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Journal Articles M@n@gement Year : 2016

Weekend as Community, Consumption, Colonization: Struggles over Liminal Time in 2 Days, 1 Night

Gazi Islam


Work in contemporary society is hidden. Work’s products accumulate and fill the spaces of leisure with traces and memories of past labor. Yet, work, and workers, are both necessary and impossible in this accumulation; the memory of their efforts haunts consumer products like a premonition or a limit. This invisibility of work, like the modern subject itself, seems to exist outside of time, inhabiting another kind of time than the linear progression of objects that constitute its past. Symbolically positioned as the antechamber of subjectivity itself, the body and spirit of the worker are produced and repaired over the weekend. The weekend is a liminal, paradoxical space, an ending and a beginning of production, a place where subjects are free to be themselves, yet are faced with the anxiety of empty time to fill by subjects alienated by the weakening of personal ties. Bereft of thick social relations, consumer goods fill the gaps as atomized tokens of individualized work processes. These objects act as talismans against the social void they obscure, sparing us the trauma of facing directly our lack of solidarity. When the demand to help those near us confronts us in the form of a plea, an accusation, or merely the questioning gaze of a work colleague, we realize we are unprepared to meet this demand. A growing discussion is emerging around the relationality of individuals in work contexts, the relational subject, the people of organization. But what about the time of organization? If the workweek is the space of mundane ethics, the ethics of codes, rules and norms, of responsibilities, then the weekend has its own ethics, the messianic, liminal ethics of the sabbatical, where individuals ritualistically invoke the love behind the law. In the mythical space of work/leisure, if the workweek serves for the production of goods, the weekend serves for the reproduction of society. If the workweek works on standardized, linear time, the weekend comes to symbolize unstructured spontaneity. These two spheres co-constitute each other, the weekend giving meaning to the workweek, which frames and nourishes the weekend. Opposed, the two times exist in a tenuous balance. I reflect on the timing of work and leisure in response to a certain uneasiness I felt when watching the film 2 Days, 1 Night (2 Jours 1 Nuit) by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, one Saturday afternoon, with the goal of relating the film to contemporary understandings of work and organizations. The prima facie relation was obvious – a film about a firing, a burnout, the roller coaster of contingent work, the theater of workplace democracy faced with the brutal reality of self-interest. I combed through the many work-related themes, from the personal to the societal, from anxiety to alienation, searching for the hermeneutic key that would reveal to me the complexities of modern work as portrayed in the film. Yet a lingering question remained with me – where was the work in this film? I was struck, then, by the ironic fact that the film, a tour de force about working life, took place almost entirely on the weekend. It was right there in the title – 2 days, 1 night. The movie began just as the boss was leaving work, drew us inexorably through a Saturday and Sunday that seemed both endless and exhausting and yet all-too-quick, and ended at the beginning of the work week. I was left with the lingering question of why a movie whose focal point is labor relations would so obviously situate the action outside of the temporality of work, even taking the title of those few moments outside of the working week. Despite the volumes that have been written about the intensification of work and the erosion of leisure, a quick search revealed that the weekend was a largely untheorized domain, perhaps an off-limits area where work considered taboo, at best a protected space whose social status had been won through historical struggle and whose subsequent erosion was a source of nostalgic lamentation. Perhaps scholars of work, I mused, had better things to do on a Saturday than write about the weekend. Watching a film, however, seemed to be a legitimate weekend activity, and I felt thus justified in using this film to enter into an exploration of the uses of leisure. Whether the film presented a welcome catharsis from the workweek, or a Trojan Horse bringing workplace issues into the leisure sphere, 2 Days 1 Night seemed to offer an experiment in cinematic representation that was worth exploring. In the present case, it must be said that watching this film is far from leisure; a hard film to sit through, it enacts through its pace the slow but urgent ticking away toward a moment of confrontation – with one’s own demons, with one’s boss, and most of all with one’s colleagues. Each shuffle-step of Marion Cotillard’s hesitant moments of encounter presents us the dread of a women who must face the judgment of her peers, as she demands the reinstatement of a social bond that has long been forgotten. Should she be expected to disrupt her colleagues’ hobbies, their shopping and drinking, their moments with their families, to stir up the injustice that they all face? Are her demands unfair, or just? As her colleagues ask her over the telephone or as she rings their doorbell – can’t this wait until Monday?
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hal-01403748 , version 1 (27-11-2016)


  • HAL Id : hal-01403748 , version 1


Gazi Islam. Weekend as Community, Consumption, Colonization: Struggles over Liminal Time in 2 Days, 1 Night. M@n@gement, 2016, 19 (2), pp.146-151. ⟨hal-01403748⟩


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