Are the stories we invent.
We live with these stories, we remind ourselves of them, we perfect them.
And, happily, if you don’t like the story you’re telling yourself, you can change it.
3 min video (above) via
David Graeber (@davidgraeber) tweeted at 2:51 PM on Mon, May 14, 2018:
haven’t heard me explain #bullshitjobs enough? Well I guess that’s possible. Here’s Penguin with a handy video.
notes/quotes from book – 2018
to anyone who would rather be doing something useful w themselves..t
preface: on the phenom of bs jobs
(includes his 2013 article for strike!)
see my notes on article directly below book notes.. a couple lines that caught me this time around.. missing from below:
it’s as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working. and here precisely, lies the mystery. in capitalism. this is precisely what is not supposed to happen..
even more perverse, there seems to be a broad sense that this is the way things should be..t.. this is one of the secret strengths of right wing populism…
on jan 5 2015.. a little more than a year after the article came out.. on the day most londoners wer returning to work from holiday – someone took several hundred ads in london underground cars and replace the w a series of guerrilla posters consisting of quotes from the original essay..
- huge swathes of people spend their days performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed
- it’s as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs for the sake of keeping us all working
- the moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. it is a scar across our collective souls.. yet virtually no one talks about it
- how can one even being to speak of dignity in labor when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist
result of that.. surveys.. which showed 37% believed jobs were not meaningful.. 13% uncertain.. this was almost twice what i had anticipated.. dutch workers reports 40%.. so now.. confirmed by stat research
clearly then, we have an important social phenom that has received almost no systematic attention..t
it seemed to me the answer had to lie in the mind set of the political class.. almost all of those making the key decisions had attended college in the 1960s.. when campuses were at the very epicenter of political ferment.. and they felt strongly that such things must never happen again..
had effect of simultaneously shifting more and more wealth and power to the wealthy and almost completely destroying the basis for org’s challenges to their power
may not have worked well economically, but politically worked like a dream
the real question i was asking is why no one intervened (‘conspire’ if you like) to do something about the matter.. t
in this book i want to do considerably more than that..
i believe that the phenom of bs employment can provide us w a window on much deeper social problems.. t
when and how did we come to believe that creativity was supposed to be painful.. or .. how did we ever come up with the notion that it would be possible to sell one’s time.. t
i would like this book to be an arrow aimed at the heart of our civilization.. there is something very wrong w what we have made ourselves.. we have become a civilization based on work ..t..- not even ‘productive work’ but work as an end and meaning in itself .. we have come to believe that men and women who do not work harder than they wish at jobs they do not particularly enjoy are bad people unworthy of love, care, or assistance from their communities.. it’s as if we have collectively acquiesced to our own enslavement..t.. the main political reaction to our awareness that half the time we are engaged in utterly meaningless or even counterproductive activities – usually under the orders of a person we dislike – is to rankle w resentment over the fact there might be others out there who are not in the same trap. as a result, hatred, resentment, and suspicion have become the glue that holds society together. this is a disastrous state of affairs. i wish it to end. .t
if this book can in any way contribute to that end, it will have been worth writing.
1 – what is a bs job
we have created societies where much of the population, trapped in useless employment, have come to resent and despise equally those who do the most useful work in society, and those who do no paid work at all..t
this is a useful point to bear in mind (that bs job defn includes the person believing the job is useless) because most people who do a great deal of harm in the world are protected against the knowledge that they do so..
final working defn: a bs job is a form of paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence even though, as part of the conditions of employment, the employee feels obliged to pretend that this is not the case
all i’m really saying here is that since there is such a thing as social value, as apart from mere market value, but since no one has ever figured out an adequate way to measure it, the worker’s perspective is about *as close as one is likely to get to an accurate assessment of the situation
this goes for school too
process of bullshitization is highly inconsistent.. it has, for obvious reasons, affected middle class employment more than working class employment, and w/in the working class, it has been traditionally female, caregiving work that has been the main target of bullshitization: many nurses.. 80% of time paperwork, meetings,.. while truck drivers and bricklayers still carry on largely unaffected..
we could easily become societies of leisure and institute a 20 hr workweek. maybe even a 15 hr.. instead, we find ourselves, as a society condemned to spending most of our time at work, performing tasks that we feel make no diff in the world whatsoever.
2 – what sorts of bs jobs are there
this book can be seen as a collab project.. ie: drew directly from these convos and which i like to see less as my own creation and more as a the product of an ongoing dialogue (most from 2016 email/twitter request/convo)
5 types: flunkies, goons, duct tapers, box tickers, and taskmasters
1\ flunkies: only primarily to make someone else look or feel important ie: servants, clients, ..entourage
a company has to have three levels of command in order to be considered a ‘real’ company.. otherwise you wouldn’t be a corp bu just some kind of hippie collective… if org grows in size, higher ups’ importance will almost invariably be measured by total number of employees working under them.. more incentive for those on top to hire and then figure out what they’ll do after.. or .. resist efforts to eliminate jobs found to be redundant
2\ goons: have an aggressive element.. exist only because other people employ them .. neg impact on society ie: armed forces..lobbyists, pr specialists, telemarketers, corp lawyers
i have included goons as a category of bs job largely for this reason: because so many of those who hold them feel their jobs have not social value and ought not to exist.. not just lack positive value but also they see them as essentially manipulative and aggressive..
there are few things less pleasant than being forced against your better nature to try to convince others to do things that defy their common sense..
3\ duct tapers: exist only because fo glitch or fault in the org.. there to solve problem that ought not to exist.. ie: underlings who undo damage done by sloppy or incompetent superiors
freud’s ‘housewife’s neurosis’: a condition that he believed affected women forced to limit their life horizons to tidying up after others, and who therefore became fanatical about domestic hygiene as a form of revenge.. this is often the moral agony of the duct taper: to be forced to organize one’s working life around caring about a certain value (say, cleanliness) precisely because more important people could not care less..
tasks that could be automated.. for ie, but haven’t been either because no one has gotten around to it, or because manage wants to maintain as many subordinates as possible.. or because of some structural confusion.. or a combo..
on the social level duct taping has traditionally been women’s work.. throughout history, prominent men have wandered about oblivious to half of what’s going on around them, treading on a thousand toes; it was typically their wives, sisters, mothers, or daughters who were left w the responsibility of performing the emotional labor of soothing egos, calming nerves, and negotiating solutions to the problems they created
interpretive labor et al
like rather than hiring someone to fix roof.. hiring someone to empty bucket under leak
duct tapers are almost always aware they have bs jobs and are usually quite angry about it
4\ box tickers: exist only or primarily to allow an org to be able to claim it is doing something that in fact it is not doing… ie: filling out forms never used
annoying to employee because does nothing toward purpose.. actually undermines it..
on reports that get presented then filed away.. note here the importance of the physical attractiveness of the report
huge resonation w curriculum mappings et al
many of these reports are nothing more than props in a kabuki-like corp theater – no one actually reads them all the way thru.. but this doesn’t stop ambitious execs from cheerfully shelling out half a workman’s yearly wages of company money just to be able to say ‘ooh yes, we commissioned a report on that’
hannibal: it is very easy to charge a very large amount of money to write bs reports (those making reports et al.. tend to get paid handsomely often 2-3 times market rate.. but still say job is bs)
5\ taskmasters: 1\ assign work to others 2\ create/generate bs jobs for others to do
(on type 1) start coming up w formal statistical metrics that his underlings can try to falsify.. being forced to supervise people who don’t need supervision is actually a fairly common complaint..t
sounds like school
(on type 2) setting up quantifiable methods for assessing performance, forcing teachers and scholars to spend more and more of their time assessing and justifying what they do and less and less time actually doing it.. are insinuated into academic life.. the same suspicions hold for any document that repeatedly used the words: quality; excellence; leadership; or stakeholder.. so.. strategic leadership as type 2
so i spent 2 years of my life making up work for myself and for other people..
flak catchers – receivers of legit complaints but given role precisely because they have no authority to do anything about them
the main reason i hesitate to make flak catcher a category of bs job is because this is a real service.. tim is not making up for a structural flaw.. like apologizing for carpenter not coming.. he’s there because if you gather together large number of teenagers, a few will invariably throw temper tantrums about stupid things.. and tim’s employer would prefer they direct their outrage at someone other than himself.. in other words, tim’s is a shit job, but it’s not entirely clear that it’s a bs one.. (need someone to vent anger to)
second order bs jobs.. ie: cleaners, security, maintenance, and other support staff for a bs company..
my primary aim is not so much to lay out a theory of social utility or social value as to understand the psychological, social, and political effects of the fact that so many of us labor under the secret belief that our jobs lack social utility or social value
3 – why do those in bs jobs regularly report themselves unhappy (on spiritual violence p1)
why does having a pointless job so regularly cause people to be miserable? on the face of it, it’s not obvious that it should. after all, we’re talking about people who are effectively being paid – often very good money – to do nothing.. many in fact, seemed perplexed by their own reaction, unable to understand why their situation left them feeling so worthless or depressed..t
i don’t want to task why people are so unhappy doing what seems to them meaningless make-work, but to think more deeply about what that unhappiness can tell us about what people are and what they are basically about..t
eric: they needed me precisely because i didn’t have the skills to implement something that they didn’t want to implement
you’re not even living your own lie. most of the time, you’re not even quite living somebody else’s lie, either. your job is more like a boss’s unzippered fly that everyone can see but also knows better than to mention.. if anything, this appears to compound the sense of purposelessness..
nowadays it is considered important they should work. however, it is not considered important they should work at anything useful..
patrick: very very worst thing about the job.. it gave you so much time to think.. so i just thought so much about how bs my job was,.. and just endlessly theorized the alts to a system where millions of human beings have to do that kind of work for their whole lives in order to survive..
brendan: if i didn’t have to spend so much time and energy looking busy.. t
but of course efficiency is not the point,. in fact, if we are simply talking about teaching students about efficient work habits, the best thing would be to leave them to their studies. schoolwork is, after all, real work in every sense except that you don’t get paid for it
dang.. so not true.. (depending on what you mean by ‘if simply talking about teaching students about efficient work habits’.. hoping you don’t really mean schoolwork is real work)
school work is per someone else’s agenda (in particular.. the agenda/assumption/belief that one needs to train/prep).. definitely bs.. not to mention setting the stage (for 12 plus years).. that this is the way it’s supposed to be.. ie: doing other people’s work/agenda
school work has real content
according to who..?
one must attend classes, do the readings, write exercises or papers, and be judged on the results
to that i say: The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.
per your defn (p9): a bs job is a form of paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence even though, as part of the conditions of employment, the employee feels obliged to pretend that this is not the case
(parents, admin, teachers, students, ..) can’t talk about how pointless ie: math, history, art even.. seems to the person being compulsed to do it.. obliged to pretend it’s important.. nothing is going to work 1\ in a pkg deal setting – which is all of school 2\ if it doesn’t come from the individual curiosity.. that day
but in practical terms, this appears to be exactly what makes schoolwork appear inadequate to those authorities – parents, teachers, govts, admins – who have all come to feel that they must also tech students about the real world.. it’s too results – oriented. you can study any way you want to so long as you pass the test. a successful student has to learn self discipline, but *this is not the same as learning how to operate under orders..
