The best parties are usually the ones that emerge organically. We dive down the rabbit hole, bounce around the streets and hidden bars, meet new friends in the bathrooms we’ve struggled to find. It’s also the online rabbit hole that takes us to strange corners of the internet, stuck in YouTube pipelines and TikTok mists.
This modern extension of our waking hours led Sydney to appoint a 24-hour economy commissioner in early 2021. When Michael Rodrigues was appointed, he reported that “the most worrying statistic in government research was that 48% of 18- to 29-year-olds agreed that they preferred to socialize in online environments rather than the physical world”.
But what East 24 hour savings? And what does this actually mean for young people?
American sociologist Harriet Presser coined the term in 2003, with her book Working in a 24/7 Economy: Challenges for American Families. Presser revealed how the erosion of standard working hours (think 9-5) has devastating consequences for the health and well-being of workers and their families. Indeed, an article by The conversation reports that “overall, people who work non-standard hours tend to be less satisfied with their lives and have higher levels of family conflict and marital instability.” With these results, it’s hard to understand why round-the-clock savings are encouraged.
Basically, we go out in the evening because the day is reserved for work. If you don’t work, study. Those who use public space during the day in the same way that we reserve for the night are considered social outcasts. The so-called “free market” as championed by neoliberalism continues the “artificial creation” of the night economy to take advantage of the quiet streets that persist after shops and offices close at night in countries like Australia.
This is why the debates on the economy of the night and the economy of 24 hours are so interesting – there is no Yes Where no answer as to whether nighttime savings are beneficial. There are obvious tensions between freeing up public space at night to make it accessible and usable by all, especially those in the arts, and how a 24-hour economy represents neoliberal ideals of limitless exploitation.
Finishing my freshman year of college in 2021, I don’t feel like I’ve had the full college experience. As night outs were cancelled, my hopes of meeting new people and falling down the rabbit hole of a pub crawl were dashed for another year. The sheer loneliness this created underlined the need for evenings, nights full of expectation, preparation, gathering, connection, spontaneity and absurdity. There’s a certain buzz that only dim streetlights can create, and we all quickly realized that Zoom drinking games weren’t enough. This helped clarify one thing: the magic of a party doesn’t happen with the twist of a bottle cork. There is something else there.
Once appointed, Rodrigues was quick to criticize Sydney’s nightlife economy. “Nighttime options have been heavily skewed towards an Anglo-Saxon drinking culture,” he said, “which is out of step with the city’s multicultural reality.”
This Anglo-Saxon culture of heavy drinking was a key factor in the 2014 lockdown laws, which were regularly criticized for their economic impacts, including an estimated loss of $1.4 billion. The violence fostered by a nightlife economy based on alcohol is catastrophic. In order to avoid this, according to Australian travel guide publisher Lonely Planet, Sydney’s plan for non-drinking nighttime experiences may include extended opening hours for cultural institutions, identifying spaces that could be reclaimed for outdoor activities like restaurants and art installations, reduce restrictions on liquor licensing and live music, and increase public transportation options. To me, that sounds pretty good.
However, these cultural and entertainment spaces do not appear out of nowhere. Olivier Smith, author of Contemporary adulthood and the nocturnal economy, recalls that “many of these new opportunities (for night work) are low-paid, transitional and non-unionized, within an industry known for the enthusiastic adoption of zero-hour contracts, unsocial hours and the potential for work at risk or operating conditions.”
As we know, many of these jobs will be filled by students trying to pay skyrocketing rents without impinging on their studies. Smith also adds that the night economy has a price for social welfare: “it creates an environment in which violence and sexual assault are so common that they often go unreported, accepted by many as a routine danger. of a great evening”.
WHO does the nocturnal economy benefit then? Jobs are being created, yes, but not for women who cannot risk going home after a late shift. Those who occupy them are then part of an industry dependent on an unlimited workforce.
And for whom? Sydney is the sixth most expensive city in the world to spend a night out at an average cost of $86.70. After lockdown laws and COVID-19 pandemic closures, the price of a night out continues to exclude a number of people. Additionally, the discretion given to many clubs and bars permanently shapes the nightlife economy as they retain the right to refuse entry. Racial discrimination by security is rife, with disgusting tales of nightclubs refusing entry to Indigenous and Sudanese people and other cases of Australian clubs using racism as justification for refusing entry. Few people are able to safely enjoy an evening with threats of danger, and yet we continue to crave the rabbit hole down the rabbit hole.
Young people have good reason to prefer the online realm to the sticky floors of clubs and bars on which we wait hours to dance. Whether it’s the inherent exploitation of the 24-hour economy, the drinking culture, the occupational hazards of working there, the cost or safety concerns, the negative space of night feels more and more against us.
However, as lockdowns and lockdowns have proven, there’s something endearing about a party that leaves us tapping our cards for overpriced vodka raspberries and working ridiculous hours just to be able to make it. We are embedded in the economy and have become dependent on it for years for good stories that a good night out can fuel. But we must demand more from these nightly savings. As we begin to renegotiate where our biggest nights are as COVID restrictions lift, the night should feel less like a compromise on our wealth and health. The evening takes place in a negative space, but does not have to be a negative experience. We should chase the rabbit as it jumps out of the digital realm, but it too needs to rest.