The Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs
David Graeber writing in the anarchist magazine “ Strike" http://www.strikemag.org/
has postulated something that he calls “ Bullshit” jobs. According to him “Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed.”
What are these jobs? To quote him once again” we have seen the ballooning not even so much of the “service” sector as 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. And these numbers do not even reflect on all those people whose job is to provide administrative, technical, or security support for these industries, or for that matter the whole host of ancillary industries (dog-washers, all-night pizza deliverymen) that only exist because everyone else is spending so much of their time working in all the other ones.”
He has pointed out that most of these jobs are basically nonproductive, or even if we think they are necessary, the amount of work that is needed for their functions could be about 15 hours every week. This, he points out, is exactly what Keynes had predicted in 1930: that the development of technology would give us much more leisure in the future. That future is here and we need not work so hard anymore. But for some strange reason, we spend time doing pointless jobs and when these jobs can also not take up enough of our time, we spend the rest of the time pretending to work , but actually to quote him again this pretend work mainly consists of “organizing or attending motivational seminars, updating facebook profiles or downloading TV box-sets.” In fact there is a website http://www.bullshitjob.com/ where you can read up on bullshit jobs and how some of them get started. You can also download a copy of the ebook 100 Bullshit Jobs And How to Get Them at
The reason, Graeber says is that the ruling class is uncomfortable with the middle or lower classes having too much time in its hands. This can lead to infinite inconvenient questions whose answers may embarrass the powers that be. Thus we have income tax lawyers who only exist because for some strange reason we have byzantine tax laws instead of simply prescribing a certain percentage of the income for taxes; we have lifestyle and work style coaches who teach highly paid executives how to do their work . It beats me why a company should hire somebody for vast amounts of money and then spend another vast amount to teach him how to do his job.
Take for instance the proliferation of managers. What function exactly does a manager perform that can excuse paying millions of dollars to run a company into billions of dollars in losses? Why exactly do we need fifty 24 hour TV channels? So that other workers who are doing nothing at all night stores and service stations can watch TV perhaps?
However it must be admitted that it is difficult to be objective about what job is necessary. Do we need Professors of Comparative Linguistics? Henry Ford (“history is bunk”) would have vociferously argued against. On the other hand certain jobs are self evidently necessary. These include say bus drivers, teachers, and nurses and dare I say it cardiac surgeons.
So how so you decide? Graeber suggests that the true measure is to check what sort of disruption takes place when a group of people decide to go on strike. Bus drivers: Chaos, Doctors: disaster. Musicians: depression. Hedge fund managers: improvement in the economy and vast savings for taxpayers!!
It is time for society to weed out these bullshit jobs and concentrate on what matters. We will then definitely have more time for leisure and will not be pressurized into doing what we do not want and more important do not need to do.