*i see it as identical.. because the choice of what to study.. it in essence.. an order.. it’s not coming from the study-er..
note.. huge difference between study ing.. and studying someone else’s agenda/topic/curiosity/whatever
of course, the same is true of most of the other projects and activities students might otherwise be engaged in: whether rehearsing for plays, playing in a band, political activism, or baking cookies or growing pot to sell to fellow students.. all of which might be *appropriate training for a society of self employed adults, or even one made up primarily of the largely autonomous professionals (drs, lawyers, architects, and so forth) that unis were once designed to produce. it might even be appropriate to train young people for the democratically org’d collectives that were the subject of patrick’s reveries about full communism. but as brendan points out, it is very much not prep for work in today’s increasingly bs’ed workplace
see.. key to me..*training isn’t appropriate
i think we can conclude that from these jobs (bs student work jobs), students learn at least five things: 1\ how to operate under others’ direct supervision; 2\ how to pretend to work even when nothing needs to done; 3\ that one is not paid money to do things, however useful or important, that on actually enjoys;.. 4\ that one is paid money to do things that are in no way useful or important and that one does not enjoy; and 5\ that at least in jobs requiring interaction w the public, even when one is being paid to carry out tasks one does not enjoy, one also has to pretend to be enjoying it
this sounds like schoolwork to me..
this is what brendan meant by how make-work student employment was a way of ‘preparing and training’ students for the future bs jobs..
he was studying to be a hs history teacher – a meaningful job, certainly,
no.. not certainly
but, as w almost all teaching position in the us, one where the proportion of hours spent teaching in class or preparing lessons has declined, while the total number of hours dedicated to admin tasks has increased dramatically. this is what brendan is suggesting: that it’s no coincidence that the more jobs requiring college degrees become suffused in bs, the more pressure is put on college students to learn about the real world by dedicating less of their time to self-org’d goal-directed activity and more of it to tasks that will prep them for the more mindless aspects of their future careers
school (from the get go of history) does that prep (for mindless ness) just fine .. that’s how we got to bs jobs.. ie: we all spend 12 plus years following orders.. as to what to study.. when to go to the bathroom.. et al..
if argument of previous section is correct, on e could perhaps conclude that eric’s problem was just that he hadn’t been sufficiently prep’d for the pointlessness of the modern workplace.. he had passed thru the old ed system – some traces of it are left – designed to prep students to actually do things. this led to false expectations and an initial shock of disillusionment that he could not overcome.
? – ed as prep to do things.. has always been – work as solving other people’s problems.. (that too came from consumerism mindset.. because solving other people’s problems sells)
perhaps. but i dont’ think that’s the full story.. there is something much deeper going on here.. eric might have been unusually ill prep’d to endure the meaninglessness of his first job, but just about everyone does see such meaninglessness as something to be endured – despite the fact that we are all trained, in one way or another, to assume that human beings should be perfectly delighted to find themselves in this situation of being paid good money not to work..
initial problem: why we assume that someone being paid to do nothing should consider himself fortunate.. obvious place to look is at economic theory.. economic man – the model human being – is assumed to be motivated above all by a calculus of costs and benefits..
all the mathematical equations by which economists bedazzle their clients, or the public, are founded on one simple assumption: that everyone, left to his own devices, will choose the course of action that provides the most of what he wants for the least expenditure of resources and effort.
much of our public discourse about work starts from the assumption that the economists’ model is correct.. people have to be compelled to work;..t .. if the poor are to be given relief so they don’t actually starve, it has to be delivered in the most humiliating and onerous ways possible, because otherwise they would become dependent and have no incentive to find proper jobs.. the underlying assumption is that if humans are offered the option to be parasites, of course they’ll take it
the bigger assumption is that we need money
leave them to their own devices.. and they (people) almost invariably rankle even more at the prospect of having nothing useful to do.. there is endless empirical evidence to back this up..t
actually, one of the few positive side effects of a prison system is that, simply by providing us w info of what happens, and how humans behave under extreme situation of deprivation, we can learn basic truths about what it means to be human
ugh.. if that were true (that we’re seeing how humans behave) .. we wouldn’t have prisoners coming out and trying to get a ged.. or a job.. that’s still thinking the whales in sea world are legit (we’re just seeing how people in schools/schooled-society behave)
i suspect the work experiment can be seen in similar terms (as prisoners in solitary).. humans may or may not be cut out for regular 9-5 labor discipline – it seems to me that there is considerable evidence that they aren’t – but even hardened criminals generally find the prospect of just sitting around doing nothing even worse..
why should this be the case? and just how deeply rooted are such disposition in human psychology? there is reason to believe the answer is: very deep indeed.
karl groos: the pleasure at being the cause.. suggesting that it is the basis for play..t
groos as peter‘s focus
children come to understand that they exist, that they are discrete entities separate form the world around them, largely by coming to understand that ‘they’ are the thing which just caused something to happen – the proof of which is the fact that they can make it happen again..t
then from footnote: p 300: and also, crucially, that they might just as easily not have done it. hence, groos defined the attendant joy as being the feeling of freedom..t
a&a – 2 basic needs
let’s focus on this
crucially too, this realization is, from the very beginning, marked w a species of delight that remains the fundamental background of all subsequent human experience
and from footnote p 301: when child thus feels the change as originating w/in himself, he begins to have a sense of being himself.. a psychologically, not simply physically autonomous unit.. fundamental joy in knowledge of one’s own existence that is tied to one’s freedom to have effects on world around you..t
experiments have also shown that if one first allows a child to discover and experience the delight in being able to cause a certain effect, and then suddenly denies it to them, the results are dramatic; first rage, refusal to engage, and then a kind of catatonic folding in on oneself and withdrawing from the world entirely.. francis broucek called this the ‘trauma of failed influence’ and suspected that such traumatic experiences might lie behind many mental health issues later in life..t
so this begins to give sense of why being trapped in (bs) job.. would have devastating effects.. it’s not just an assault on the person’s sense of self importance but also a direct attack on the very foundation of the sense that one even is a self.. a human being unable to have a meaningful impact on the world ceases to exist
if make believe play is the purest expression of human freedom, make believe work imposed by others if the purest expression of lack of freedom
gray play law.. freedom to quit
really not surprising then that the first historical evidence we have of the notion that certain categories of people really ought to be working at all times, even it there’s nothing to do, and that work needs to be made up to fill their time, even if there’s nothing that really needs doing, refers to people who are not free: prisoners and slaves, two categories that historically have largely overlapped..
and schools students.. overlap.. seat time et al
it would be fascinating, though probably impossible, to write a history of make-work – to explore when and in what circumstances ‘idleness’ first came to be seen as a problem, or even a sin.. t.. i’m not aware that anyone has actually tried to do this.. but all evidence we have indicates that the modern form of make-work that patrick and brendan are complaining about is historically new. this is in part because most people who have ever existed have assumed that normal human work patterns take the form of periodic intense bursts of energy, followed by relaxation , followed by slowly picking up again toward another intense bout.. this is what farming is like..
peasants and servants obviously were expected to work more steadily.. but even so, their work schedule was nothing remotely as regular or disciplined as the current 9-5.. the typical medieval serf, male or female, probably worked from dawn to dusk for 20-30 days a year, but just a few hours a day otherwise, and on feast days, not at all.. and feast days were not infrequent..
the main reasons why work could remain so irregular was because it was largely unsupervised..
‘idle fingers knit sweaters for the devil’ my great grandmother used to warn her daughter back in poland..
from.. .better to keep slaves busy .. no time on hands to plot to flee or revolt.. to.. you’re on my time.. idleness not so much dangerous.. but theft.. ..this is important because the idea that one person’s time can belong to someone else is actually quite peculiar..t
as moses finley observes, any such notion would have to involve two conceptual leaps.. first.. to think of potter’s capacity to work, his ‘labor power’ as a thing that was distinct from the potter himself (buy him as slave understandable.. buy his time not).. and second, to devise some way to pour that capacity out.. into uniform temporal containers – hours, days, work shifts.. that could then be purchased using cash.. how could you buy time..?
so how did we get to the situation we see today, when it’s considered perfectly natural for free citizens of democratic counties to rent themselves out in this way.. or for a boss to become indignant if employees are not working every moment of ‘his’ time
first had to involve a change in the common conception of what time actually was.. t
in places w/o clocks time is measured by actions rather than action being measured by time.. (ie: distance to village.. two cookings of pot of rice)
edward evan evans pritchard speaking of the neur, a pastoral people of east africa: the neur have no expression equivalent to ‘time’ in our language, and they cannot, therefore as we can speak of time as though it were something actual, which passes, can be wasted, can be saved, and so forth.. i do not think that they ever experience the same feeling of fighting against time or having to coordinate activities w an abstract passage of time, because their points of reference are mainly the activities themselves, which are generally of a leisurely character. events follow a logical order, but they are not controlled by an abstract system, there being no autonomous points of reference to which activities have to conform w precision. neur are fortunate..
time is not a grid against which work can be measured, because the work its the measure itself
let’s go for ongoing fittingness.. ie: eudaimonia
ep thompson wrote 1967 essay on origins of modern time ‘time, work discipline, and industrial capitalism’.. simultaneous moral/tech changes, each propelling the other.. by 14th cent, most european towns had created clock towers.. usually funded/encourage by local merchant guild. same merchants developed habit of placing human skulls on desks as memento mori, to remind themselves that they should make good use of time because each chime of the clock brought them one hour closer to death..
dissemination of domestic clocks and then pocket watches took much longer..coinciding w industrial revolution (late 1700s), but once it did happen, it allowed for similar attitudes to diffuse among middle classes more generally.. sidereal time, the absolute time of the heavens, had to come to earth and began to regulate even the most intimate daily affairs.. t but time was simultaneously a fixed grid, a posssession.. a finite property to be carefully budgeted and disposed of .. much like money.. new techs also allowed any person’s fixed time on earth to be chopped up into uniform units that could be bought/sold for money..t
once time was money, it became possible to speak of ‘spending time’.. that than just ‘passing’ it.. also of wasting/killing/saving/losing/racing.. time.. and so forth.. preachers began instructing about ‘husbandry of time’.. budgeting .. factories began employing time clocks; charity schools designed to teach the poor discipline and punctuality gave way to public school systems where students of all social classes were made to get up and march from room to room each hour at the sound of a bell, an arrangement self-consciously designed to train children for future lives of paid factory labor..t
as a result, over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, starting in england, the old episodic style of working came increasingly to be viewed as a social problem.. the middle classes came to see the poor as poor largely because they lacked time discipline,..t.. they spent their time recklessly, just as they gambled away their money
meanwhile.. workers rebelling against oppressive conditions began adopting the same language.. many early factories didn’t allow workers to bring their own timepieces, since the owner regularly played fast and loose w the factory clock.. .. the very act of demanding ‘free time’ however understandable under the circumstance, had the effect to subtly reinforcing the idea that when a worker was ‘on the clock’ his time truly did belong to the person who had bought it..
