Stories of leaving the city to weather the storm in the countryside remind us that time and space are their own commoditiesby Nathalie Olah / April 8, 2020 / Leave a comment
Mainstream discussions of inequality tend to overlook the economies of time and space. We talk about the housing crisis, but still through the lens of shelter, which is a basic necessity of survival, rather than thinking of home as a place of comfort, prosperity and relaxation. We talk about job creation, but only through the lens of financial provision, rather than thinking of purpose, routine and stability. Of course, we should tend to these immediate concerns before anything else, as well as the question of income distribution and assets. But by ignoring the secondary and tertiary impacts of inequality—the differing relationships we have towards leisure, freedom and hope on account of our social standing—I sometimes worry that we also fall foul of neoliberal thinking, with its tendency to reduce everyone to a market actor. If it wasn’t abundantly obvious: inequality isn’t just a factor of bank balance, but the ease and comfort with which we are able to move through the world.
Rarely, if ever, do we hear mainstream discussions about leisure per se, and its essential role in the body and the human experience. But like so many things, the coronavirus epidemic is changing that, throwing into sharp relief the disparities that exist between people in terms of how they structure their lives. We are also seeing the exposure of a previously latent prejudice in the way that people relate to their communities. The temporary flight of many people from London and those lamenting the fact that the city no longer serves their very specific social and leisurely needs reflect—in fairly callous terms —the luxury of disconnection and individual concern. Not to mention, second homes.
It speaks of a privilege in being able to view the world exclusively through the lens of personal gain and strategic advantage, whether that advantage comes from a high salary or the legacies of wealth that underpin so many artistic careers in the form of property and unpaid internships. On Twitter and in opinion pieces published in the broadsheet media, commentators ask: Why should I live here if I can’t socialize in the way that I used to, or if I have a better quality of life elsewhere? Which would be less galling had these people not been complicit in…