measuring and policing of worker productivity has transitioned from ‘number of units produced/completed per shift’ to more all-encompassing aspects of their character.
Since it is challenging to assess which worker has the highest productivity in the expanding service and administrative sectors, it is the workers themselves who must readily exhibit the psychological qualities most conducive to generating private profit; enthusiasm, likability, a willingness to ignore structural inequality in favour of a fervent belief in the ‘can-do’ attitude.
By invoking the rhetoric of belonging not to a profiteering corporation but to a family or a team, the workplace is transformed from a place of economic obligation to an ethical one.
Free To Be Yourself
The contemporary trend of having a fun, hip workplace where individuality is celebrated (think Google offices, beanbags etc) is artfully used to obscure the fact that the only individual personality an employee is allowed to express is a happy easy going yet hardworking one.
Our freedom to be grumpy or unimpressed is unlikely to be fostered.
Sorry Family, We Are Restructuring
Gaslighting employees into thinking that their personalities are being welcomed and celebrated also obscures the fact that we have no control over labour practices. The falsehood of this arrangement is most crudely brought to light when the firm has to cut costs and ‘let go’ of employees who are quickly reminded that they are not in fact part of a team or family, but are expendable human technologies mobilised and discarded at the will of the corporation.
No Such Thing As Free Time
So, our free time has been invaded by the invisible hand.
Instead of having free time, we have hobbies which, crucially, require equipment, memberships, uniforms, and travel.
Organised freedom may not be compulsory, but it is certainly preferred. As Adorno (2011) observed, there is an “irony in the expression ‘leisure industry’”.
Tiny housers open up the opportunity to escape the administered nature of modern life. The women I have spoken to talk about free time almost more than anything else. The dangerous type of free time; roaming around outside, chatting with people, looking at stuff.
Speaking to the women who live in tiny houses reminds me again and again of a harrowing question I read three years ago and have been diligently trying to forget ever since:
‘When am I truly myself, that is, not a tool or the product of outside powers and influences, but rather the originator of my acts, thoughts, feelings, values?’ (Gorz, 1986).