Issue 4: Work
The deadline is upon us, other work can wait.
This issue of Nyx appears as thousands of students, pupils, teachers, academics and artists stand up against the coalition government’s plan to further the marketisation of higher education, and to simultaneously withdraw vital funding from the arts, humanities and social sciences. These protesters join with the growing multitudes across society threatened with losing the jobs, welfare support and local government services on which they depend.
Once upon a time opposition movements on this scale might have been inhibited by the perceived gulf between workers and intellectuals. But as more than one contribution to this issue suggests, modern neoliberalism, by subjugating all cultural practice to the conditions of capitalist economy, has made us all workers, even the unemployed. Some of the pieces in this issue highlight the strange logics by which contemporary capitalist society seeks to re-colonise every aspect of our creative and productive activity. Others remind us that the questions of capitalist division of labour, domestic labour and domestic work, female labour and feminisation of labour, are as pressing now as ever.
Nyx was named after the Greek goddess of night in order to designate this noctournal as a space for work removed from the conditions of production and the particular demands (of structure, function and value) that shape the labour of the working day. The risks of a certain strategic romanticism in this gesture seemed worth running, given the supposed alternative of capitulating to a certain capitalist realism. Several imaginative pieces in this issue defy the established logics and choices, which circulate around the concept of work and its value, creating alternative ways of thinking, imagining, working. This kind of enthusiastic commitment to alternatives characterises the opposition to the government spending cuts. The recent and ongoing protests, uniting an extraordinary array of people from different backgrounds, age groups and professions, are unprecedented in their scale – and yet they extend far beyond the number and diversity manifest on the streets. The events and interventions that accompany the rallies and marches aim to produce new ways of thinking about teaching and learning, acting and creating.
As the snow falls and Siberian winds rush through an increasingly discontented social landscape, the boundaries between day and night, work and study are more precipitous than ever. The game of appropriation and re-appropriation is unending, yet we continue to look for new, uncolonised pockets of the night, and invent them when they cannot be found.