Making time for activism in a culture of speed

Kamilla Petrick | 2015 | in Studies in Social Justice, vol.9, issue 1 | pp. 70-85

Kamilla Petrick | 2015| in Studies in Social Justice, vol.9, no.1

This article examines the implications of the social acceleration of time for the capacity of activist-scholars to engage in collective action. Drawing on interdisciplinary literature on time and temporality, the article argues that the neoliberal university is driven by the same speed imperative that underpins the capitalist mode of production, and that the resulting and growing time pressures inhibit academics’ (and others’) involvement in social movements in profound and deleterious ways.

To explore this argument empirically, I draw on insights gleaned from semi-structured interviews with Canadian activist-scholars. Despite the manifest diversity of temporal experiences and challenges faced by scholar-activists in contemporary high-speed society, it is clear that academics today face severe time pressures that apply across individual differences and across disciplines. These pressures, which can only be properly explicated with reference to the ruling political-economic paradigm, militate against the capacity to engage in reflexive thought (for both scholarly and activist purposes) and also against a higher level of involvement of ‘public intellectuals’ in social movements.

The article’s conclusion offers a few tentative thoughts about tempering the speed imperative for the purpose of self-care and by extension, for the common good in the long run.

Keywords: social acceleration; time; neoliberal university; social movements; collective action; activist-scholars