Bullshit Jobs: A Theory

Category: Finance
Author: David Graeber
3.8
This Month Reddit 5

Comments

by sam__izdat   2021-12-10

2/3

  • "... a huge portion of silly bureaucratic, managerial, etc jobs would just vanish"
  • "There is no economic reason for them to exist and their existing is the opposite of what the textbooks say should happen in a capitalist economy"

David Graeber put a lot of time and research into this and he can explain it better than me basically repeating all the same things. Here's the book. Here's the article that started it in strike mag. Very worthwhile reading. > You seem to like to argue against yourself.

This is likely a comprehension problem, not a "nonsense" or "absurd assertion" problem. I'll try to use an example that might help you understand. The math is stupid to keep it simple.

by sam__izdat   2021-12-10

> You are so out of touch with reality that it's actually frightening.

I can say the same about the boss-worship popular with the affluent, doe-eyed, young and inexperienced who've never had to hold down a real job or understand the divide between management bureaucracy and productive labor.

>It's all about competition. If you're in an industry that lacks competition, then yes, you can find these "bullshit managerial jobs".

I don't think the real world agrees with you, if you think the economy is a well oiled competitive machine striving to drive down inputs and increase productive efficiency. I'd recommend this book by David Graeber. He's documented quite a lot, and most of the impetus came directly from the testimony of the very people occupying these positions.

>In order for that to happen, you have to make them believe in what they are doing.

Wow, that sounds exhausting! Would you recommend a morning cheer or a motivational video? I've never done such difficult therapy work since I, you know, work for a living, so I just don't know.

by Freak-Power   2021-12-10

He (David Graeber) actually came out with a book that expounds on the essay. Link

by FA_in_PJ   2019-11-17

Paging David Graeber. Paging Dr. David Graeber.

by Beingabummer   2019-11-17

Another take on this is that long ago, there were two groups: the farmers, and the roaming bands of thieves and robbers. The thieves would take from the farmers, but they'd know they couldn't (or shouldn't) kill the farmers because that would mean they'd need to move further and further to have people to steal from.

In fact, they realized at some point they should stay in one place, take a (relatively) modest amount from the farmers and leave the farmers alive so they could take a modest amount regularly. On the other side, the farmers realized that a stationary group of thieves taking a little of your stuff is better than a roaming group of thieves taking all your stuff.

In fact, the stationary group would probably protect you from the roaming group because they were thinking long term. This is basically how we can see larger communities begin to form, with governments and the ones in power as the thieves and everyone else as the farmers.

In extreme cases, imagine the mob owning a town. It's likely the town has zero crime, because maximum productivity by the citizenry means an optimal take for the mob. Any kind of disruption interrupts their profit and should be stopped.

This whole system was not fair at all (feudalism, monarchies etc.) but it was rooted in a basic sense of sustainability: the thieves knew that they were depended on the farmers and vice versa, and that neither had complete freedom to do what they wanted if they considered the long term. Couple that with the fact any ruler could only have a set amount of wealth before it became useless. There was only so much grain you could steal before it'd go bad before you could eat it, there was only so much gold you could save before you had nowhere left to store it and risk it being stolen.

That changed in the 60s, when bankers in London developed the system that allowed the rich to move money anywhere in the world, dodging taxes and abusing financial and judicial systems in different countries depending on their needs. Want to pay little taxes? Move money to Jersey or Panama or Nevis. Want to pay zero profit taxes? Put your company on a postbox address in The Netherlands or Malta. Want to buy a Europe passport (basically free movement in the whole world)? Invest in Portugal or Italy and they give them away. Some pesky journalist writing an investigation about your criminal ways? Use the UKs strict defamation laws to shut them up (or scare newspapers away from publishing it). And if one of these countries changes the law in a way that's not beneficiary to the rich, they just move their shit somewhere else.

And the big, huge problem with this system is that it is both unsustainable and short term. The rich can move and use all their money, anywhere in the world, at any time they like. They can influence policies and laws, dodging the price for all of it and leaving us, the farmers, with the bill. When a billionaire pays no taxes, that means you have to pick up the bill, because you don't have the money to move to another country that has nicer tax rates.

There is no real solution. They have embedded themselves into our systems because they are all half of the system: the politicians, the governments, the rich, the businesses.

If they are not the farmers, they must be the thieves.

Sources:

Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber

Moneyland by Oliver Bullough

by Foxxie   2019-11-17

There hasn't been a politically relevant left in this country since the FLQ, and we all know how that ended. The few remaining leftist organizations are either personality cults, or under near constant police surveillance.

