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The politics of time


The ancient Greeks divided time into five types: labour, work, leisure, play and aergia (contemplation). But labour was separated from work, as painful, onerous work undertaken for survival, whereas work could include caring for family members, study, or political activities. But now our jobs are supposed to provide all meaning in life and our time outside of work is thought of as simply ‘time off’. Time has been political throughout history. In the Industrial Era employers sought to define labour as virtuous, and in our current era of runaway neoliberalism, salaried workers find their mental health plummeting, public services are stretched to breaking point and inequality is soaring, while the time of those in insecure employment is being stolen from them. We must recognise that time is political, a resource more precious than money, that must be defended at all costs.

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‘Guy Standing’s books have, over the years, pieced together a necessary political and intellectual agenda … His Politics of Time is a splendid and timely addition to this body of important work’ Yanis Varoufakis

Time has always been political. Throughout history, how we use our time has been defined and controlled by the powerful, and today is no exception. But we can reclaim control, and in this book, the pioneering economist Guy Standing shows us how.

The ancient Greeks organised time into five categories: work, labour, recreation, leisure and contemplation. Labour was onerous, whereas leisure was schole, and included participation in public life and lifelong education. Since the industrial revolution, our time has been shaped by capitalism, our jobs are supposed to provide all meaning in life, our time outside labour is considered simply ‘time off’, and politicians prioritise jobs above all other aspects of a good life.

Today, we are experiencing the age of chronic uncertainty. Mental illness is on the rise, some people are experiencing more time freedom while many others are having more and more of their time stolen from them, particularly the vulnerable and those in the precariat.

But there is a way forward. We can create a new politics of time, one that liberates us and helps save the planet, through strengthening real leisure and working together through commoning. We can retake control of our time, but we must do it together.

Read a sample here

Additional information

Weight 0.542 kg
Dimensions 22.2 × 14.4 × 3.8 cm










306.36 (edition:23)


General – Trade / Code: K