Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 23, 2019

Time Thieves

Filed under: Counterpunch,Film — louisproyect @ 4:30 pm


As I have pointed out in previous reviews, Icarus, the New York film distributor, is far and away the most important source of anti-capitalist documentaries. In keeping with their commitment to class struggle cinema, “Time Thieves”, their latest, hones in on the ways in which the capitalist system makes us slaves to the clock.

When I worked at a Boston bank in the early 70s, I kept Marx’s words pinned to my cubicle wall:

The worker therefore only feels himself outside his work, and in his work feels outside himself. He feels at home when he is not working, and when he is working he does not feel at home. His labor is therefore not voluntary, but coerced; it is forced labor. It is therefore not the satisfaction of a need; it is merely a means to satisfy needs external to it.

–Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844

At the start of “Time Thieves”, we see people of all ages at leisure enjoying themselves. After a minute or so, we see another cross-section of humanity trudging off to work or to school as narrator Sarah Davidson comments: “Under capitalism, time has become a resource with a huge economic value. And those profiting from it want as much of our time as possible. They even steal it from us.”

Director Cosima Dannoritzer begins by showing the chaos that ensues when a new restaurant billed as completely staff-less opens up. Patrons save money by preparing the meals themselves, going one step further than the automats that enjoyed a heyday in the 30s through the 50s. In the kitchen, it is a miracle that those conned into trying this out did not lose a finger or suffer third-degree burns. I say conned because we soon learn that a restaurant workers union staged the whole thing to illustrate the importance of having trained professionals doing the work.

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1 Comment »

  1. I spent 44 years as a teacher railing against time theft. It is at the root of the extraction of surplus value. It knows no limits. Fractions of seconds matter to capital, because when these are aggregated over millions of work hours and hundreds of millions of workers, profits explode. What Frederick Taylor began, capitalists have continued with a vengeance. Now the lives of consumers have been Taylorized, and work for many is 24/7. A system could hardly be more nefarious and brutal in its treatment of people as commodities. We must be controlled from birth to death, because between birth and death, we have $ signs over our heads, and capital intends to take every dollar we have, either directly as consumers or indirectly as workers. Nothing good can come from this, which is why the entire system must be destroyed, root and branch.

    Comment by Michael D Yates — August 23, 2019 @ 5:59 pm

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