Graeber's most recent book is great, as is David Harvey's. I can only hope to see a meaningful left in my lifttime; at the moment we're most generously described as impotent.

by Steel_Wool_Sponge   2019-08-24

> I mean, if I hired someone to mow my lawn

If a feudal lord hired someone to mow a remote acre of his lawn and the mower, winking, reported to you that a wandering herd of goats had actually already got to it, who would you trust more to figure out whether the mower is worth what they're being paid - the mower, or the lord?

> I think the evidence is in their willingness to pay

Right, and that is the difference between our arguments and why it is wrong for you to try to analogize between them. I don't think the garbagemen know better than the mayor because they're being paid less: I think they know better because they collect the garbage. You however do think that a willingness to pay can be translated into knowledge about whether someone is worth paying.

> Maybe his book really does contain better evidence than he's alluded to in trying to promote it

https://www.amazon.com/Bullshit-Jobs-Theory-David-Graeber/dp/150114331X

Read pgs 1-2 (not i-ii in the intro)

by EverForthright   2019-08-24

There a book by David Graeber (anthropologist and Occupy Wall Street organizer) called Bullshit Jobs that examines how productivity increases through automation have resulted in more pointless jobs, instead of a reduction in work. Definitely worth a read.

Don't glorify production/manufacturing jobs. I've worked in a handful of factories and the only reason half of these jobs exist is because it's still cheaper to pay a human to suffer than it is to buy expensive robots+engineers to oversee the robots. Mandatory overtime is common and the repetitive motion strain will ruin your body.

by modern_rabbit   2019-08-24

Thank the lord for Meghan Battest and her job.

by Ferocious-Flamingo   2019-07-21

Heard about this book and really want to read it. Seems like it fits nicely here

https://www.amazon.com/dp/150114331X/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_t1_DxGRCbWDC7T3Y

by d-bone01   2019-07-21

https://www.amazon.com/Bullshit-Jobs-Theory-David-Graeber/dp/150114331X

by shamwu   2019-07-21

a book about this

by veringer   2019-07-21

Here's a fleshed out theory. The gist is that so many people have bullshit (ie soulless/useless) jobs that people with meaningful careers (like teachers) are viewed jealously by much of society. They are getting compensated both financially and with real actual satisfaction knowing they're making a positive impact on the world.

by istartriots   2019-07-21

have you by chance read Bullshit jobs? it talks about this exact idea.

by ReinH   2019-07-21

I would look at three things: what is the impact of my work, how connected am I to the impact of my work, and where else can I find meaning in my work.

Let's begin with an uncomfortable truth. Most jobs in our industry are just not very meaningful in terms of the impact of the work itself. Most of us are not working on something that might (say) cure cancer or reduce poverty. There just aren't enough meaningful jobs to go around, so some of us won't be able to find one for ourselves. (This isn't only true of software engineering, of course. Many of today's jobs are bullshit jobs.)

If we can't find meaning in the work itself, I think we have to look for meaning in other places. I look for meaning in contributing to the success and happiness of my coworkers, and I look for jobs where I can work with likeminded people. I've found that this more than anything else has had a big impact on my work satisfaction and has reduced my feelings of alienation.

Also, as you alluded to, regardless of how meaningful the work is per se, our connection to the work can be made more or less meaningful. Feedback of the sort you are asking about helps us understand the impact of our work. If you can't feel connected to the actual impact your work has, you might feel alienated even if you are in some way helping to cure cancer. You should absolutely look for and ask for this feedback, as it will improve both your work and your feelings about the work.

by lcy2   2019-07-21

Now you can use that extra time to read....

https://strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/

If you want a long-form version of it,

https://www.amazon.com/Bullshit-Jobs-Theory-David-Graeber/dp/150114331X/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

by Gravity-Rides   2019-07-21

I suggest reading David Graeber's book "Bullshit Jobs: A Theory"

https://www.amazon.com/Bullshit-Jobs-Theory-David-Graeber/dp/150114331X

by naireip   2019-07-21

I know. the book bullshit job theory came to mind.

by jordanpg   2019-05-19
Relevant: https://www.amazon.com/Bullshit-Jobs-Theory-David-Graeber/dp...
by Throwaway_castaway2   2019-01-13

That’s just ignorant.

No we can’t function as a society without childcare, without nurses...

We can totally function without diamond miners... without marketing... without creative financial instruments...without gasp mid-level assistant managers...

Social workers do a helluva lot more for society than corporate HR or Assistant management does...

There’s far more male bullshit jobs than female and they are far more taxing on society as a whole