it’s impossible to understand the spiritual violence of modern work w out understanding this history..t which leads regularly to a direct clash between the morality fo the employer and the common sense of the employee.. no matter how much workers may have been conditioned in time discipline by primary schooling, they will see the demand to work continually at a steady pace for 8 hours a day regardless of what there is to do as defying all common sense.. and the pretend make-work they are instructed to perform as absolutely infuriating..
we learned our lesson: if you’re on the clock, don’t be too efficient. you will not be rewarded.. you’ll be punished w meaningless busywork.. and being forced to pretend to work.. was the most absolute indignity.. a sheer exercise of the boss’s power for its own sake..
mitch’s sort (picking rocks) highlights the religious element; the idea that dutiful submission even to meaningless work under another’s authority is a form of more self discipline that makes you a better person.. this of course is a modern variant of puritanism. for now though, i mainly want to emphasize how this element just adds an even more exasperating layer to the perverse morality whereby idleness is a theft of someone else’s time..t
ultimately, the need to play a game of make believe not of one’s own making, a game that exists only as a form of power imposed on you, is inherently demoralizing..t
it is like taking the very worst aspect of most wage labor jobs and substituting it for the occupation that was otherwise supposed to give meaning to your existence. it’s no wonder the soul cries out. it is a direct assault on everything that makes us human.. t
4 – what is it like to have a bs job (on spiritual violence, p 2)
in bs jobs, the ability to perform acts of make believe, which under ordinary circumstances might be considered the highest and most distinctly human form of action – esp to the extent that the make believe worlds so create are in some way actually brought into reality – is turned against itself.. hence my inquiry into the history of pretend work and the social/intellectual origins of the concept that one’s time can belong to someone else…
if being forced to pretend to work is so infuriating because it makes clear the degree to which you are entirely under another person’s power then bs jobs are entire jobs org’d on that same principle..
one obvious diff.. whether you now who is pushing you around.. in the case of bs jobs, it’s rarely so clear cut.. who exactly is forcing you to pretend to work..? the company? society? ..some strange confluence of social convention and econ forces that insist no one should be given the means of life w/o working, .. at least in traditional workplace there was someone against whom you could direct your rage
this is one of the things that comes thru strongly in the testimonies i assembled: the infuriating ambiguity. there is something terrible, ridiculous, outrageous going on, but it’s not clear whether you are even allowed to acknowledge it, and it’s usually even less clear who/what can be blamed..t
(on stress as another theme that popped up regularly) no one was allowed to discuss anything in the office. the physical isolation was continuous w the social isolation.. everyone there was forced to become a little bubble unto himself/herself
sounds like school
the person on bottom desperately struggles for approval that can never, by defn be forthcoming; the person on the top going to greater and greater lengths to assert dominance that both know is ultimately a lie – for if the top were really the all powerful, confident, masterly being he pretends to be, he wouldn’t need to go to such outrageous lengths to ensure the bottom’s recognition of his power..
in the play version all the parameters are carefully worked out in advance by mutual consent, w both parties knowing the game can be called off at any moment simply by invoking an agreed on safe word..
finn: being an expert in something that is unnecessary is, as you can imagine, not all that fulfilling
in context.. but careful to say that out of context.. ie: knitting
a commonplace dilemma. the job itself may be unnecessary, but it’s hard to see it as a bad thing if it allows you to feed your children.. t
begs we go moneyless
you might ask what kind fo econ system creates a world where the only way to feed one’s children is to spend most of one’s waking hours engaged in useless box ticking exercises or solving problems that shouldn’t exist.. but then can equally turn question on its head and ask whether all this can really be a useless as it seems if the econ system that created thees jobs also enables you to feed your children.. perhaps every aspect of the system, no matter how apparently pointless, is just the way it has to be..
the burden of rights scolding falls above all on the younger gens. in most wealthy countries.. can expect opps substantially worse than parents.. yet at same time.. they are lectured relentlessly from both left/right on their sense of entitlement for feeling they might deserve anything else. this makes it esp difficult for younger people to complain about meaningless employment
any victim of the system who has ever asked herself, ‘how can such people live w themselves” might take some comfort in the fact that, in many cases, they can’t..t
so ultimately.. meena explains, her role was to threaten to make formerly homeless people homeless again, ‘all so that one dept could claim a cash transfer from another’..t
on spiritual violence.. it’s hard to imagine anything more soul destroying than, as meena put it, being forced to commit acts of arbitrary bureaucratic cruelty against one’s will.. to become the face of the machine that one despises.. bs jobs regularly induce feelings of hopelessness, depression, and self-loathing. they are forms of spiritual violence directed at the essence of what it means to be a human being..t
i am convinced this (trapped in offices doing nothing all day) is the primary reason for the rise of social media.. esp when one considers it in the light not just of the rise of bs jobs but also of the increasing bs-izatin of real jobs..
same w trapped in classroom all day
so.. utilizing bs jobs to pursue other projects isnt’ easy.. it requires ingenuity and determination to take time that’s been first flattened and homogenized.. then broken randomly into often unpredictably large fragments.. and use that time for projects requiring thought and creativity..
hannibal.. can even see himself as a kind of modern day robin hood in a world where, as he put it, merely ‘doing something worthwhile is subversive‘..t
nouri: i used to have to go literally ‘insane’ to get into work. scrub away ‘me’ and become the thing that can do this work, afterward i’d often need a day to recover; to remember who i am..t (if i didn’t, i’d become an acerbic, nitpicky person to people in my private life, enraged over tiny things)..
this violence has affected our culture. our sensibilities. above all, it has affected our youth.. being psychologically prep’d for useless jobs, trained in how to pretend to work, then shepherded into jobs that almost nobody really believes serve any meaningful purpose
that’s been going on for some time in schools
how this has come to happen.. to be normalized.. encouraged.. is topic in ch 5.. it needs to be addressed, because this is a genuine scar across our collective soul..t
5 – why are bs jobs proliferating
this is not just a book about a hitherto neglected aspect of the world of work. it’s a book about a real social problem.. overall % of bs jobs increasing rapidly in recent years.. how.. and why has it received so little public attention..t
one reason it has been so little acknowledged, i think is that under our current econ system, this is precisely what is not supposed to happen.. ie: people paid to do nothing
so part of reason.. people simply refused to believe that capitalism could produce such results.. even if that meant writing off their own experiences or those of their friends and family as somehow anomalous..
another reason.. we have developed a way of talking about changes in nature of employments.. but is, in fact, profoundly deceptive.. ie: rise of ‘service econ’.. t.. since 80s all convos on changes have had to begin w.. steady decline in farming and manufacturing (which hasn’t declined that much in terms of employment) and steady increase in ‘services’
we think services – people serving each other.. but not true.. so what might they be doing..? they (economists) usually define it (4th sector to farming, manufacturing and service provision) as the fire sector (finance, insurance, real estate).. but in 1992 – robert taylor suggested it would be more useful to define it as info work..t
in 1990.. proportion of workforce made up of actual waiters, barbers, salesclerks, and the like was really quite small.. and remained steady over time.. hold for more than a century at roughly 20 %.. the vast majority of those others included in the service sector were really admins, consultants, clerical and accounting staff, it professionals and the like..
this was the part of the service sector that was actually increasing .. and quite dramatically from the 1950s onward… this of course is precisely the zone where bs jobs proliferate..t
there has been great deal of discussion since 1990s about rise of info oriented jobs and their large effect on society..’knowledge workers’ ‘info society’.. ‘immaterial labor’..
almost everyone assumed rise of such jobs had something to do w rise of finance capital.. ie: wall street profits derived less and less from commerce/or manufacturing and more and more from debt, speculation and creation of complex financial instruments
financiers had managed to convince the public – social theorists too.. that w instruments such as collateralized debt obligation and high speed trading algos so complex they could be understood only by astrophysicists.. they had .. like modern alchemists, learned ways to whisk value out of nothing by means that others dared not even try to understand.. then of course came the crash and it turned out that most of the instruments were scams..
in a way one could argue that the whole financial sector is a scam of sorts.. since it reps itself as largely about directing investments toward profitable opps in commerce and industry, when in fact it does very little of that.. the overwhelming bulk of its profits comes from colluding w govt to create, and then to trade and manipulate, various forms of debt..
fractal of meena working w homeless..
all i’m arguing.. is that just as much of what the fin sector does is basically smoke and mirror, so are most of the info sector jobs that accompanied its rise
if these are scams, who is scamming whom
why were such bad organization dynamic more likely to occur in 2015 that they were in say 1915 or 1955.. has there been a change in org culture, or is it something deeper: a change, perhaps in our very conceptions of work?
i would propose we really need to look at three diff levels of explanation: 1\ reasons any given individual ends up homeless; 2\ the larger social econ forces that lead to increased levels of homelessness (say, a rise in rents or changes in family structure); and 3\ the reasons why no one intervened..
this last .. political and cultural level.. easiest to overlook.. since it’s what people are not doing
ie: why didn’t american see people sleeping on streets as a national embarrassment
3 questions in case of bs jobs: 1\ on individual level, why do people put up w bs jobs 2\ on social and econ levels, what are larger forces that have led to proliferation 3\ on cultural and political levels, why is bs-ization of econ not seen as social problem, why has no one done anything about it
much of confusion.. traced to fact that people take these diff explanations as alts rather than seeing ..all operate at same time.. ie: people sometimes tell me that any attempt to explain bs jobs in political terms is wrongheaded: such jobs, they insist exist because people need the money.. .. so asking why so many people find themselves in a position where the only way they can get money is by taking such jobs to begin with..t
better yet.. why we think we need money
it remains true that ‘more jobs’ is the one political slogan that both left and right can always agree on..
wrong argument of why bs jobs: 1\ globalization has rendered process of production so complicated.. we need ever more office workers to administer it – so not bs jobs 2\ the bs jobs only exist because increases in govt regulation
clearly the point was to siphon of as much of the money as possible before it got to the claimants.. the longer the lower level people took, the more the company would earn.. ie: printing and destroying the same documents a half dozen times all the while threatening legal action against anyone who revealed such practices to outsiders..
one reason for the confusion (on banks) the level of general fear, stress, and paranoia appears to be much greater in banks than in most of the other enterprises we’ve been considering so far. employees are under enormous pressure not to ask too many questions..t
in other words, 48 000 of the bank’s 60 000 employees did nothing useful.. or nothing that couldn’t easily be done by a machine..t
imagine if we had no money.. then 100% of them.. not to mention everyone not spending their days figuring out moneys
kevin carson: the upper quintile is growing in size and income because all the value created by actual productive workers in the lower quintiles gets extracted by those at the top. when the top classes rob everybody else, they need a lot more guard labor to keep their stolen loot secure..t
corps less about making, building, fixing, or maintaining things and more about political processes of appropriating, distributing, and allocating money and resources… ie: jp morgan chase.. reported in 2006 that roughly 2/3 of profits derived from ‘fees and penalties’ and ‘finance’ in general really refers to trading in other people’s debt..t
even firms at heart of old industrial order..ie: gm.. makes its money not from selling cars but rather from interest collected on auto loans..
