24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep – Jonathan Crary

It’s the second of my Christmas presents that I managed to read this year!

Food for thought, I’d say. I didn’t agree with every statement but it definitely got me thinking.

The main thesis (simplified of course) is that capitalism forces us to function 24/7 and that sleep being physically unavoidable is the last bastion of freedom and true life.

Crary discusses how industrialization, electricity, television and then internet and the screens surrounding us all the time caused blurring of the line between work and private life and require us to interact all the time. Making those interactions superficial and repetitive and ‘not real’. How the stream of pictures and videos flooding us is impossible to process, how we stopped looking and we’re just being shown things. How watching TV is not active but passive, how ever-changing gadgets make us want them and accept that they will be replaced within months by newer versions. How history and experiencing of time has been replaced by a permanent present moment, there’s no past and there will be no future because we live in permanent FOMO.

He also analyses how society and relationships between people have become so superficial that in fact we’re alone all the time, it’s everyone for themselves kind life, or at least that’s what 24/7 demands. Another point he raises is that when we sleep or we can’t afford to buy things we’re becoming useless to 24/7, ergo all people that don’t work and don’t buy should go die.

Crary spices it all up with a dash of paranoia in my opinion mentioning that we’re all being conditioned to work in 24/7 by evil corporations, this was a step too far for me. But I would still agree that the flood of media is making us all a bit stupid instead of a bit smarter. As much as we all try to manage the things we read and watch I don’t think I’ve ever watched so many stupid and bad things. It doesn’t mean that I watch or read less good stuff, it just means that I watch more and this more is not actually bringing me any value, but it does bring value to the system, taking my time and showing me adverts. Ok, now I’m becoming paranoid…

For a person that remembers times before the Internet (vaguely, but still) this book seems to bring back a dream of idyllic past when I didn’t spend all my time reading something on my phone or on my laptop. When I spent more time with books and people, I’m not sure if that was true or if it’s just my imagination, but the truth is I’ve never read so much news as now and I’m not sure if that’s actually good for me.

I thought that not having TV at home I’ll be watching better things and I am, but let’s be honest I also watch a pile of crap for the sake of watching, ok maybe not reality shows (I still cannot believe Celebrity Splash was a real thing, I saw a bit of it once in a pub, not completely sober and it was so absurd I thought I was imagining things – this just shows for how long I haven’t had a TV, I’m sure there’s been worse things), but a lot of series and trust me not all are the ‘recommended’ ones.

I feel like I spend all my time catching up with content that may not necessarily be valuable for me or even interesting, but I feel the ‘need’ to be up-to-date; one more thing this book has made me realize – I constantly compulsively check emails (personal, at work I flat out refused having a blackberry). So another resolution – unglue the phone from my hand, let it lie in the corner and rest, maybe then the battery will last till the end of day.

I just realized I got so carried away by my thoughts that I only wrote about the books content and my reaction to it. Crary has fantastic flow of thought, he managed something that only the best can manage – to write an eloquent essay that is easy to read where the reader can actually follow his thought easily, but without being patronized.

I definitely recommend this read! Food for thought! He even wrote about blogging (not nice) 😉

Have you read it? Do you feel your time is being stolen or are you actually loving 24/7 access to things/news/content?

Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska

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2 thoughts on “24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep – Jonathan Crary

  1. Pingback: January Round Up – bookskeptic.com

  2. Pingback: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal – Jeanette Winterson – Quotes – bookskeptic.com

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