Thursday, March 31, 2011

a riff on marx

With the deadline of the big paper fast approaching, I've been publishing some paragraphs here as a motivational tool. This morning my thoughts have turned to the transforming temporality of the eighteenth century. How is the passage of time expressed in late eighteenth century art forms (specifically music)? And, furthermore, how do disciplinary practices and cultural context shape both the expression and perception of time? How is time experienced in the body, and how do the contemporary phenomenological inquiries address this?

Obviously, my present project prevents me from engaging in a complete exegesis on the above questions. However, I came across the following passage from Marx as quoted in Lukacs's Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat and couldn't help but incorporating it into my work.

Through the subordination of man to the machine the situation arises in which men are effaced by their labour; in which the pendulum of the clock has become as accurate a measure of the relative activity of two workers as it is of the speed of two locomotives. Therefore, we should not say that one man’s hour is worth another man’s hour, but rather that one man during an hour is worth just as much as another man during an hour. Time is everything, man is nothing; he is at the most the incarnation of time. Quality no longer matters. Quantity alone decides everything: hour for hour, day for day .... [1]

Reading this passage, I was reminded of a discussion I once had on Foucault's History of Sexuality and the introduction of "factory time" in the eighteenth century. We know that there are all varieties of disciplinary practices and controls on the body introduced in the eighteenth century. However, the control and perception of time itself (by way of work) is a far more pervasive and subtle example than say, Bentham's Panopticon.

Marx's concept of time reeks of disciplinary practices originally formulated in the eighteenth century. Furthermore, this notion of being "effaced" by ones own work represents the genesis of Baudrillard's telecomputer man (because I LOVE The Transparency of Evil). The mechanized temporality introduced via conventions and inventions of the eighteenth century functions not only as a disciplinary practice, but also a means by which the individual worker is dehumanized.

As Marx points out, man is both de-individualized and transfigured. Becoming an interchangeable part in a vast capitalist machine, the work and the worker coalesce in a modern manipulation of temporality and meaning. This hybrid of form and functionality is monstrous; its post-modern manifestation riddled with myriad implications.


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