(on original unis being more about self governance .. ie: *students electing profs).. ‘efficiency’ has come to mean vesting more and more power to managers, supervisors, and other presumed ‘efficiency experts’ so that actual producers have almost zero autonomy.. t
in other words, the feudal analogy is not even really an analogy. managerialism has become the pretext for creating a new covert form of feudalism,..t.. where wealth and position are allocated not on economic but political grounds – or rather, where every day it’s more difficult to tell the diff between what can be considered ‘economic’ and what is ‘political’
everywhere, managerial feudalism ensure that thousands of hours of creative effort will literally come to nothing.. ie: if a grant agency funds only 10% of all applications, that means that 90% of the work that went into preparing applications was (just as) pointless .. this is an extraordinary squandering of human creative energy..t
just to give a sense of the scale of the problem: one recent study determined that european unis spend roughly 1.4 bn euros a year on failed grant applications..
scientists.. have to spend so much of their time vying w one another to convince potential donors they already know what they are going to discover..t
we now have a world of funding proposals, strategic vision documents, and development team pitches.. allowing for the endless elaboration of new and ever more pointless levels of managerial hierarchy,..t.. staffed by men and women w elaborate titles, fluent in corporate jargon.. but who either have no firsthand experience of what it’s like to actually do the work they are supposed to be managing or who have done everything in their power to forget it
this chapter has been largely about structural forces. no doubt bs jobs have long been w us; but recent years have seen an enormous proliferation of such pointless forms of employment, accompanied by an ever-increasing bs-ization of real jobs, and despite a popular misconception that all this is somehow tied to the rise of the service sector, this proliferation appears to have everything to do with the growing importance of finance..t
it was only in the 70s that the financial sector and the executive classes – that is the upper echelons of the various corp bureaucracies – effectively fused..
there seems to be an intrinsic connection between the financialization of the economy, the blossoming of info industries, and the proliferation of bs jobs..
if the existence of bs jobs seems to defy the logic of capitalism, one possible reason for their proliferation might be that the existing system isn’t capitalism – or at least isn’t any sort of capitalism that would be recognizable from the works of adam smith, karl marx, or for that matter, ludwig von mises or milton friedman.. it is increasingly a system of rent extraction where the internal logic – are profoundly different from capitalism, since econ and political imperative have come to largely merge..
6 – why do we as a society not object to the growth of pointless employment
if it’s really true that as much as half the work we do could be eliminated.. why not start shutting down the global work machine? if nothing else, it would probably be the most effective thing we could do to put a break on global warming.. t
a hundred yrs ago, any assumed that the steady advance of tech and labor saving devices would have made this possible by now, and the irony is that they were probably right.. yet.. for some reason, we as a society have collectively decided it’s better to have millions of human beings spending years of their lives pretending to type into spreadsheets or preparing mind maps for pr meetings than freeing them to *(whatever)t..knit sweaters, play w their dogs, start a garage band, experiment w new recipes, or sit in cafes arguing about
*this is the big why (we haven’t yet gotten to global equity).. we’re afraid of the whatever.. and all our experiments with it have never worked.. because we can’t truly let go to 100% whatever ness.. but that is the key.. ie: gershenfeld sel
i think a lot of this goes back to your .. is idleness a danger or a theft.. i think much of it is seen as a danger.. we’re afraid of us..
(now see orwell quote by 245)
some originally theological notions about work are so universally accepted that they simply can’t be questioned.. (valorizing work as sacred duty.. seeing humans as inherently sinful/lazy)
the field of value is always contested territory. it seems that whenever there’s word for something everyone agrees to be desirable – truth, beauty, love ,democracy, then there will be no consensus as to what it really means..
work in our society.. a.. weird, topsy-turvy effects.. our society has reached point where not only is social value of work usually in inverse proportion to econ value.. but many have come to accept this is morally right.. that we should reward useless or even destructive behavior and effectively punish those who’s daily labors make the world a better place.. this is genuinely perverse..
economists measure value in terms of what they call ‘utility’.. the degree to which a good or service is useful in satisfying a want/need..t
an obvious problem w the concept of utility… saying something is ‘useful’ is just saying it’s effective as a way of getting something else.. we can’t really discuss any of these things in terms of a language of ‘needs’.. t.. (from groceries, to a bridge, to paying for weddings/funerals..) did they ‘need’ to do this.. since there’s no *scientific defn of **what a ‘human need’ actually is, t.. beyond the body’s minimal caloric and nutritional req’s, and a few other physical factors, such questions must always be ***subjective.. to a large degree, needs ar just other people’s expectations.. ie: if don’t throw proper wedding.. a family disgrace
not ***subjective if we go deep enough **ie: 2 needs *(scientific defn).. perhaps everything else will fall into place..
there’s little more depressing than enforce gaiety
according the prevailing view among contemporary economists, since value is ultimately subjective, there’s simply no way to justify such feelings. everyone should therefore withhold judgment and operate on the assumption that, if there’s a market for a give good/service.. (this would include financial services).. then it’s clearly valuable to someone, and that’s all one needs to know..
up to a point.. most workers would really appear to agree w the economists on principle.. but when it comes to their own jobs
most people seem to operate w a combo … that when a good/service answers a demand/improves people’s lives.. considered valuable.. but when it merely served to create demand, either by making people feel they are fat/ugly.. or luring them into debt.. it is not.. this seems reasonable.. but still doesn’t answer the question of what it means to ‘improve people’s lives’ and on that of course rests everything.. back again to theories of value.. what can actually be said to improve people’s lives..t
in economies, theories of value have largely served as a way to explain commodity prices..: fluctuate w supply and demand.. but always gravitate around price bread should have
what money brings into the picture is the ability to make precise quantitative comparisons..
the very cancer/violence of us.. ie: marsh exchange law
this might sound obvious, but the implications are profound, it means the market value of commodity is, precisely, the degree to which it can be compared to (and hence, exchanged for) something else..
this is exactly what is missing in the domain of ‘values’ .. it might sometimes be possible to argue that one work of art is more beautiful, or one religious devotee more pious.. but it would be bizarre to ask how much more…. this monk is 5x more pious that than one.. this rembrandt is 2x lovely as that monet.. it would be if anything even more absurd to try to come up w a mathematical formula to calculate just how much it would be legitimate to neglect one’s family in pursuit of art, or break the law in the name of social justice.. obviously people do make such decisions all the time, but by defn, they cannot be quantified..
in fact, one could even further say that is precisely the key to their value. just as commodities have econ ‘value’ because they can be compared precisely w other commodities, ‘values’ are valuable because they cannot be compared w anything..t.. they are each considered unique, incommensurable, in a word .. priceless..
i suspect all would have agreed on at least two things: first that most important things one gets out of a job ar 1\money to pay bills and 2\ opp to make a positive contribution to the world. second, that there is an inverse relation between the two.. the more your work helps/benefits others, and the more social value you create, the less you are likely to be paid for it.
if you spend your working life caring for others, you’ll end up so underpaid and so deeply in debt you won’t be able to care for your own family’.. (occupiers) – i began to refer to it as the ‘revolt of the caring classes’..t
at the same time, occupiers in zuccotti park regularly reported convos w young wall street traders: look, i know you guys are right.. i’m not contributing anything positive.. the system is corrupt, and i’m probably part of the problem. i’d quit tomorrow if you could show me how to live in ny on less than six figure salary..t
people are ready.. begs a mech/model in place..that 7bn could leap to (costello screen/service law)
there seems a broad consensus not so much even that work is good but that not working is very bad; that anyone who is not slaving away harder than he’d like at something he doesn’t especially enjoy is a bad person,..t
clement: felt they had to pretend to one another they were overwhelmed by their responsibilities, despite the obvious fact that they had very little to do.. my mind keeps going back to the pressure to value ourselves and others on the basis of how hard we work at something we’d rather not be doing. i believe this attitude exists in the air around us. we sniff it into our noses and exhale it as a social reflex in small talk..t
stands to reason that anything we would wish to be doing is less like work and more like play, or a hobby.. and therefore less deserving of material reward.. probably shouldn’t be paid for it at all
what is ‘work’..? normally we see it as the opposite of play. play in turn is defined most often as action that one does for its own sake, for pleasure, or just for the sake of doing it. work, therefore, is activity – typically onerous and repetitive – that one does not carry out for its own sake, and that one probably would never carry out for its own sake, .. but engages in only to accomplish something else (ie: to obtain food)
what has become common defn: 1\ something no one would ordinarily wish to be doing for its own sake (hence punishment).. 2\ we do it to accomplish something beyond the work (hence creation).. but fact that this is creation is not self evident.. in fact somewhat odd.. most work can’t be said to ‘create’ anything.. most of it is a matter of maintaining and rearranging things..
this is why i would insist our concept of ‘production’ and our assumption that work is defined by its ‘productivity’ is essentially theological..
male productive labor being framed here as equiv of childbirth.. via man.. pure creation ex nihilio.. yet.. it is also painful ‘labor’ .. as in so many patriarchal social orders, men like to conceive of themselves as doing socially or culturally what they like to think of women as doing naturally.. men see themselves as creating the world from their minds/brawn, and see that as the essence of ‘work’ leaving to women most of the actual labor of tidying and maintaining things to make this illusion possible..
european middle ages.. this notion of ‘service’.. ‘life-cycle’ service.. almost everyone expected to spend roughly the first 7-15 yrs of his/her working life as a servant in someone else’s household.. teenager assigned to master craftsmen as apprentices.. then have means to marry et al.. ‘servants in husbandry’ daughters were ‘milkmaids’ .. pages and ladies in waiting
certain key aspects of what was to become known as the protestant work ethic were already there, long before the emergence of protestantism..
it’s impossible to understand debates about puritanism and the origins of the protestant work ethic w/o understating this large context of the decline of life cycle service and creation of a proletariat..
why starting in the 16th cent did the middle classes suddenly develop such an interest in reforming the moral comportment of the poor..? in context of life cycle service.. makes perfect sense.. the poor were seen as frustrated adolescents.. work – and specifically paid labor under the eye of a master – had traditionally been the demand by which such adolescents learned how to be proper, disciplined, self contained adults.. while in practical terms puritan and other pious reformers could no longer promise much to the poor – certainly not adulthood.. as freedom from need to work under orders of others – they substituted charity, discipline and a renewed infusion of theology.. work, they taught, was both punishment and redemption..
thomas carlyl – gospel of work: god intentionally created the world unfinished so as to allow humans opp to complete his work thru labor.. a man perfects himself by working.. if work is noble.. it should not be compensated.. allowed poor wages in order to obtain means to live..
various strains of english radicalism would probably have agreed there was something divine in work.. but not in as effect on soul and body.. but that it was the source of wealth…everything that made rich and powerful people rich and powerful was in facet created by efforts of the poor..
