Bullshit Jobs

A Theory

David Graeber

Publisher: Penguin, 2018, 333 pages

ISBN: 978-1-141-98347-9

Keywords: Human Resources

Last modified: Sept. 19, 2022, 8:55 a.m.

The rise of pointless work and what we can do about it.

  1. What is a Bullshit Job?
    • Why a Mafia Hit Man Is Not A Good Example of a Bullshit Job
    • On the Importance of the Subjective Element, and Also Why It Can Be Assumed That Those Who Believe They Have Bullshit Jobs Are Generally Correct
    • On the Common Misconception That Bullshit Jobs Are Confined Largely to the Public Sector
    • Why Hairdressers Are a Poor Example of a Bullshit Job
    • On the Difference Between Partly Bullshit Jobs, Mostly Bullshit Jobs, and Purely and Entirely Bullshit Jobs
  2. What Sorts of Bullshit Jobs Are There?
    • The Five Major Varieties of Bullshit Jobs
    1. What Flunkies Do
    2. What Goons Do
    3. What Duct Tapers Do
    4. What Box Tickers Do
    5. What Taskmasters Do
    • On Complex Multiform Bullshit Jobs
    • A Word on Second-Order Bullshit Jobs
    • A Final Note, with a Brief Return to the Question: Is It Possible to Have a Bullshit Job and Not Know It?
  3. Why Do Those in Bullshit Jobs Regularly Report Themselves Unhappy?
    (On Spiritual Violence, Part 1)
    • About One Young Man Apparently Handed a Sinecure Who Nonetheless Found Himself Unable to Handle the Situation
    • Concerning the Experience of Falseness and Purposelessness at the Core of Bullshit Jobs, and the Importance Now Felt of Conveying the Experience of Falseness and Purposelessness to Youth
    • Why Many of Our Fundamental Assumptions on Human Motivation Appear to Be Incorrect
    • A Brief Excursion on the History of Make-Work, and Particularly of the Concept of Buying Other People's Time
    • Concerning the Clash Between the Morality of Time and Natural Work Rythms, and the Resentment It Creates
  4. What is it Like to Have a Bullshit Job?
    (On Spiritual Violence, Part 2)
    • Why Having a Bullshit Job Is Not Always Necessarily That Bad
    • On the Misery of Ambiguity and Forced Pretense
    • On the Misery of Not Being a Cause
    • On the Misery of Not Feeling Entitled to One's Misery
    • On the Misery of Knowing That One Is Doing Harm
    • Coda: On the Effects of Bullshit Jobs on Human Creativity, and On Why Attempts to Assert Oneself Creatively or Politically Against Pointless Employment Might Be Considered a Form of Spiritual Warfare
  5. Why Are Bullshit Jobs Proliferating?
    • A Brief Excursion on Causality and the Nature of Sociological Explanation
    • Sundry Notes on the Role of Government in Creating and Maintaining Bullshit Jobs
    • Concerning Some False  Explanations for the Rise of Bullshit Jobs
    • Why the Financial Industry Might Be Considered a Paradigm for Bullshit Job Creation
    • On Some Ways in Which the Current Form of Managerial Feudalism Resembles Classical Feudalism, and Other Ways in Which It Does Not
    • How Managerial Feudalism Manifests Itself in the Creative Industries through an Endless Multiplication of Intermediary Executive Ranks
    • Conclusion, with a Brief Return to the Question of Three Levels of Causation
  6. Why Do We as a Society Not Object to the Growth of Pointless Employment?
    • On the Impossibility of Developing an Absolute Measure of Value
    • How Most People in Contemporary Society Do Accept the Notion of a Social Value That Can Be Distinguished from Economic Value, Even If It Is Very Difficult to Pin Down What It Is
    • Concerning the Inverse Relationship Between the Social Value of Work and the Amount of Money One Is Likely to Be Paid for It
    • On the Theological Roots of Our Attitudes Toward Labor
    • On the Origins of the Northern European Notion of Paid Labor as Necessary to the Full Formation of an Adult Human Being
    • How, with the advent of Capitalism, Work Came to Be Seen in Many Quarters Either as a Means of Social reform or Ultimately as a Virtue in Its Own Right, and How Laborers Countered by Embracing the Labor Theory of Value
    • Concerning the Key Flaw in the Labor Theory of Value as It Became Popular in the Nineteenth Century, and How Owners of Capital Exploited That Flaw
    • How, over the Course of the Twentieth Century, Work Came to Be Increasingly Valued Primarily as a Form of Discipline and Self-Sacrifice
  7. What Are the Political Effects of Bullshit Jobs, and is There Anything That Can Be Done About This Situation?
    • On How the Political Culture under Managerial Feudalism Comes to Be Maintained by a Balance of Resentments
    • How the Current Crisis over Robotization Relates to the Larger Problem of Bullshit Jobs
    • On the Political Ramifications of Bullshitization and Consequent Decline of Productivity in the Caring Sector as It Relates to the Possibility of a Revolt of the Caring Class
    • On Universal Basic Income as an Example of a Program That Might Begin to Detach Work from Compensation and Put an End to the Dilemmas Described in This Book


Bullshit Jobs

Reviewed by Roland Buresund

Very Good ******** (8 out of 10)

Last modified: Dec. 4, 2022, 5:18 p.m.

A very interesting book, that started out OK, but grew on you and got you thinking, and became an outstanding book in the later chapters until the author started to sprout (explicit) anarchistic ideas, which made the whole book easy to question.

All in all, a very good book as it gets you to think. Worth reading.


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