Networked Time and the ‘Common Ruin of the Contending Classes’

  • Robert Hassan University of Melbourne
Keywords: Marxism, globalisation, network society, time, computerisation


The rise of the network society has been hailed often as the bringer of many positive things, and has been damned in equal measure. This essay discusses the network society in terms of its effects upon the theory and practice of bourgeois and socialist democracy. Through the theoretical prism of social and technologically created time, the essay argues that the network society has created a neoliberal ‘networked time’. This is a logic that functions at the global level and operates at computer network driven speeds, incorporating in its wake not only the polity, but economy and society, too. What the temporal analysis reveals in this process, is that ‘networked time’ as a primarily digital form is unable to synchronise with the temporal rhythms of the forms of democracy that came to us from the age of Enlightenment—a slower time, with slower technologically based social rhythms that stemmed from print and machine culture. What this means is that the Enlightenment-based politics of bourgeois and socialist democracy, and their future-oriented logics of progress, are no longer tenable in our digital age. Accordingly the much-neglected passage in Manifesto of the Communist Party that envisions the ‘common ruin of the contending classes’ is coming to pass—and with it a seriously reduced scope for the resurrection of any form of democratic functioning that is based on Enlightenment politics and its temporal rhythms.

Author Biography

Robert Hassan, University of Melbourne

Robert Hassan is senior lecturer in Media and Communications at the University of Melbourne. He has written widely at the intersections between politics, media and temporality. His most recent book is The Age of Distraction (Transaction, 2012)