1832 – 35 yrs before marx’s capital.. warnings: ‘labor is sole source of wealth seems a doctrine dangerous as it is false.. as it unhappily affords a handle to those who would represent all property as belonging to the working classes, and the share which is received by others as a robbery or fraud upon them’
labor created all wealth.. the world capitalist at that time was a largely a term of abuse.. abe lincoln: ‘labor is prior to and independent of capital.. capital is only fruit of labor and could never have existed if labor had not first existed.. labor is superior of capital..’
at wake of civil war.. things began to change w firs stirring of large scale bureaucratic, corporate capitalism.. ‘robber barons’ as new tycoons came to be called, were frist met w extraordinary hostility.. but by 1890s they embarked on an intellectual counteroffensive.. : ‘capital, not labor, creates wealth and prosperity..’ efforts made to transform the message of schools, unis, churches and civic groups.. claiming that ‘business had solved the fundamental ethical and political problems of industrial society’ .. andrew carnegie argued for what we’d now call consumerism: the productivity of ‘concentrated’ capital, under the wise stewardship of the fit.. coddling the poor w high wages was not good for ‘the race’
this coincided w beginnings of managerial revolution.. largely an attack on popular knowledge.. ie: turned workers into extension of the machinery, their every move predetermined by someone else (rather than each w secret knowledge of trade)
this was a monumental shift in popular consciousness.. (producerism to consumerism.. no longer stability to make things.. but to purchase them).. what made it possible..?.. seems to me the main reason lies in flaw in original labor theory of value itself.. this was its focus on ‘production’ .. basically theological and bears in it a profound patriarchal bias
but even when it comes to factory labor, there is something of a darker story.. most early factory owners.. employed women and children…. results were often brutal and horrific..
then.. luddism.. primarily men employed in factory work.. this and fact that for next century. labor organizing tended to focus on factory workers.. (partly because easier to organize) ..led to situation we have now , where simply invoking the term ‘working class’ instantly draw images of men in overalls.. in fact, there was never a time most workers worked in factories..
are these former jobs (pre factory) productive.. in what sense and for whom..? it’s because of these ambiguities that such issues are typically brushed aside when people are arguing about value; but doing so blinds us to the reality that most working class labor, whether carried out by men or women, actually more resembles what we archetypically think of as women’s work, looking after people..plants..animals.. machines..
this blindness has consequences..
it’s just that , in the same way as women’s unpaid caring labor is made to disappear from our accounts of ‘the economy’ so are the caring aspects of other working class jobs made to disappear as well..
caring labor is generally seen as work directed at other people and it always involves a certain labor of interpretation, empathy, and understanding.. to some degree, one might argue that this is not really work at all, it’s just life, or life lived properly.. .. but it very much becomes work when all the empathy and imaginative id is on one side..
rich don’t have to learn how to do interpretive labor nearly as well because they can hire other people to do it for them..
by this token, as many feminist economists have pointed out, all labor can be seen as caring labor, since.. even if one builds a bridge, it’s ultimately because one cares about people..
to think labor as valuable primarily because it is ‘productive’ and productive labor as typified by the factory worker.. producing out of factories thru same painful but ultimately mysterious ‘labor’ by which women are seen to produce babies, allows one to make all this disappear.. it also makes it maximally easy for the factory owner to insist that no, actually, workers are really no diff from the machines they operate.. ‘scientific management’ made this easier.. but it would never have been possible had the paradigmatic example of ‘worker’ in the popular imagination been a cook, a gardener, or a masseuse..
john holloway: stop making capitalism.. every morning we wake up and re create capitalsm. if one morning we work up and all decide to create something else, then there wouldn’t be capitalism anymore. there would be something else..t
this might be the core/only question.. together we create the world we inhabit.. yet if any one of us tried to imagine a world we’d like to live in, who would come up w one exactly like the one that currently exists? we can all imagine a better world. why can’t we just create one.. why does it seem so inconceivable to just stop making capitalism.. or govt.. t
@monk51295 @davidgraeber For useful food for thought in considering this question, I can recommend ‘Inadequate Equilibria’ by @ESYudkowsky
No answers – not even a fully satisfying analysis, but excellent on the depth of what ‘network effects’ really consist of.
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/dilgreen/status/999202786926563329
viewing work as production allows us to ask such questions.. this couldn’t be more important..
it’s not clear, however, if it gives us the means to answer them.. even if we don’t like what the world looks like, the fact remains that the conscious aim of most of our actions.. is to do well by others.. our actions are caught up in relations of caring.. but *most caring relations require we leave the world more or less as we found it.. maintaining a world that’s **relatively predictable as the grounds on which caring can take place..t .. one cannot save to ensure a ***college ed for one’s children unless one is sure in 20 yrs there will still be colleges.. or for that matter, ***money.. and that, in turn, means that ****love for others, people, animals, landscapes,. regularly requires the maintenance of institutional structures one might otherwise despise
i disagree *here.. and **here.. we’ve lost the essence of what it means to care.. it means to let go.. to not possess.. so allow wildness and freedom.. toward antifragility..
i hope there’s not ***colleges and money.. those are major disturbances.. keeping us from us
****love doesn’t require maintenance of institutions..
how are workers supposed to find meaning and purpose in jobs where they are effectively being turned into robots..? .. even at same time increasingly expected to org lives around work?.. the obvious answer is to fall back on the old idea that work forms character; and this is precisely what seems to have happened.. one could call it a revival of puritanism.. ie: paid labor under a master’s discipline is the only way to become a genuine adult.. an adult worthy of our consumerist toys.. express our being thru what we consumed..
it is true that on one level, most of us do prefer to think of ourselves as being defined by anything other than our jobs. yet somehow paradoxically people regularly report that work is what gives the ultimate meaning to their lives, and that unemployment has devastating psychological effects..
enormous number of surveys, studies, inquests and ethnographies of work over 20th cent.. work about work has become a kind of minor industry in its own right.. conclusions.. summarized as follows:
1\ most people’s sense of dignity and self worth is caught up in working for a living
2\ most people hate their jobs .. t
we might refer to this as ‘the paradox of modern work’.. how both can be true at same time..
reply to this tweet:
@monk51295 @davidgraeber 3. Employers respond to this by trying to enrol workers into surveillance of each other … or self-surveillance … or through a contrived collegiality of campuses, teams, crews and squads
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/Towpath_Rat/status/999308097352077312
workers in other words, gain feelings of dignity and self worth because they hate their jobs..t
most people seem to accept the basic logic of contemporary moralists: society is besieged by those who want something for nothing, that the poor are largely poor because they lack the will and discipline to work, that only those who do or have worked harder than they’d like to at something they would rather not be doing.. preferably under a harsh taskmaster, deserve respect and consideration.. as a result.. rather than being an ugly side effect to top down chains of command.. has become central to what validates work itself.. suffering has become a badge of econ citizenship..t
7 – what are the political effects of bs jobs, and is there anything that can be done about this situation
while reading these tweets (and so many others)
CNN (@CNN) tweeted at 5:52 AM – 23 May 2018 :
A new report highlights a massive pay gap between CEOs and typical workers — some ratios as high as 4,987 to 1 https://t.co/4088YuTioLhttps://t.co/J2Qv8nBOjE (http://twitter.com/CNN/status/999256693631569920?s=17)
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/CNN/status/999240923115589632
george orwell: i believe that this instinct to perpetuate useless work is, at bottom, simply fear of the mob. the mob are such low animals that they would be dangerous if they had leisure; it is safer to keep them too busy to think
yeah.. this the fear of danger rather than theft.. (from 194)
the more the economy becomes a matter of the mere distribution of loot, the more inefficiency and unnecessary chains of command actually make sense, since these are the forms of org best suited to soaking up as much of that loot as possible..
all this is genuinely perverse..t
i love that you keep saying this
we feel that pain in the workplace is the only possible justification for our furtive consumer pleasures, and, at the same time, the fact that our jobs thus come to eat up more and more or our waking existence means we don’t have the luxury of ‘a life’ .. that means that furtive consumer pleasures are the only ones we have time to afford..t
furtive: attempting to avoid notice or attention, typically because of guilt or a belief that discovery would lead to trouble; secretive.
‘compensatory consumerism‘: the sorts of things you can do to make up for the fact that you don’t have a life, or not very much of one.. can be placed in the kind of self contained predictable time slots one is likely to have left over between spates of work, or else while recovering form it
even if none of this turned out to be the case though (ie: most people don’t have time for a life).. one thing is inescapable: such work arrangement foster a political landscape rife w hatred and resentment
brooks contempt law.. we don’t have an anger problem.. we have a contempt problem..defined by the worthlessness of another human being
begs.. thurman interconnectedness law.. more afraid of hating than of dying
(after describing groups pitted against each other) all are united in the loathing for the political class, who they see (correctly) as corrupt, but the political class, in turn, finds these other forms of vacuous hatred extremely convenient, since they distract attention from themselves..
some forms of resentment are familiar enough.. not nearly so clear why middle managers should resent factory workers.. but often middle manager and even more, managers’ admin assistant, clearly do resent factory workers .. for simple reason they have reason to take pride in work. a key part of the justification of underpaying such workers is simple envy
moral envy is an undertheorized phenom.. feelings of envy/resentment directed at another person.. not because person is wealthy/gifted/lucky.. but because his/her behavior is seen as upholding higher moral standard than the envier’s own..
it doesn’t matter if the person in question is entirely humble and unassuming.. in fact, that can even make it worse, since humility can be seen as itself a moral challenge to those who secretly feel they aren’t humble enough
(after a bit on auto makers and teachers being ie targets of this envy).. there is one major exception to the rule.. doesn’t apply to soldiers, or anyone else who works directly for the military.. soldiers must never be resented.. they are above critique..
for right wing populists, in particular, military personal are the ultimate good guys.. one must ‘support the troops’ and absolute injunction
the ultimate bad guys in contrast are the intelligentsia.. hollywood/journal/uni/lawyer/medical elites
conservative voters, i would suggest, tend to resent intellectuals more than they resent rich people, because can imagine scenario in which they or their children might become rich, but cannot imagine one in which they could ever become a member of the cultural elite.. ie: if want to be paid a living wage for pursuing values (vs value as commodity)
what does this have to do w supporting troops..? main way to pursue something unselfish and high minded but still pay rent, get dental care et al..
ie: bases organizing outreach programs.. (repair school rooms or perform free dental checkups in nearby villages).. had enormous psychological impact on soldiers.. ‘this is why i joined the army.. not just about defending country.. it’s about helping people’.. i remember thinking.. wait, so most of these people really want to be in peace corps..? i looked it up and discovered.. to be accepted in peace corps.. you need college degree. the us military is a haven for frustrated altruists..t
about capitalism more generally.. is that societies based on greed, even that say that human beings are inherently selfish and greedy and that attempt to valorize this sort of behavior, don’t really believe it, and secretly dangle out the right to behave altruistically as a reward for playing along.. only those who can prove their mettle at selfishness are to be afforded the right to be selfless.. or, that’s how the game is supposed to work.. if you suffer and scheme and by doing so manage to accumulate enough econ value, then you are allowed to cash in and turn your million in to something unique, higher, intangible or beautiful, that is, turn value into values… ie: set up foundation and devote rest of life to charity.. to skip straight to the end is obviously cheating..
we are back to abe lincoln’s version of medieval life cycle service.. overwhelming majority of us can only expect to experience anything like full adulthood on retirement.. if at all
soldiers are the one legit exception.. because they ‘serve’ their country.. i suspect because usually, they don’t get much out of it in long run.. this would explain why right wing populists, so unconditional in their support of the troops during their term of service, seem so strangely indifferent to the fact that a large percentage of them end up spending the rest of their lives homeless, jobless, impoverished, addicted, or begging w no legs.. .. such is the nature of his sacrifice; hence, of his true nobility..
bill maher or angelina jolie (members of liberal elite).. are seen as having skipped to front of every line they’ve ever been asked to stand on, so as to be able to monopolize the few jobs that do exist that are simultaneously fun, well paid, and make a diff in the world – while at same time, presuming to rep themselves as the voice of social justice.. they are the particular objects of resentment of the working class.. same to.. liberal classes trapped in higher order bs jobs.. toward those same working classes for their ability t o make an honest living..
in many respects, the sci fi fantasies of the early 20th cent have become possible.. we can’t teleport or place colonies on mars.. but we could easily rearrange matters in such a way that pretty much everyone on earth lived lives of relative ease and comfort.. in material terms this would not be very difficult..t
has to be all of us.. and yes.. if we’d let go and focus on a mech to facil daily convos
while pace of sci revolution and tech breakthrus occur has slowed since heady pace from 1750 to 1950.. improvement in robotics continue, largely because they are a matter of *improved application of existing tech knowledge.. ushering in an age where dreary mech tasks can be eliminated.. .. work will less and less resemble ‘productive’ labor and more and more ‘caring’ labor..
