David Graeber's new book 'Bullshit Jobs: A Theory' calls time on your career | afr.com
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Very loosely, a bullshit job, by David Graeber's definition, is one that could be erased from the Earth and no one would be worse off. It's also phenomenological. If you feel your job is bullshit, it probably is. Lyn Osborn by Miranda Purves If you voted for Bernie Sanders, have sea-punk green hair, and wear a pin declaring "Capitalism Is the Crisis", you may already be familiar with David Graeber 's writings on the takeover of our lives by bullshit jobs.
Graeber, an anthropology professor at the London School of Economics, was a mover and shaker in the Occupy Wall Street movement and is well known for his approachable critiques of neoliberal free market ideology. His new book, Bullshit Jobs: A Theory (Simon & Schuster; $US27), sprang from a shorter essay he published in 2013 in a feminist-activist magazine called Strike , which quickly struck a nerve. (One that kept thrumming: on a Monday morning in 2015, an anonymous group plastered the London Underground with quotations from the writings.)
"Huge swathes of people spend their days performing jobs they secretly believe do not really need to be performed," Graeber writes. The rise of automation has meant that fewer humans are needed in manufacturing and farming, but instead of this freeing up our time, we've seen those jobs replaced by "the ballooning of the administrative sector up to and including the creation of whole new industries like financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors like corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources and public relations."
Very loosely, a bullshit job, by Graeber's definition, is one that could be erased from the Earth and no one would be worse off. It's also phenomenological. If you feel your job is bullshit, it probably is.
Seen in #liverpool #bullshitjobs
A post shared by Mathilde Platypus (@mathildeplatypus) on May 4, 2017 at 1:57pm PDT
Any corporate lawyer or health-care services administrator who's reading this and thinking, "Wait a minute, serving my client's needs is necessary and fulfilling," is going to disagree with a lot of this book, but even those readers will be hard-pressed not to admit that inventing and maintaining many of the unpleasant aspects of daily life requires a lot of work hours that would be better spent elsewhere.
Advertisement Related Quote: s 5 years 1 Day Last updated: Updating... Last updated: Updating... View full Quote: ASX Announcements Expand View all announcements For instance, consider the poor souls whose work entails implementing the ubiquitous feature of automatic phone systems: when you call about a bill or service issue, you have to speak your name into a computer system; once you've articulated "speak to an agent" some 16 times to said computer system, waited 20 additional minutes, and finally reached a human being, you immediately have to provide the same information you already gave the system.
Meanwhile, says Graeber, practitioners in the fields that directly benefit mankind or offer personal fulfillment, such as teaching, caregiving, waiting, writing, performing carpentry, or making art, are (with the exception of some doctors) poorly paid and secretly resented by those forced to waste their time pursuing a paycheque. Being occupied for long hours of the day fulfilling tasks that, at best, are useless and, at worst, hurt others-building the aforementioned phone systems, foisting software on budget-starved elementary schools, creating paperwork morasses for the homeless-is "a profound psychological violence" that causes anxiety and depression. Basically, our collective soul is being crushed by a rise in what Graeber sees as make-work.
His essay was such a hit that polling agencies in Britain and the Netherlands tested his hypothesis. A third of respondents in both countries answered negatively to the question: "Does your job make a meaningful contribution to the world?"
Armed with this affirmation, Graeber sent out a request on Twitter for descriptions of bullshit jobs and received 250 thoughtful, detailed responses. These make up the anthropological basis for the book and are delightful in their comic darkness.
Anarchists welcome everyone back to work in London. #strikemag
A post shared by Cabin Fever (@cabinfeverpunk) on Jan 6, 2015 at 2:07am PST
Here's "Greg" describing his job as a designer of digital display advertising that, he came to believe - after reading that no one clicks on banner ads - were a scam: "High-paying clients generally want to reproduce their TV commercials within the banner ads and demand complex storyboards with multiple 'scenes' and mandatory elements. Automotive clients would come in and demand that we use Photoshop to switch the steering wheel position or fuel tank cap on an image the size of a thumbnail."
"Eric" describes a job at a large design firm that was "pure liquid bullshit" with the title of Interface Administrator: "The firm was a partnership [and the owners,] being unbelievably comp...