[OPE-L:7872] John Holloway on time

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Tue Oct 29 2002 - 20:08:26 EST

thanks to Jerry for the commoner website.

Time to Revolt

Reflections on Empire (1)

John Holloway

(October 2002)

>The negation of doing is the homogenisation of time. To deny 
>social-purposive doing is to subordinate doing to being, to that 
>which is. The doing of today is subordinated to the doing of 
>yesterday, the doing of tomorrow can only be conceived as a 
>continuation of the doing of today. Time then becomes tick-tick 
>time, clock time, like a length of railway track. Tick-tick time 
>measures duration, a being separated from doing, an existence 
>separated from constitution. Capitalism is the separating of objects 
>from their subjects, of things which are from the doing that made 
>them, of existence from constitution. This separating creates 
>duration, the notion that things 'are', independent of the doing 
>which created them. Value, for instance, appears to have an 
>existence independent of the self-divided doing which created it: 
>Marx's Capital (the labour theory of value) is above all an attack 
>on duration, a critique of the separation of existence and 
>constitution, a restoration in thought of the doing denied by 
>One of the great advantages of this homogeneous time, duration-time, 
>is that it can be broken up into periods, into lengths of time. This 
>is crucial to the organisation of work in the factory and in the 
>office and in the schools and universities. Homogeneous time is 
>crucial in the organising of the doing of others for whom doing is 
>purpose-less, object-less labour. But it goes further than that. It 
>permeates our social thought, the way we shape and think about our 
>social relations. Time becomes stodgy, almost solid, something that 
>can be cut into wedges, into periods, into paradigms, a million 
>miles removed from the timeless-time of intense love or engagement. 
>But communism, a world in which we shape our own doing, a world in 
>which doing is emancipated from being, a world in which doing and 
>being, constitution and existence are explicitly reunited, can then 
>be conceived only as a world in which we break the homogeneity of 
>time, a world in which duration is shattered, in which time is not a 
>long railway track or a slice of pizza, but tends towards the 
>intensity of the Jetztzeit (now-time) of Benjamin (1973) or the nunc 
>stans of Bloch (1964), towards the timeless-time of all-absorbing 
>love or engagement.

An interesting comparison here may be with Henri Bergson who 
constrasted homogeneous  time with what he meant by duration, a 
notoriously elusive but key concept for which a flowing melody was 
used as an example of the interpenetration of the only apparently 
spatially separate past, present and future.  John treats homogeneous 
time and duration as synonyms, though I wonder whether he has the 
same distinction as Bergson's in mind?
John's work raises so many questions. I am only now beginning to 
think through his very stimulating work. Of course approaching John's 
comments here through the work of Bergson may not be very 
illuminating. But I was just reminded of him because of John's usage 
of homogeneous time and duration and because I had been reading a 
draft of a chapter on Bergsonian vitalism. So this may well be a 
false lead.
Yours, Rakesh

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