*missing a big piece in this.. with our misdirected focus on type of data.. imagine if focus was self-talk as data
the latest wave of robotization has caused the same moral crises and moral panics as the sixties.. only diff.. result will be to convey more wealth and power to 1%
missing from such accounts (of robots taking over).. is that prediction of robots replacing humans always goes just so far, and then stops..
it’s hard to imagine a surer sign that one is dealing w an irrational econ system than the fact that the prospect of eliminating drudgery is considered to be a problem
the more automation proceeds, the more it should be obvious that actual value emerges from the caring element of work.. (ie: workers in ticket offices in london underground aren’t there to take tickets but to find lost children and talk down drunks).. yet this leads to another problem. the caring value of work would appear to be precisely that element in labor that cannot be quantified..t
that’s the solution.. we have to stop measuring..
much of the bs-ization of real jobs, i would say, and much of the reason for the expansion of bs sector more generally, is a direct result of the desire to quantify the unquantifiable..t
one reason to have robots sorting fruit is so that real human being scan have more time to think about what history course they’d prefer to take..
bad ie.. really bad.. you’re showing your truman credit law.. at worst.. your geek dom for academia at best.. either way.. ugh.. next ie… and one of very few charts in book is of syllabus/exam creation
the critical thing about this diagram is that each of those additional lines represent an action that has to be performed not by a computer, but by an actual human being
a human being that is deciding a pkg deal for other human beings..? not to mention the actions to be performed by a human.. ie: notification to academic supervisor; request to use uni’s policy; notification to create exam; confirmation that exams are printed..? dang.
on 1930s keyness tech unemployemnt.. automation did lead to mass unemploument we have simply stopped the gap by adding dummy jobs.. upward 50-60% of population has in fact been thrown out of work..
so too.. over course of last several thousand years there have been untold thousands of human groups that might be referred to as ‘societies’ and the overwhelming majority of them managed to figure out ways to distribute those tasks that needed to be done to keep them alive in style to which they were accustomed .. t.. and no one had to spend majority of waking hrs performing tasks they would rather not be doing.. what’s more.. on leisure time.. people in those societies seem to have had little trouble figuring out ways to entertain themselves..
david’s repsonse to tweet asking for evidence of this
@friedmann_f @monk51295 read any work of world history; even when small powerful elites did exist (hardly invariably), the masses were rarely starving. If famines occurred they were usually due to wars, epidemics, & other disasters. The average Medieval serf worked far less than most of us do.
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/999448667579920384
for me: affluence w/o abundance was enough
the reason current allocation of labor looks the way it does, then has nothing to do w economics or even human nature.. it’s ultimately political.. there was no reason we had to try to quantify the value of caring labor.. there is no real reason we have to continue to do so. we could stop..t
huge.. stop measuring..
talking about ‘values’ which are valuable because they can’t be reduced to numbers – is the way that we have traditionally talked about the process of mutual creating and caring.. if we assume this to be true, then the domain of value has been systematically invading the domain of values for at least the last 50 yrs
i’d say much longer.. but ok
ie: in many major american cities, the largest employers are now unis and hospitals.. the economy of such cities, then, centers on a vast apparatus of production and maintenance of human beings – divided, in good cartesian fashion, between educational institutions designed to shaped the mind and medical institutions designed to maintain the body.. (in other cities such as ny,, unis and hospitals are second to banks).. right wing populism has taken systematic aim at the authority of those institutions in the name of a different set of religious or patriarchal ‘values’ (ie: challenging unis on climate & med system on contraception/abortion)
for the moment, it would appear to be a stand off. the mainstream left largely controls the production of humans .. mainstream right largely controls the production of things..
everything seems in place for a revolt of caring classes.. why has none yet taken place
the entanglement of banks, unis, and hospitals has become truly insidious.. finance works its way into everything .. but it’s significant that the principal cause of bankruptcy in america is medical debt, and the principal force drawing young people into bs jobs is the need to pay student loans..t
yet since clinton in us and blair in uk, it’s been the ostensibly left parties that have most embraced the rule of finance, received the largest contributions form the fin sector, and worked the most closely w fin lobbyists to ‘reform’ the laws to make all this possible.. it was at the same time that these same parties self consciously rejected any remaining element of their old working class constituencies, and instead became.. the parties of the professional managerial class.. that is .. not just drs and lawyers but the admin and managers actually responsible for the bs-ization of the caring sectors of the econ..
ie: if nurses were to rebel agains the fact that they have to spend the bulk of their shifts doing paperwork.. they would have to rebel against their own union leaders.. whose core support comes from the hospital admins responsible for imposing the paperwork on them to begin with.. teachers would have to rebel against school admins who are actually represented in many cases by exact same union..
experienced this first hand at yale..
(on not usually putting policy rec’s in books.. one reason.. because reviewers look for solution.. then say whole book is about that.. ie for me.. whole book about reduce work hrs and ubi): that would be deceptive. this is not a book about a particular solution. it’s a book about problem – one that most people don’t even acknowledge exists..
another reason i hesitate to make policy suggestions is that i am suspicious of the very idea of policy.. policy implies the existence of an elite group – govt official typically – that gets to decide on something (policy) that they then arrange to be imposed on everybody else..t
a little mental trick.. we say for instance.. what are we going to do about the problem of x.. but in fact, unless we happen to be part of that roughly 3-5% of population whose views actually do affect policy makers.. this is all a game of make believe.. we are identifying w our rulers when in fact, we’re the ones being ruled..
i’d prefer not to have policy elites around at all.. i prefer solutions to immediate problems that do not give more power to govts or corps but rather give people the means to manage their own affairs..t
when faced w social problem.. my impulse is not to imagine myself in charge, and ponder what sort of solution i would then impose, but to look for a movement already out there, already trying to address the problem .. the problem of bs jobs though presents unusual challenges in this regard. there are no anti bs job movements.. partly because most people don’t acknowledge the proliferation of bs jobs to be a problem
broader campaign.. calling for a new govt bureaucracy to assess the usefulness of jobs would inevitably itself turn into a vast generator of bs.. so would a guaranteed jobs program
i’ve only been able to id one solution .. that would reduce size of govt intrusiveness.. ubi..
leslie (work on keywords to make it past the computer).. i do get a thrill every time i win for someone (disability claims).. but this doesn’t make up for the anger i feel about the colossal waste of everyone’s time this is. for the claimant, for me, for the various bods at the dept of works and pensions who deal w the claim, for the judges.. the experts called in .. isn’t there something more constructive we could all be doing, like.. i don’t know installing solar panels or gardening.. i also often wonder whoever made up the rules..
leslie: to add insult to injury my work is funded by charity trusts.. a whole other long chain of bs jobs.. from me applying for money.. to the ceos who claim their orgs fight poverty .. hrs searching for relevant funds, reading guidelines, spending time learning how to best approach them, filling out forms, making phone calls.. each trust wants its own set of indicators..evidence that we are ’empowering’ people or ‘creating change’ .. when in fact we’re juggling rules and language on behalf of people..who just need help to fill out the paperwork so they can get on w their lives..t
we’ve gotten to the point now where 60% of those eligible for unemployment benefits in the uk don’t get them.. t.. so (all those people she listed) are part of a single vast apparatus that exists to maintain the illusion that people are naturally lazy and don’t really want to work.. .. and therefore even if society does have a responsibility to ensure they don’t literally starve to death, it is necessary to make the process of providing them w the means of continued existence as confusing, time consuming and humiliating as possible.. thousands of people are maintained on comfortable salaries in air conditioned offices simply in order to ensure that poor people continue to feel bad about themselves..t
leslie’s spent time on both sides of desk.. her solution? eliminate the apparatus entirely
she is involved in the movement of ubi..
so.. to me.. that doesn’t eliminate the apparatus.. to me the apparatus is money/measure
what bi ultimately proposes is to detach livelihood formwork. its immediate effect would be to massively reduce the amount of bureaucracy in any country that implemented it
if it (bi) seems implausible to most.. (where would money come from) it’s largely because we’ve all grown up w largely false assumptions about what money is..
this is where i can get behind bi.. huge section s of govt.. would be instantly made unnecessary. but they’d all receive bi too.. maybe some of them will come up w something genuinely important to do ..t
that’s gershenfeld sel.. so good on that.. but.. we have to design for money to become irrelevant or we’ll circle back around.. ie: by simply obsessing w the measuring of money again.. and/or.. by obsessing with measuring what people are doing with their time
even a modes bi program could become a stepping stone toward the most profound transformation of all: to unlatch work from livelihood entirely.. alternately, it might open the way to developing better ways of distributing goods entirely.. (money is after all a rationing ticket, and in an ideal world one would presumably wish to do as little rationing as possible)..t
exactly.. sans money
obviously all this depends on the assumption that human beings don’t have to be compelled to work, or at least, to do something that they feel is useful or beneficial to others..t
that’s the key.. has to be their thing.. everyday
foucault gives the ie of the mutual manipulation of teach and student (power-good) , vs the tyranny of the authoritarian pedant (domination-bad)..
dang.. off on the teacher student thing.. not mutual.. voluntary compliance at best.. which is poison
i think foucault is circling around something here.. : a safe word theory of social liberation. because this would be the obvious solution. it’s not so much that certain games are fixed – some people like fixed games, but that sometimes you can’t get out of them.. how do we create only games that we actually feel like playing, because we can opt out at any time..t
in workplace politics.. depends on one’s inability to say ‘i quit’ and feel not economic consequences.. bi would give workers the power to say ‘orange’ to their boss
cool.. but we can do better than that.. ie: 7bn people deciding their own game/life.. every day.. a new.. if we have the means.. why even be in the situation of a job for others..
if nothing else, ubi would mean millions of pole who recognize the absurdity of this situation will have the time to engage in political organizing to change it..
