Book Review: Bullshit Jobs

Bullshit Jobs, by David Graeber

Take it from me, this book is not exactly the safest sort of book to be seen reading at work.  When one reads a book like this, it is natural for others to wonder if in fact one thinks that one’s own job fits the unfriendly terms defined by the author.  In my own case, it is pretty easy to see that there exists some substantial duct-taping aspects to my job, in that the necessity of a commissions analyst comes in dealing with the fragmentary and complicated nature of the commissions that one receives from others and that have to be put in some sort of standard form in order to be converted into the sort of format that can be used widely by others.  When one is dealing with a lot of bad data, it is fairly easy to criticize those who create such bad data, but at the same time if data were more easily standardized it would be far less necessary for people to mediate between the producers of data and those who want to understand and gain insights from it, and there is as limited desire on the part of those who pay commissions to make their data easier to understand and work with, so one does what one has to do.

This author takes about 300 pages to cover seven chapters that are long and highly detailed about the author’s thoughts about why useless and pointless jobs are so ubiquitous in the contemporary world.  The author begins with the tricky act of defining what a bullshit job is, pointing out that those who believe their job to be pointless and meaningless are probably right (1).  After that the author looks at five major varieties of this sort of job:  flunkies, goons (telemarkers and the like), duct tapers (people who cope with broken system interfaces), box tickers, and taskmasters.  These sorts of jobs are easy enough to recognize and exist because of larger cultural issues (2).  The author talks about why those in b.s. jobs consider themselves unhappy (3) and goes to some detail talking about the spiritual violence done to people in such jobs (4).  The author discusses why such jobs are proliferating to the point where they make up, in the author’s estimation, about half the jobs that currently exist (5), and furthermore goes on to discuss why it is that society does not object to this state of affairs (6) as well as the political effects of this poisonous resentment and the potential revolt of the caring classes (7).

Admittedly, the author and I have a great deal of difference with regards to our political worldviews.  The author is a left-leaning anarchist who has a lot of hostility against contemporary capitalism and considers Universal Basic Income as a solution to the contemporary problem of the need for people to work in b.s. jobs despite the spiritual violence it inflicts.  The author, though he shows an interest in the reason why so many jobs exist that do not have much point aside from political reasons, fails to account for the fact that UBI would not answer the political needs that such jobs have.  In many cases, b.s. jobs exist because they reward people for gaining a political understanding in how to deal with boredom, how to appear to be productive without being very productive, how to maneuver through the need to deal with insecure egos and unreasonable demands and the desire of those around to feel important.  In short, a great many of the jobs that are available for young professionals are seeking to educate people on how to be good courtiers, a task that does not seem to be working very well in many cases, as the author indicates.  Unfortunately, such things are not generally explained very openly and honestly.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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1 Response to Book Review: Bullshit Jobs

  1. Pingback: An Introduction To The On Creativity Project | Edge Induced Cohesion

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