The Politics of Time

The Politics of Time

Gaining Control in the Age of Uncertainty


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How does a person organize a good life? The ancient Greeks divided time into five types: labour, work, leisure, play and aergia (contemplation). But labour was separated from work, as painful, onerous work undertaken for survival, whereas work could include caring for family members, study, or political activities. But now our jobs are supposed to provide all meaning in life and our time outside of work is thought of as simply 'time off'.

Time has been political throughout history. In the Industrial Era employers sought to define labour as virtuous, and in our current era of runaway neoliberalism, salaried workers find their mental health plummeting, public services are stretched to breaking point and inequality is soaring, while the time of those in insecure employment is being stolen from them in increasingly byzantine and humiliating ways.

We must recognize that time is political, a resource more precious than money, that must be defended at all costs, and revive ancient forms of tending ourselves, the planet and each other, through commoning. We can retake control of our time, but we must do it together.

©2023 Guy Standing (P)2023 Penguin Audio

About the author

Guy Standing

Guy Standing has held professorships at Bath, London and Monash universities, was a programme director in the UN's International Labour Organization and has advised many international bodies and governments on social and economic policies. He co-founded the Basic Income Earth Network and is now its co-president. He is author of the bestselling The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class (2011), Basic Income: And How We Can Make It Happen (2017) and Plunder of the Commons: A Manifesto for Sharing Public Wealth (2019).
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