or.. if we realize we have the means.. and we do the abolition thing.. the do over thing.. to where we don’t even have to spend our days in ie: political organizing to change things..
the second more serious objection (to ubi – first is that people won’t work – but is obviously false and can dismiss out of hand) is that most will work, *but many will choose work that’s of interest only to themselves.. streets would fill up w bad poets, nothing would get done.. what the phenom of bs jobs really brings home is the foolishness of such assumptions. already right now 37-40% feel their jobs are pointless.. if we **let everyone decide for themselves.. ***w no restrictions at all, how could they possibly end up w a distribution of labor more inefficient than the one we already have..t
this is a powerful argument for human freedom. most of us like to talk about freedom in the abstract, even claim that it’s the most important thing for anyone to fight or die for, but we don’t think a lot about what being free or practicing freedom might actually mean. the main pt of book.. not to propose concrete policy prescriptions, but to start us thinking and arguing about what a genuine free society might actually be like..t
like this: a nother way book
one should never underestimate the power of institutions to try to preserve themselves.. (this on big pharma.. but ed too .. no..?)
bertrand russell puts it nicely : what is work.. work is of two kinds: first altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. the first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid
gen 3.16 hannah arendt in the human condition makes the argument that nowhere in the bible is it suggested that work itself is punishment for disobedience; god simply makes the labor more harsh; .. for the best discussion of the early christian debates on adam and eve, which argues that it was st augustine who was really responsible for the notion that all humans are tainted, and hence, cursed, because of original sins, see pagels (1988)
interesting to note in the is context that vonnegut had been enrolled for a master’s degree in anthropology at the uni of chicago immediately after the war, though he never completed his dissertation.. perhaps if he’d studied harder, he’d have realized that his premise – that workers would not be able to handle too much leisure – was profoundly flawed…
how is arguing that people should be forced to work 40 hrs a week they would not otherwise have to work because they might otherwise drink, smoke, or commit crimes any diff from arguing that the entire population should be placed in prison for an equiv amount of time as a form of preventative detention
isn’t that a lot of what school is..?.. and too.. what we already do w our high incarceration rates
gorz’s actual words: search for higher productivity would lead to the standardization/industrialization of such activities, particularly those involving the feeding, minding, raising, and education of children.. the industrialization thru home computers, of physical and psychical care and hygiene, children’s ed, cooking or sexual technique is precisely designed to generate capitalist profits from activities sill left to individual fantasy
for the most through recent exploration of he current arguments for bi.. see standing (2017)
the key to ubi is the unconditional element which allows for a massive reduction of the role of govt intrusion in citizen’s lives.. these supposedly ‘modified’ or ‘improved’ version either will not do this or will have the opposite effect
obviously, real philosophy tends to assume that the ‘free rider’ problem is a fundamental question of social justice.. outweighing considerations of human freedom.. therefore.. usually concludes it would be justifiable to set up a system of surveillance and coercion.. to ensure that not even a small number of people live off of other’s work (unless they’re rich, in which case that’s usually somehow totally ok).. my own position .. is.. so what if they do..
adding this page (prior to book being written) while re reading from original (2013) for umpteenth time:
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.
The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.
let alone.. tries something different.. deep/simple/open enough.. for all of us..
So what are these new jobs, precisely? ….. “professional, managerial, clerical, sales, and service workers” tripled, growing “from one-quarter to three-quarters of total employment.” In other words, productive jobs have, just as predicted, been largely automated away …..
But rather than allowing a massive reduction of working hours to free the world’s population to pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions, and ideas, 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.
inspectors of inspectors ness.. fuller too much law
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.
The answer clearly isn’t economic: it’s moral and political. The ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger (think of what started to happen when this even began to be approximated in the ‘60s). And, on the other hand, the feeling that work is a moral value in itself, and that anyone not willing to submit themselves to some kind of intense work discipline for most of their waking hours deserves nothing, is extraordinarily convenient for them.
This is a profound psychological violence here. How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist? How can it not create a sense of deep rage and resentment. Yet it is the peculiar genius of our society that its rulers have figured out a way, as in the case of the fish-fryers, to ensure that rage is directed precisely against those who actually do get to do meaningful work. For instance: in our society, there seems a general rule that, the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it. Again, an objective measure is hard to find, but one easy way to get a sense is to ask: what would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers
teachers as we know them today.. are more along managerial ness.. (note: not because most teachers want it that way.. that’s another psych violence ness – voluntary compliance ness.. in itself)
or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.) Yet apart from a handful of well-touted exceptions (doctors), the rule holds surprisingly well.
previous notes from
an 2015 – pointless jobs – 200 tube posters:
I remember being very struck by Dostoyevsky, who was in a Russian prison camp, and he said if you really want to destroy someone psychologically, much worse than through physical torture, just make up a completely meaningless form of work. You know, have them take water from some giant vat and then move it back to the first vat again. Have them do that all day and before long even the most hardened criminal will be utterly despairing of life, because there’s nothing more horrible than devoting one’s life to something completely meaningless. I mean, you know, sure, there will be some freeloaders, but we’ve got more freeloaders right now.
..work is valuable if it makes other people’s lives better.
mar 2015 – Paris on David:
end of meaningless work april 2015:
..in 1930, economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that by the end of the century technology would have advanced sufficiently that in countries such as the UK and the US we’d be on 15-hour weeks. “In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshalled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more.
Huge swaths of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they believe to be unnecessary.
The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.”
In 2011, at New York’s Zuccotti Park, he became involved in Occupy Wall Street, which he describes as an “experiment in a post-bureaucratic society”. He was responsible for the slogan “We are the 99%”.
“We wanted to demonstrate we could do all the services that social service providers do without endless bureaucracy. In fact at one point at Zuccotti Park there was a giant plastic garbage bag that had $800,000 in it. People kept giving us money but we weren’t going to put it in the bank. You have all these rules and regulations. And Occupy Wall Street can’t have a bank account. I always say the principle of direct action is the defiant insistence on acting as if one is already free.”
He is suggesting that, instead of being rule-following economic drones of capitalism, we are essentially playful. The most basic level of being is play rather than economics, fun rather than rules, goofing around rather than filling in forms. Graeber himself certainly seems to be having more fun than seems proper for a respected professor.
@chriscaple I look forward to the day when most of my work is profoundly irrelevant
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/600353107302862848
on bullshit jobs – david graeber:
i did this with my debt book tour.. i decided to do the opposite (of having to tour with a repeated script).. turn all those crazy rants and get them out there…
2 min – you keep meeting people who are embarrassed by what they do… and this is exactly what capitalism isn’t supposed to do… private firms making up jobs.. paying people for things for not doing anything… ie: all these industries.. that if they disappeared .. no one would notice… ie: telemarketing; corp lawyers; armies; middle management who organize meetings, fill out form, create paperwork/reports…. this is why people aren’t working
6 min – you have all these people administering other people... how does this happen… it’s not consumerism.. seems to be the idea that work is a value of itself..
we should figure out a way to get through this world w/o needing a job..
the realest thing in our lives via Seth (same day)
The realest thing in our lives
Are the stories we invent.
We live with these stories, we remind ourselves of them, we perfect them.
And, happily, if you don’t like the story you’re telling yourself, you can change it.
graeber model/revolution law
mar 2015 – Paris on David:
why capitalism creates pointless jobs
It’s as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working.
oct 7 2016
yes, the time has come. I’m writing the Bullshit jobs book. I need case studies. Send your experiences to: email@example.com
David Graeber on the Value of Work – oct 2016
what is valuable about work
20-30% sitting there everyday thinking.. i’m not actually doing anything i hope nobody figures it out.. what does that do to the collective soul
how can you have dignity in labor
our ideology of work.. 19th cent – labor theory of value.. factory work as primary.. people believed it.. but very flawed.. kind of easy to attack.. to counter offensive in 20th cent.. how to validate work.. puritan idea.. work is valuable in itself.. if not working at something you like.. bad character.. anything that made work fulfilling undercut discipline of work.. led to.. feeling didn’t need to ie: pay artists
only way to shift.. ask.. what is value in labor
3 min – during occupy wall street – web page.. we are the 99%… all had same complaint.. i want to do a job where i actually care for people and benefit them in some way.. but if i do that pay so little in such debt can’t take care of own family
i think we are at brink of reformulation what work is and what is valuable about it that could really lead to a reformulation of how we org everything.. what we think production is.. production is ultimately the production of people.. production of commodities is a secondary moment which enables us to produce people that we’d like to have around.. that’s what life is really about…
fashioning of people – interpretive labor
David Graeber (@davidgraeber) tweeted at 9:42 AM – 4 Aug 2017 :
shameless teaser – here are the very last footnotes from the Bullshit Jobs book https://t.co/ro48Evrazx(http://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/893497439101104128?s=17)
7.) Furthermore, since plenty of the jobs that exist only because they serve the symptoms poverty – many/most repo men, jailers, payday lenders, criminal defense attorneys, bail bondsmen, etc. – might become obsolete, that factor alone might cause some DEFLATION.
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/JimbauxsJournal/status/931323437779480576
Nassim Nicholas Taleb (@nntaleb) tweeted at 6:54 AM – 11 Mar 2018 :
I am reading B****t Jobs by @davidgraeber.
Effectively if you have the soul of an artisan (cabinet maker), working as paper shuffler will make you miserable.
Note that 10% of Americans are self employed, numbers dropping w/modernity.
#Soulinthegame = artisan. (http://twitter.com/nntaleb/status/972818082073858048?s=17)
comes out may 2018 – recommended to library for purchase
i had to guard an empty room.. the rise of the pointless job – the guardian – may 4 2018
‘Everyone is familiar with the sort of jobs that don’t seem, to the outsider, really to do much of anything… What if these jobs really are useless, & those who hold them are actually aware of it?’
@davidgraeber’s #BullshitJobs in @guardian this weekend
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/AllenLaneBooks/status/992426664847126529
Could there be anything more demoralising than having to wake up in the morning five out of seven days of one’s adult life to perform a task that one believes does not need to be performed, is simply a waste of time or resources, or even makes the world worse?
These considerations allow us to formulate what I think can serve as a final working definition of a bullshit job: a form of paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence, even though, as part of the conditions of employment, the employee feels obliged to pretend that this is not the case
The five types of bullshit job
Flunkies – jobs are those that exist only or primarily to make someone else look or feel important – Doormen
Goons – jobs have an aggressive element but, crucially, who exist only because other people also employ people in these roles – national armed forces. Countries need armies only because other countries have armies; if no one had an army, armies would not be needed. But the same can be said of most lobbyists, PR specialists, telemarketers and corporate lawyers.
Duct-tapers – jobs exist only because of a glitch or fault in the organisation; they are there to solve a problem that ought not to exist.
Box-tickers – exist only or primarily to allow an organisation to be able to claim it is doing something that, in fact, it is not doing.
