The Practice of Everyday Life: “Time Theft”

La Perruque

True or False (answer from your own perspective): When you are “at work,” you owe your employer all of your energy and attention from the time you start work to the time you leave, and everything you do while at work should serve your employer’s interests.

Do you agree? Why or why not?

Michel de Certeau discusses the ways in which workers exercise creativity on “company time,” using the term la perruque (lit., the wig) to describe this kind of rogue creativity. He presents this as an alternative to a working life that is overly rationalized, precisely regimented, controlled by corporatization, inflexible, and sterile.

On the other hand, many in the business world describe this phenomenon as “time theft” and see it in negative terms. They view time theft as a threat to productivity. So what we have here is a battle to determine how minutely workers’ time can be controlled. Here are some references from various perspectives:

1. The Urban Dictionary definition of time theft.

2. Jon Jacobs, on “Deconstructing Time Theft,” at JobsintheMoney.

3. William Atkinson on time theft, from the journal Risk Management (2006).

4. Barbara Ehrenreich on working for WalMart (2002).

5. An article on an art installation inspired by De Certeau, titled La Perruque (from a San Franciso city guide in 2001).

Happy reading! Hopefully these sources will help bring to life De Certeau’s abstract concepts.

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