Bullshit jobs

David Graeber

Book - 2018

" 'Does your job make a meaningful contribution to the world?' David Graeber asked this question in a playful, provocative online essay titled On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs. He defined a bullshit job as 'a form of paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence, even though as part of the conditions of employment, the employee feels obliged to pretend that this is not the case.' After a ...million views in seventeen different languages, people all over the world are still debating the answer. . . . Graeber, in his singularly searing and illuminating style, identifies the five types of bullshit jobs and argues that when 1 percent of the population controls most of a society's wealth, they control what jobs are 'useful' and 'important.' . . . Graeber illustrates how nurses, bus drivers, musicians, and landscape gardeners provide true value, and what it says about us as a society when we look down upon them. Using arguments from some of the most revered political thinkers, philosophers, and scientists of our time, Graeber articulates the societal and political consequences of these bullshit jobs. Depression, anxiety, and a warped sense of our values are all dire concerns. He provides a blueprint to undergo a shift in values, placing creative and caring work at the center of our culture, providing the meaning and satisfaction we all crave."--Jacket.

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Subjects
Published
New York : Simon & Schuster 2018.
Edition
First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
Language
English
Physical Description
xxvii, 333 pages ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 327-333).
ISBN
9781501143311
150114331X
Main Author
David Graeber (author)
  • Preface: On the phenomenon of bullshit jobs
  • What is a bullshit job?
  • What sorts of bullshit jobs are there?
  • Why do those in bullshit jobs regularly report themselves unhappy?
  • What is it like to have a bullshit job?
  • Why are bullshit jobs proliferating?
  • Why do we as a society not object to the growth of pointless employment?
  • What are the political effects of bullshit jobs, and is there anything that can be done about this situation?
Review by Booklist Reviews

An activist social anthropologist currently at the London School of Economics has written about the misery and resentment in unnecessary, meaningless jobs around the world. Building on his viral 2013 essay "On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs" and drawing from online global responses, Graeber (Debt, 2011) briefly explores work in public and private sectors, especially at lower levels of the organizational chart. While the sample size of workers who responded to his essay is small, he brings together good examples and insights on his thesis (negatives and positives) as well as solid historical resources. It is all done in a lively style, throwing around phrases like "duct tape jobs" and "flak catchers." He suggests a universal basic income to avoid having to fill useless positions. He also proposes that individuals, corporations, and societies shift values to place creative and caring work at the center of our lives instead of our current system that makes meaningless jobs "necessary." The readable writing, solid documentation, and bibliography make this a good selection for libraries. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

Graeber (London School of Economics, UK) wrote this book to expose significant social, political, and economic issues. He defines bullshit jobs as pointless and unnecessary forms of paid employment whose existence not even employees can justify. Following his preface and opening chapter, the next six chapters examine the types of bullshit jobs, the impact of these jobs on their incumbents, why these kinds of jobs are increasing, and why society does not object to increases in pointless employment, concluding with a chapter on the political consequences and possible resolution of futile jobs. Graeber includes extensive first-person anecdotes, considerable notes, and a bibliography that covers classic and contemporary reference works. This book is a substantive academic contribution to the fields of cultural anthropology, economics, sociology, and employment policy and will be a valuable primary text for human resources, business administration and leadership, business strategy, behavioral economics, employment law, and public policy. It will also be of value to individuals who are keenly interested in learning more about the impact of public and private sector organizational policies and practices on employee engagement. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.--M. J. Safferstone, formerly, University of Mary WashingtonMark J. Safferstoneformerly, University of Mary Washington Mark J. Safferstone Choice Reviews 56:05 January 2019 Copyright 2018 American Library Association.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

A tsunami of useless jobs is prime evidence of capitalism's moral derangement, according to this bare-knuckled polemic. Drawing on firsthand reports he gathered from workers, anthropologist Graeber (Debt: The First 5,000 Years) taxonomizes pointless busywork: the administrative assistant with time to watch YouTube all day; the PR consultant who writes reports that nobody reads; the subcontractor who drives hundreds of miles to move a client's computer a few feet; the museum guard eternally watching an empty room. Like an update of economist Thorstein Veblen's theory of a purposeless "leisure class" as interpreted by Kafka and Dilbert, Graeber's funny, incisive analysis dissects the absurd social protocols of looking busy when there's nothing to do, and plumbs the depression and self-loathing that erupt when the psychological drive to be useful is thwarted. Less cogently, he elaborates a thesis that capitalism has a sadomasochistic, quasi-religious obsession with unpleasant labor as a "sacred duty." In his quest to be provocative, Graeber himself sometimes strays into BS territory (many people, he contends, believe "we should reward useless or even destructive behavior, and, effectively, punish those whose daily labors make the world a better place"), but his many subversive insights into alienating labor make for an enlightening book that every office drone will relate to. (May) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Posits that millions of employees knowingly work useless jobs and argues for a radical shift in the working environment toward placing creative and caring work at the center.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"'Does your job make a meaningful contribution to the world?' David Graeber asked this question in a playful, provocative online essay titled On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs. He defined a bullshit job as 'a form of paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence, even though as part of the conditions of employment, the employee feels obliged to pretend that this is not the case.' After a million views in seventeen different languages, people all over the world are still debating the answer. ... Graeber, in his singularly searing and illuminating style, identifies the five types of bullshit jobs and argues that when 1 percent of the population controls most of a society's wealth, they control what jobs are 'useful' and 'important.' ... Graeber illustrates how nurses, bus drivers, musicians, and landscape gardeners provide true value, and what it says about us as a society when we look down upon them. Using arguments from some of the most revered political thinkers, philosophers, and scientists of our time, Graeber articulates the societal and political consequences of these bullshit jobs. Depression, anxiety, and a warped sense of our values are all dire concerns. He provides a blueprint to undergo a shift in values, placing creative and caring work at the center of our culture, providing the meaning and satisfaction we all crave."--Jacket.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

From bestselling writer David Graeber, a powerful argument against the rise of meaningless, unfulfilling jobs, and their consequences.Does your job make a meaningful contribution to the world? In the spring of 2013, David Graeber asked this question in a playful, provocative essay titled 'On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs.' It went viral. After a million online views in seventeen different languages, people all over the world are still debating the answer.There are millions of people'HR consultants, communication coordinators, telemarketing researchers, corporate lawyers'whose jobs are useless, and, tragically, they know it. These people are caught in bullshit jobs.Graeber explores one of society's most vexing and deeply felt concerns, indicting among other villains a particular strain of finance capitalism that betrays ideals shared by thinkers ranging from Keynes to Lincoln. Bullshit Jobs gives individuals, corporations, and societies permission to undergo a shift in values, placing creative and caring work at the center of our culture. This book is for everyone who wants to turn their vocation back into an avocation.