I should add that there is really only one class of people who not only deny their jobs are pointless, but also express outright hostility to the very idea that our economy is rife with bullshit jobs. These are – predictably enough – business owners and others in charge of hiring and firing. No one, they insist, would ever spend company money on an employee who wasn’t needed. All the people who are convinced their jobs are worthless must be deluded, or self-important, or simply don’t understand their real function, which is fully visible only to those above. One might be tempted to conclude from this response that this is one class of people who genuinely don’t realise their own jobs are bullshit
Are You in a BS Job? In Academe, You’re Hardly Alone – chronicle of he – may 6 2018
David Graeber (@davidgraeber) tweeted at 2:49 AM – 7 May 2018 :
on the bullshitization of academic life
The bullshitization of academic life: that is, the degree to which those involved in teaching and academic management spend more and more of their time involved in tasks which they secretly — or not so secretly — believe to be entirely pointless
What strikes me as insufficiently discussed is that this has happened at a time when the number of administrative-support staff in most universities has skyrocketed
In theory, these are support-staff. They exist to make other peoples’ jobs easier.
then logically, when they double or triple in number, lecturers and researchers should have to do much less admin as a result. Instead they appear to be doing far more.
Let me suggest a solution. Support staff no longer mainly exist to support the faculty
In fact, not only are many of these newly created jobs in academic administration classic bullshit jobs, but it is the proliferation of these pointless jobs that is responsible for the bullshitization of real work — real work, here, defined not only as teaching and scholarship but also as actually useful administrative work in support of either. What’s more, it seems to me this is a direct effect of the death of the university, at least in its original medieval conception as a guild of self-organized scholars.
did that not die long ago.. once we slid from school as leisure to school as credential
University professors have to spend increasing proportions of their days performing tasks which exist only to make overpaid academic managers feel good about themselves. .t
could substitute just about any job title for uni prof.. no..?
I suspect that bullshitization has been so severe because academe is a kind of meeting place of the caring sector — defined in its broadest sense, as an occupation that involves looking after, nurturing, or furthering the health, well-being, or development of other human beings — and the creative sector. These are, certainly, the two sectors of undeniably valuable work that have been most plagued by bullshitization.
(In British universities, this even has a name: the “forming committees to discuss the problem of too many committees problem.”).
Perhaps the easiest way to begin to de-bullshitize academic life would be to do something about the current precarity of intellectual life.
In fact, the phenomenon of bullshit jobs is one of the most compelling arguments in favor of a policy of universal basic income.
They might establish free schools where they could teach anyone who wished to learn. Universities would not become extinct. They would retain many strategic advantages. But they would be forced to de-bullshitize very rapidly.
another tweet in response to david’s share of this article
D. Schimmelpfennig (@SchimmelONE) tweeted at 5:21 AM – 7 May 2018 :
@davidgraeber “we know the corporate takeover of the global university system is complete” the deep regulatory capture of capitalist realism materialized in factory learning including preemptive obedience towards orthodox economics. #FuturesOpenness #Decolonization (http://twitter.com/SchimmelONE/status/993450708501454848?s=17)
refusal of work et al
harney domination law et al
Chris Cook (@cjenscook) tweeted at 6:21 AM – 7 May 2018 :
Brilliant essay from @davidgraeber Moreover, you will find few campuses where new and grandiose property development is not in full flow (Bullshit Buildings), while ‘student-stacking’ and milking by property developers is the order of the day https://t.co/k1Hlcz5zXj(http://twitter.com/cjenscook/status/993465906851450880?s=17)
David Graeber (@davidgraeber) tweeted at 6:23 AM on Tue, May 08, 2018:
Vox interview. Needless to say I didn’t actually mention “law enforcement’ but otherwise very nice. #acab
I think most people really do want to believe that they’re contributing to the world in some way, and if you deny that to them, they go crazy or become quietly miserable..t
We accept the idea that rich people are job creators, and the more jobs we have, the better. It doesn’t matter if those jobs do something useful; we just assume that more jobs is better no matter what.
What if we just spent more time doing what we actually want rather than sitting in [an] office pretending to work for 40 hours a week?.t
One of the themes of the book is that the system reproduces itself because it’s very much in the interests of the ruling class. I get called a conspiracy theorist for saying this, but I don’t see it that way. We should be conspiring to get rid of this..t
I think this system creates absurd forms of resentment where people actually resent people who have real jobs. ..There is all this talk about tightening belts, except for the guys who caused the crash. They still get their bonuses, but the ambulance drivers and the nurses and the teachers have all got to sacrifice.
The logic is insane, and it always falls on the people who are most vulnerable, who do the hard and necessary jobs.
I’m a revolutionary. I think we need a paradigm shift, and I think a lot of people are slowly realizing this. They’re pissed off and frustrated with the status quo, but they don’t see a path to a different world or a different system..t
But I do believe we have to start thinking imaginatively about systems that are fundamentally differently organized. Shifts do happen in history. We’ve been taught for the last 30 to 40 years that imagination has no place in politics or economics, but that, too, is bullshit..t
We need to think about how to create a new social movement and change what we value in our work and lives.
David Graeber (@davidgraeber) tweeted at 0:50 PM on Fri, May 11, 2018:
UK Reuters comes out with a review! https://t.co/yrIKsUMVk0
The book’s main contribution is its highly entertaining definition of terms. A bullshit job is a paid role that’s “so completely, pointless, unnecessary or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence” – even though the incumbent will typically pretend that’s not the case.
Unfortunately, Graeber also falls into the trap of trying to find a solution. His proffered answer to bullshitization is a “universal basic income”: pay everyone a regular sum just for being alive, and let them decide what to do with their time.
For now, a universal income probably isn’t the answer to all those bullshit jobs. .t..Nonetheless, the passion on both sides of the debate suggests Graeber is asking the right question.
David Graeber (@davidgraeber) tweeted at 4:32 PM – 11 May 2018 :
here’s how you know things are really starting to bite: an article by a PR consultant discussing whether his industry is really made up of bullshit jobs https://t.co/zyYMxaIKp3 (http://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/995069040149266432?s=17)
As a result, they are practicing the opposite of public relations; they are engaged in spin.
President KFC Buckets (@realworldrj) tweeted at 4:31 AM – 16 May 2018 :
HBS: how to motivate workers even though they know and you know their job is bullshit https://t.co/RSdnOp7KwZ (http://twitter.com/realworldrj/status/996699682414964736?s=17)
Graeber argues that the concept of selling off one’s time in increments is relatively new. Historically, he says, the idea “that one person’s time can belong to someone else is actually quite peculiar.” ..t.. To the ancient Greeks, he claims, you were either a slave and your whole life was owned, or you sold a good (an eating utensil, food) that you created as you saw fit. He implicates the shift toward clock time in the Middle Ages as the culprit behind our collective acceptance of wage slavery.
By positioning themselves as job creators and maneuvering the political system to laud any and all jobs, rather than asking if they’re meaningful or help society or the employees, “they” can maintain power indefinitely.
The tension at the heart of this book, of course, is that the writing of it is a bit of a bulls— job. Graeber might even be hiding a crushed soul of his own.
But he misses an opportunity to examine the other group of people who are trying to eliminate the bulls— job cycle. This week, ..Ethereal Summit and Consensus 2018, conferences run by Consensys and CoinDesk Inc., which are companies trying to galvanize cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. ..significant segment of crypto believers is persuaded that the blockchain will obviate the middleman, cut through the administrative morass generated by Graeber’s overlords, and offer the first pure form of state-free value exchange.
It’s probably just another, even crazier layer of bulls—, but it’s becoming our civic duty to understand it, in case it is the turning point in human civilization we’re all hoping for.
it will always be just another crazier layer of bsjobs.. until we let go of money and measuring transactions.. and working to solve other people’s problems (work)
David Graeber (@davidgraeber) tweeted at 1:16 PM on Thu, May 17, 2018:
it’s me, it’s @OwenJones84 it’s @MissEllieMae, it’s out: on Agitpod
2 min – i wanted to put it on the table in a way that you couldn’t ignore
4 min – part of reason i became an anarchist.. my dad wasn’t an anarchist.. but he didn’t think it was crazy..
6 min – i wrote this thing.. and it was kind of a joke.. then went viral.. now a book
9 min – there was no time in history where most working class people were working in factories.. (that myth) is carried over.. that work is productive.. most work isn’t.. most work is keeping things the same
13 min – shows system is not as efficient as they say
14 min – we’ve been having tech unemployment since the 30’s but people have just been making up jobs..
lots of real work done in support of bs.. ie: cleaning their space.. and then bs ization of real work.. ie: nurses filling out forms..
15 min – to some degree this is (happened because) it’s political.. ie: make sure everyone has a job.. not.. make sure every job is important.. one thing left & right always agree on: more jobs..
22 min – when you combine impersonality and mathematics and violence.. that’s toxic..what a debt is is a moral obligation.. a promise that gets mixed up w mathematics and violence and that’s when it becomes terrible.. t
scholarship/bureaucracy .. are about simplifying the world.. they’re both good things.. in order to see things that you don’t know are there.. you have to ignore 98% of what’s going on and make a cartoon about the remaining 2%.. and that’s fine that’s how you learn things
23 min – so there’s nothing wrong w schemifying/simplifying things.. tabulating info.. it’s when you do that and then come up w simple rules that you then back up with guns.. that’s when it gets scary
24 mi – i don’t think the dirty job problem is that hard.. human ingenuity.. if applied to (better) problems
i think bi and shortening work week is way to do this
? no.. unless you do both to limit of zero
(so.. you’re still ok w measuring things – this and per your earlier comment on math ness.. if good)
26 min – the thing is.. how do you create a way to get rid of bs jobs that doesn’t create (or shift) more bs jobs..t.. in academia we call this.. the meeting to talk about too many meetings.. what sort of policy would cut thru that
27 min – these things entrench themselves.. so bi seems perfect (left wing B) .. strategy.. will eliminate a lot of bureaucrats..keep nice ones in place (those bad B’s can quit their jobs too.. a lot of them feel terrible)
29 min – shortening work week is a great idea.. but hard to see how it would be enforced.. actual 9-5 jobs that you could easily reduce aren’t as many as used to be.. also why suspicious of the job guarantee
36 min – noelib is the prioritization of the political over the economic.. designed to create total power for the rich
37 min – i think neolib and capitalism are crumbling.. we need to be asking what is coming next.. something worse..?
saying i want capitalism.. just nicer.. no..i think capitalism is going to be gone.. so what we need to do is think of something different that would be better.. because otherwise we’re going to get something different that’s going to be worse.. t
38 min – what we’re seeing w trump is the divorce of finance and real estate.. he actually used words like peace and love all the time.. only been successful in the kind of negative
Giovanny Leon (@GiovannyLeon) tweeted at 6:57 AM – 20 May 2018 :
The more valuable your #work is to society, the less you’ll be paid for it
what is perhaps most disturbing about the situation is the fact that so many people not only acknowledge the inverse relation but also feel this is how things ought to be.
David Graeber (@davidgraeber) tweeted at 3:36 PM on Sat, May 19, 2018:
I honestly cannot believe that I have a piece that just came out in the New York Post. But I do. “The Seven Biggest Bullshit Jobs in America”
Yet no one wants to talk about it. If all these people were just allowed to go home and learn knitting, or how to play the mandolin, the world would be a far happier place.
yet no one wants to talk about it