Wednesday, January 27, 2016

All of your joys are now your job

This is an article about basketball. But really it is about the nightmare world we are all sinking into.
In hopes of optimizing physical performance, teams have begun to collect more detailed biological data. This is presented to the players and the public in its most flattering light, which is as a movement towards improved player health. And while that’s true enough, it’s not the end of it: a team cares only about the health of a player’s body insofar as it can remain a productive body, and the team finally seeks to gain more information about the body only to improve its performance in labor.

This new information requires players to practice and train a certain way to maximize their bodies’ productivity. As a result, the workday lengthens, and the workplace is everywhere. The offseason requires longer hours and more intense training to ensure better performance; the team now knows about what a player is eating, how they’re training, how much they’re sleeping. The next step, naturally, is mandating it, in the interest of best practices and productivity. Somewhere in here we confront a maxim regularly espoused by a good friend of mine: that capitalism can turn even the most wonderful activity into the most miserable job.

Everyone who works for a living knows how this goes. Eventually the techniques of power disappear from view and appear, instead, in the form of self-discipline and individual responsibility. The goal of the institution is to produce a subject who welcomes the increasing demands. Under this system, each player’s actions speak to his character rather than the forces being used on or against him. Ultimately, the rules and techniques produce your great work rather than the other way around. You are simply a vehicle of efficiency, productivity; in fact, your agency, your life, are only recognized in your potential to impede efficiency, to throw the whole system off. The last thing that is left up to you is the opportunity to fail in your duties.
The new economy is flush with redundant labor supply.  In order to keep up, we're told we need to commoditize our private lives. This could mean "sharing" our homes or our cars or our free time to meet the on-demand needs of of the leisure class.  It could even mean sharing our most intimate personal habits in order to meet the demands of employers or insurers in ways similar to what the NBA has modeled here. Get ready to sell more and more of yourself. Capitalism demands it.

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