Accumulating Futures

Vishmidt, Marina. 2020. Accumulating Futures. In: Eric C.H. de Bruyn and Sven Lütticken, eds. Futurity Report. 1 Berlin: Sternberg Press/MIT. ISBN 9783956794230 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

Time is often understood as a material to be accumulated, whether we are looking at labor time and the commodity, the packaging of risk in financial instruments, or the value imputed to artworks. Marx saw control over time, or rather, its optimization in the control of labor time, as pivotal to the capitalist mode of production. Value is comprised of labor time, which eventually comes into contradiction with the development of science and technology as it drives to cut down on labor time and jettison the worker from the production process by encoding her skills into technological equipment. More recently, Moishe Postone underlined how control over time is also key to capital as a mode of social domination, noting that inasmuch as the abstraction of labor as a commodity is historically specific to capitalist societies, rather than natural and inevitable, “abstract time” is another desocialized process that this value abstraction needs in order to cement its appearance of social necessity, or “value-objectivity.” All our activity appears to us as increments of time, and, be it located in the past, present, or future, activity is already allocated as the most personal of metrics: a lived connection to the abstraction of money, experienced as blocks of quantified time. From this short introduction to the inseparability of time and production in capitalist accumulation, we can thus start to see that capitalist time appears as not just a measure of productivity but also itself a product, exhibiting the dual character of being both a commodity and a measure of commodity production, as tidily encapsulated in the adage “time is money.” Time must thus be standardized and rendered formally equivalent, easily divisible at all scales. From that formless intuition that for Kant enabled all human perception and cognition, the formatting of time by value-objectivity secures the “empty, homogeneous form of time” that so appalled Walter Benjamin as a far-reaching fetish of modernity. Thus historical time is also subject to this logic of accumulation, discounting, and surplus.

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Book Section


futures, finance, technology, far right, engineering, time, commodity, labour

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


29 November 2019Accepted
April 2020Published

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Date Deposited:

08 Jan 2021 15:39

Last Modified:

28 Jul 2021 15:41


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