Un réel pour le XXI sciècle
IX Congresso da AMP • 14-18 abril 2014 • Paris • Palais des Congrès • www.wapol.org

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The time of 24/7 waits for no man
Colin Wright

In a 1955 lecture, Lacan reflected on the emergence of the temporality of modern science: "from the moment man thinks that the great clock of nature turns all by itself, and continues to mark the hour even when he isn't there, the order of science is born" [1]. But time in the 21st Century is not what it used to be. That it no longer takes its measure from the 'great clock of nature' is clear from the prevalence of the signifier "24/7".

This series of numbers written in the binary language of digital code (the oblique indicating a function of pure computational difference), testifies to the almost total subordination of time to the abstractions of capital, no longer so tied, as Lacan claimed back in 1955, to "man's waiting", i.e., to his desire. The time of 24/7 waits for no man.

It not only erases the cycles of the sun and the rhythms of the seasons by inventing a "working week" that never ends, but it attacks the biological rhythms of the human being, whose physiological need for sleep and propensity to exhaustion become irksome barriers to productivity. The US army, for example, is busy trying to eradicate such barriers in the pursuit of "24/7 soldiers". Likewise, the software-driven frenzy of the global finance markets creates surplus value, and thus surplus jouissance,out of the mismatch between the ponderous time of human behaviour on the one hand – consumption ultimately requiring a modicum of duration and remaining geographically dispersed across time-zones – and the light-speed transactions of informational bits on the other. How can the contemporary subject clock-off, or log-off, long enough to speak of their desire?

In the era of 24/7, the old complaint that "reality bites" could now be written: "the real bytes".

Colin Wright
UK, The Centre for Critical Theory at the University of Nottingham

  1. Lacan J., The Seminar, Book II, "The Ego in Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis", 06/22/1955, New York, W. W. Norton & Company Ltd., 1991.