Spring 2005 - Volume 8 Number 2
No Time: Stress and the Crisis of Modern Life
Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 2005
Heather Menzies has made quite a name for herself as a critic of information technology, especially as it relates to contemporary working conditions and the labour market. Previous publications such as Women and the Chip (1982), Fastforward and Out of Control (1989), Whose Brave New World? (1996), Computers on the Job (2001) and, with Janice Newson, "The Over-Extended Academy in the Global Corporate Economy," (2001) have helped illustrate how education, the workplace and what passes for ordinary life are being transformed, not always to the benefit of students, teachers, workers, and citizens.
No Time is a book that brings together various themes of personal and public concern and blends them into a package that has the potential to become a modest commercial success. There is no pretence here to construct an academic treatise; instead, the focus is to address psychological issues that bedevil individuals seeking to maintain a sense of self in a political economy apparently out of control. The issues she sets before us include stress, employee burnout, time management, sleep deprivation, chronic fatigue and the like. Menzies, however, has not succumbed to the temptation to write a self-help book that offers bromides, pieties and several-step programs to help people gain the resilience to cope with increasing alienating conditions at work and at home. She still has the good sense to remind us that the problems we experience are not within us but are imposed by an external hyper-environment that has largely destroyed our sense of economic security, self-worth and the possibility of kind of leisure time and public spaces that would allow us to live more wholesome lives.
The frenetic pace at which we go about essentially meaningless tasks is accompanied, stimulated and perhaps caused by the frenzy of our institutions. Illuminating chapters on health care, welfare, and attention deficit disorder as a social disease help to locate the source of our problems in the structural characteristics of postmodern society. She manages to weave into her narrative not only engaging personal anecdotes but wise words and astute aphorisms from public intellectuals such as Jane Jacobs, Arthur Kroker, Marshall McLuhan and David Suzuki whose combined good judgment provides the basis for a diagnosis of our communal pathologies. She even devotes a chapter to education and its potential, though commonly ignored when not actively suppressed, to built dialogue and discourse where none is immediately present nor particularly desired.
In her concluding chapters, she makes a stalwart effort to provide optimism and provisional therapies to counteract the inhumane agendas that dominate corporate North America and, increasingly, the entire world. She treads lightly, of course, for her readership has been inoculated against social analyses that compel us to think seriously about social institutions and structural arrangements that are larger than our private selves. We resist, in an internal monologue of narcissistic impotence, explanations that appeal to factors outside our skins. Nonetheless, in the end, No Time leaves some clues, an occasional footnote, and a modest meditation on sleepwalking through the simulacra of social reality that will tempt the alert and attentive reader to understand that Menzies understands there is more to the problems of postmodernity than can be gleaned from Oprah and Dr. Phil or from the pages of The Purpose-Driven Life. This book may encourage a tentative first step toward that deeper emancipatory knowledge.
Howard A. Doughty teaches Philosophy and Natural Science at Seneca College in King City, Ontario. He can be reached at email@example.com.
• The views expressed by the authors are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of The College Quarterly or of Seneca College.
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