Of Time, and Free Choice, and Wasting Time

According to Doreen Massey, Neoliberalism Has Hijacked Our Vocabulary. She offers examples like “free choice,” “economic growth,” and “customer liaisons.”

I think she raises a fairly reasonable concern (although having a conversation with someone in a t-shirt labelled “customer liaison” shouldn’t automatically invalidate anything either of you have to say!).

As she argues:

There are loads of other examples of rarely scrutinised terms in our economic vocabulary, for instance that bundle of terms clustered around investment and expenditure – terms that carry with them implicit moral connotations. Investment implies an action, even a sacrifice, undertaken for a better future. It evokes a future positive outcome. Expenditure, on the other hand, seems merely an outgoing, a cost, a burden.

Above all, we need to bring economic vocabulary back into political contention, and to question the very way we think about the economy in the first place. For something new to be imagined, let alone to be born, our current economic “common sense” needs to be challenged root and branch.

Here are a few examples that come to my mind:

“save / manage / waste time”

That’s one way of thinking about time, as a finite resource for expenditure or investment. Another is, according to Dr. Who:

People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly… time-y wimey… stuff.

“pay attention”

Again, this assumes that attention is a finite resource, which it may very well be, but spoken as a command (say, in a classroom setting?) this precludes any interest in letting one’s mind wander.

I’m not saying that an overabundance of time for creativity is always a good thing… (WARNING: links to a video that my students shared with me, which starts funny and weird, but gets real terrifying around 2 minutes and 17 seconds in).

“holiday / vacation pay”

This one makes sense, in the context of countries that NEVER TAKES VACATIONS, and then it stops making sense all of a sudden when you realize that everyone else is at the beach and you are stuck in an office. You’re getting paid, sure, but paid for what?

evaluation forms & surveys

This applies to teaching in many many ways that I don’t even want to get in to, but also applies to consumer relations stuff, like when you get a receipt with a URL at the bottom and the cashier tells you to give the store all 5s on the online survey, or when you buy something on Amazon and the seller sends you a follow up email asking for 5 stars or a 100% rating.

Not everything can always be perfect all the time! This is the problem with Yelp reviews, too. If people HATE something, they will go award a restaurant no stars and a scathing review and may god have mercy on its soul, etc, and if people LOVE something, they will (maybe) go an say so. If something is just fine – it’s a restaurant, they brought you food, you ate it and paid and went on with your life – then that evaluation gets lost in the noise.

Not to mention, all of these evaluations might just be pretty unnecessary ways of adding paperwork to a transaction that didn’t need it. The coffee and doughnut will be gone in about 10 minutes – do I need to spend another 10 telling a marketing survey about the experience?

tumblr_m63iv0EErW1qzpsuoo1_500(Courtesy of tumblr!)

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