“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Time- in qualudes and red wine

Time is waiting in the wings

While it may seem that the history of the happiness culture and the history of policing are on two entirely different trajectories, they really aren’t. When the bond between the governors and the governed becomes that of a project of collective happiness – even and especially in the form of a government that permits the pursuit of individual happiness – then Nemesis, the gaze in which the happiness of some is exactly the cause of the unhappiness of others, is going to be at its crack work. That is, even as the edifice of collective happiness is built, the cracks in the edifice give rise to surveillance and order. And this order is embodied in the policeman. The eighteenth century brought about both the outlines of the modern paradigm of happiness and the project of substituting a government hired and supported police force for the old order of private justice, an old order that made do with private thief catchers, private ransoms for goods stolen, and enforcement of norms by ad hoc crowds, charivaris and the like.

Jessica Warner uses Fielding’s ‘Enquiry into the Late Increase of Robbers’ as a sort of boundary marker that indicates the end of the almost fifty year long moral panic about gin. Much of Fielding’s language – about the dangers of idleness and drunkenness among what he calls the lower sort – has by this time achieved a canonical status in the battle between the reformers and a political establishment that was quite comfortable with using the tax revenues from gin to fight its battles. As Fielding complains that gin is debauching the child in its mother’s womb, making him unfit for soldiering latter on, the soldiers were literally being paid out of the proceeds from taxing gin.

The question of idleness is still a hot one in the history of the industry revolution. The old Marxist claim was that the industrial revolution sucked the time, and thus the life, out of the worker. In the 60s, the group around E.P. Thompson claimed that the increase in working time through the eighteenth century was to be judged in terms of the intesification of labor A 1998 paper by Hans Joachim Voth, Time and Work in 18th century London, surveys the standard positions, the most interesting one being as follows:

“The importance of holy days in England before and during the Industrial Revolution has been a matter of discussion for some time. Herman Freudenberger and Gaylord Cummins added another aspect to the issue of labor intensification when they argued that the observance of holy days was sharply reduced during the eighteenth century.5 The basis of their contention is a list of holy days contained in a handbook published by J. Millan in 1749.6 He gives 46 fixed days on which work at the Exchequer and other government offices ceased. Later, during the second half of the century, the observance of these holy days is said to have vanished slowly. Consequently, Freudenberger and Cummins argue, annual labor input possibly in- creased from less than 3,000 to more than 4,000 hours per adult male between 1750 and 1 800.”

Others have expressed their doubt about all this:

“N.F.R. Crafts, commenting on the substantial body of literature that suggests an increase in the number of working hours per year observed that "[m]easurement of this supposition has never been adequately accomplished.'"'11 Joel Mokyr concurs: 12 "We simply do not know with any precision how many hours were worked in Britain before the Industrial Revolution, in either agricultural or non-agricultural occupations."

Voth, however, thinks he has found a clever way to accomplish this measurement, at least in London. He took 7,650 cases found in the "Proceedings of the Sessions of the Peace, and Oyer and Terminer for the City of London and County of Middlesex" and analyzed the testimonies of witnesses about their time use.

“Crimes are committed on all days of the week, during all seasons of the year. All hours of the day are present in the sample. We can thus replicate a method for measuring time-use that modem-day sociologists favor: random-hour recall."9 In modem surveys, individuals participating in the study are asked to provide a thorough description of their activities for a randomly chosen hour of an earlier day. Very much the same occurs in front of a court when witnesses are asked to testify. Witnesses very often not only mention their occupation and sex (and, in a substantially lower number of cases, age and address), but also report what they were doing at the time of the crime, at the time when they last saw the victim, or when they observed the perpetrator trying to escape.”

From his sample, Voth has concluded that, as Freudenberger and Cummins claim, there was a crash of holidays and offdays in the last fifty years of the 18th century. In particular, Monday, which was a day often taken off by working men, gradually became a regular work day. Plus, of course, the holiday schedule was radically shortened. Voth concludes that the working year rose from approximately 2,763 hours in 1760 to 3,501 in 1800. Voth believes this solves a puzzle: how is it that wages fell during this time, but consumption rose? In fact, as in our own time, the rise in consumption and lifestyle was coupled with the rise in working hours. In the U.S., it is estimated that the average median household puts in 350 more hours per year now than it did in 1970. Hours haven’t risen for the male worker, but the female in the household is now much more likely to work – hence the rise. And the further rise in consumption even as wages for the male worker stagnate.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just curious, when these guys say "consumption rose" what do they mean by that - household or aggregate? Or some other?

Chuckie K

roger said...

I think they are doing the aggregate thing. I don't think there is any way to reach household data.

Anonymous said...

I suspected. But if they are workig with aggregate, then the problem would likely resolve itself into the old dialectic of the relative and the absolute. Ten families with an income from wages of five shillings equals a funds for consumption of 50 shillings. Fifteen families with an income from wages of four shillings equals a funds for consumption of 60 shillings. Wages drop 25%, consumption increases 20%. The trick is forcing more people into wage labor, say women and children, for example.

Chuckie K

Red Maistre said...

Hello, just a long time lurker at the blog stopping by to congratulate you on the depth of inquiry and erudition on display in this blog. It's like Finnagains Wake in scope and polyphonic density but more coherent.
Reading your blog is like a good work by Calasso, except with more profanity and colorful invective.

Best Regards, from Red Maistre

roger said...

Thanks, RM! I have been working hard on the profanity and invective. In Peter Ackroyd's London, he writes that the non-Londoner is traditionally struck by the fact that Londoners use the word fuck for everything, and in every place. It's an urban thing - and that is what I am doing around here, goddamnit!