How might we construct a reinvigorated materialist analytics of human time that pushes beyond Marxist approaches? Here, I suggest that anthropology contains rich resources with which to achieve this aim. In particular, it can help us understand the qualities of secular and capitalist ‘modern’ time. An emphasis on time-tricking is especially useful in revealing the technologies of imagination, the ethics and the inequalities of such a temporal orientation. This concept brings into view the materialist ethic, ludic and aesthetic practices, and misrecognitions characteristic of current forms of ‘modern’ time. In addition, ethnographies of time-tricking provide the foundations for a reworking of Marx’s model of free and disposable time by focusing on informalized, social reproductive, excessive and domestic labour. A re-centring of our theories on these significant activities within capitalism is long overdue.
Laura Bear is Professor in the Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics. Her most recent publications include Navigating Austerity: Currents of Debt Along a South Asian River (Stanford, 2015) and, with Ritu Birla and Stine Puri, ‘Speculation: Futures and Capitalism in India’, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (2015).
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