Two Times: Being and Becoming in Jane Bennett and Matthew Scherer

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Virginia Tech Publishing


In an era of exponentially increasing globalization, the experience of time has changed. Tasks that once took days or weeks, now take hours or seconds. This shrinking of time, or the speeding up of activities and processes that transpire within it, has also had profound effects on the experience of space, bringing personal and cultural identities into increasingly closer proximity. As a result, the public sphere has become a contested site in which a multiplicity of heterogenous identities vie for legitimacy and acknowledgment. In such an environment, the concept of identity has taken on a new and heightened significance. Citizens of the contemporary global village risk irreconcilable conflict by privileging rigid conceptions of identity based upon an understanding of time that privileges being over becoming; an understanding that excludes the reality of change, difference, and alterity. Although Jane Bennett’s The Enchantment of Modern Life and Matthew Scherer’s Beyond Church and State: Democracy, Secularism, and Conversion are addressing fundamentally different problems, they nevertheless agree on the ethical and political significance of the plasticity of identity, as well as the possibility and nature of change. This convergence is not entirely surprising, given the web of influences in which Bennett and Scherer are implicated; a web wherein Gilles Deleuze is influenced by Henri Bergson and Bennett and Scherer by both Bergson and Deleuze. In this paper, I argue that both Bennett and Scherer, drawing upon the writings of Deleuze and Bergson respectively, acknowledge two kinds of time: a closed, circular time that solidifies habits—what I will call the time of being—and an open, spiral time which allows for the possibility of change and the production of new habits, the time of becoming. Not only do both Scherer and Bennett acknowledge these different understandings of time, but they also stress the necessity of cultivating an appreciation of the fundamental reality of becoming, and the role that such a cultivation can play in navigating an increasingly heterogeneous political landscape.




Jackson, D., 2017. Two Times: Being and Becoming in Jane Bennett and Matthew Scherer. Spectra, 6(1). DOI: