Examining the recent post-Marxist conception of labor in the contemporary context of financialization and global crisis, this essay contests prevailing ideas about the contemporary eradication of the distinction between production and reproduction, between labor and life, encapsulated in the notion of “real subsumption.” Departing from these ideas I argue that the extraction of value from “life” takes place through multiple and contradictory modalities, and propose the concept of “life-times” as a way to foreground important differences in the social uses, practices, understanding, valorization, and inhabitation of the times of life and their relations in a global economy in which the “production time” of capital has encompassed all of life. Drawing on the social contexts of undocumented immigrants, guest workers, refugees, and displaced persons, I elaborate on differential life-times from the side of life destined for disposable superfluity. I look at acts of “fate playing” in the contexts of migrant Filipina workers and the urban lumpenproletariat to view those dimensions of social reproductive work on the part of disposable peoples that persist beyond and despite capitalist subsumption and exceed most theoretical accounts of labor. An attention to such remaindered life-times raises questions about the limits of our political imagination and of our vision of the time line of global capitalism’s duration and end.
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Neferti X. M. Tadiar; Life-Times in Fate Playing. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 October 2012; 111 (4): 783–802. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-1724183
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