In a review of Jonathan Crary’s new book 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep Steven Poole cites Stanley Coren’s take on the subject of sleep – a place he regarded as the last refuge from capitalism:
Back in 1996, Stanley Coren’s book Sleep Thieves blamed insufficient rest for industrial disasters such as the Chernobyl meltdown. Crary is worried about the encroachment on sleep because it represents one of the last remaining zones of dissidence, of anti-productivity and even of solidarity. Isn’t it quite disgusting that, as he notices, public benches are now deliberately engineered to prevent human beings from sleeping on them?
I’ve often thought about this and sometimes looked forward to sleep not as a way to rest, but to drift into a world where the constant need to succeed, consume and be productive doesn’t exist. The problem is, it’s as Crary’s book discusses, “The average North American adult now sleeps approximately six and a half hours a night….an erosion from eight hours a generation ago” and “ten hours in the early 20th century”. We’re getting less and less sleep and working longer and longer days making dissent against the overriding economic philosophy harder and harder.
If sleep really is the last refuge from capitalism, we can probably expect big pharmaceutical companies to invent a drug that keep us awake 24/7. After all, dissent must be crushed one way or another .
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Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.