Conversations with Helena on leisure in the capitalist system.
He (Marx) certainly addresses the many ways we become alienated from our humanity–our lives fall into the demarcations of work and life (a demarcation that the author also disappointingly reproduces at the end of the piece–he goes to the hermitage, not to simply experience his humanity, but as a means towards another end–in order to regroup, refuel, so he can give more of himself to his wife, his boss, and his children, so he can segment himself in what seem like mechanistic ways, though I don’t want to judge too deeply into his situation). This is interesting. I in my own way have been nurtured to think this way. Sometimes I ask when I write, for what purpose in my life/career am I writing? But when you say “simply experience humanity”, it struck me. I ask for what purpose because to simply experience humanity did not seem rational enough an answer in the capitalist system that I grew up in. In Marx’s vision of society, we would be able to take walks and read books as part of everyday life, there would not be this demarcation, and in fact the whole notion of reading a book, listening to music, and taking a walk, because it would be so enmeshed as part of daily life, would no longer be such an event either. Oh my goodness — “would no longer be such an event” Do you think therefore, when Iyer creates events out of these activities, that actually he finds himself too enmeshed in this demarcation Yes absolutely! The more he talks of it that way, the more he reproduces this demarcation? How not to? I think there needs to more commentaries written about how we are so enmeshed in this whole thing rather than figuring out ways to work within it–once we know what we are enmeshed in, we can craft plans for change.
I wonder, though, if commentaries that address the same issues Iyer brings to the table, can offer new ways of navigating and negotiating through the multiple kinds of demands of our capitalist societies–in other words, what are things we can do in our daily lives to make less stark the boundary between work and life? What examples can you think of? What are new worldviews we can take which highlight the importance of peace of mind and self-alignment in our everyday activities? Can we take rest in a way that is not necessarily designed to refuel but for some greater and more transcendent purpose that does not reinforce our complicity with the ways of being in the world that the capitalist system inevitably mandates? Do you think it is possible to live a different world-view of time, leisure, rest, recreation — without fitting it into the demands of the capitalist system and yet flowing within it? Can you give me examples? Idon’t think it’s possible, but I think acknowledging that we live in this way, is the first step. As long as the capitalist system remains as is, we are inhibited by how much change is actually possible. I’m attaching an article–have you read Althusser? I read him for one of my classes–he struck a chord with me–he expands on Marx’s idea of the state–theorizes it. Last page of the article is particularly profound–we are created as subjects before we are even born, and much of it has to do with what kind of subjects we can be in the capitalist system. I find it telling that so many of us, including myself, need to binge on breaks in order to then more efficaciously binge on work (it’s funny–as much as we wannabe scholars think that we are working towards something higher than what the other professionals in this world are doing, we take the same approach and use the same lexicon to describe the relationship between work and rest, and we binge on both in the same ways–I guess this says something about how our mobility and our cosmologies, as members of society, are to a great extent, shaped by the private market system).