Decolonizing Time
  • Nichole Marie Shippen
Part of the Critical Political Theory and Radical Practice book series (CPTRP)


Where the original fight for time was to control the time spent in production by limiting the length of the workday, today’s fight for time must address not only the extension of the workday, but also the colonization of free time and leisure. Commonly or uncritically assumed to be time free from employment/ work, with the exception of feminists’ analyses of the sexual, racial, and global divisions of domestic and reproductive labor, and critical theorists’ criticisms of the culture industry, free time and leisure have increasingly become integral parts of the accumulation process through the combined structural and ideological imperatives not only to work, but also to spend and relax under conditions overdetermined by the profit-driven market. In this manner, capitalism has come to dominate the social meaning, value, and organization of time well beyond the realm of production. As a consequence, it is difficult for people to recognize alternative understandings of time as legitimate or possible, which in turn makes alternative organizations of time seem utopian rather than a political goal to be achieved, especially given the general attack against and subsequent political decline of a “labor-left alliance” starting in the 1980s.1


Free Time Labor Movement Radical Politics Culture Industry Democratic Reform 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Adolph Reed Jr., “Nothing Left: The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals,” Harper’s 328 no. 1966 (March 2014): 28.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Raija Julkunen, “A Contribution to the Categories of Social Time and the Economy of Time,” Acta Sociologica 20,no. 1 (1977): 6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 4.
    David Harvey uses “accumulation by dispossession” to refer to the historical continuation of what Marx referred to as “primitive accumulation” in Capital. See David Harvey, “A Conversation with David Harvey,” Logos 5, no. 1 (Winter 2006), /issue_5.1/harvey.htm.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    I borrow both concepts from Robert E. Goodin, James Mahmud Rice, Antti Parpo, and Lina Ericksson, Discretionary Time: A New Measure of Freedom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), but develop them through the Marxist tradition.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 7.
    David Spencer, “The Case for Working Less,” Piera, January 22, 2014, Scholar
  6. 8.
    Peter Frase, “The Politics of Getting a Life,” Jacobin: A Magazine of Culture and Polemic, Issue 6: Praxis (Spring 2012).Google Scholar
  7. Frase’s “The Politics of Getting a Life” is essentially a review essay of Kathi Weeks, The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011) (emphasis mine), -a-life/.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    David Spencer, “Labour Financialisation and the Nature of Contemporary Capitalism,” Pieria, May 14, 2013, porary_capitalism.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Guy Standing, The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class (London: Bloomsbury, 2013).Google Scholar
  10. 15.
    Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Plurality and Equality (New York: Basic, 1983), 185.Google Scholar
  11. 16.
    Claire Snyder-Hall, “Feminism inAction: History, Ideology, Tradition,” in Rational Radicalism and Political Theory: Essays in Honor of Stephen Eric Bronner, ed. Michael J. Thompson (New York: Lexington, 2010), 130.Google Scholar
  12. 17.
    Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. I, trans. Ben Fowkes (New York: Penguin, 1981–1990).Google Scholar
  13. 18.
    Moishe Postone, Time, Labor, and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx’s Critical Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 22.
    See David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1989).Google Scholar
  15. 23.
    See Juliet B. Schor, Plentitude: The Economics of True Wealth (New York: Penguin Press, 2010) for examples of self-provision at the local level.Google Scholar
  16. 24.
    It should be noted that the fight for time is gendered, but not always in the same manner. Women once fought for time on the basis of their domestic and care-giving responsibilities outside of the workplace. See Dorothy Sue Cobble, The Other Women’s Movement: Workplace Justice and Social Rights in Modern America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004).Google Scholar
  17. Second-wave feminists fought to transform the sexual division of labor and the resulting “second shift”—a term coined by Arlie Russell Hochschild, The Second Shift (New York: Penguin, 2003).Google Scholar
  18. 27.
    Martin Jay, Marxism and Totality: The Adventures of a Concept from Lukács to Habermas (Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984), 104: “Lukács linked action and knowledge, contending that the inert immediacy of facts had to be overcome by mediating them through a dynamic understanding of the whole.”Google Scholar
  19. 30.
    André Gorz, Ecologica, trans. Chris Turner (London: Seagull, 2010), 21.Google Scholar
  20. 31.
    André Gorz, Critique of Economic Reason, trans. Gillian Handyside and Chris Turner (New York: Verso, 1989), 219.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Nichole Marie Shippen 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nichole Marie Shippen

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations