No smilies, no avatars, no flashing gifs. Just discuss the issues of the day, from last night's telly via football to science or philosophy.
Started by uranrising on May 15, 2018 9:12:25 AM
Bullshit jobs

(Professor David Graeber's) book on the Occupy movement and related issues was released as The Democracy Project in 2013. One of the points he raises in this book is the increase in what he calls bullshit jobs, referring to forms of employment that even those holding the jobs feel should not or do not need to exist. ..As he explained also in an article in STRIKE! magazine: ...Instead, technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. 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.[25]

from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Graeber#Author
ship


Discuss the bullshit job phenomenon here.

Previous
|
Next
|
Top
|
Bottom
GyratingTrampoline - 15 May 2018 09:23:22 (#1 of 106)

there was a recent graunticle about the same phenomenon https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/may/04/i-had-to-guard-an-empty-room-the-rise-of-the-pointless-job (this link has been posted elsewhere on jtt)

One thing that I found interesting in it was where one of the case studies considered their job to be bullshit because it could've easily been automated. Presumably the person doing it didn't know how to automate it themself, they considered it to be bullshit because someone else could've automated it. This definition of 'bullshit job' suggests that automation isn't just going to threaten our jobs but will also threaten our sense of job satisfaction even when it doesn't make us redundant.

bailliegillies - 15 May 2018 09:36:08 (#2 of 106)

Good question as I suspect an overwhelming number of jobs could be described as "Bullshit Jobs" as they have little or no relevance to the wellbeing of society. In fact the higher you move up the scale of jobs that are required to maintain the smooth running of society the less relevant the job becomes. i.e. we can do without financial managers, media wonks but we can't do without the people who maintain our utilities like water, sewage, electricity etc.

uranrising - 15 May 2018 09:38:37 (#3 of 106)

Also this

...Over drinks, some confessed they actually didn’t do much; they spent a few hours a week working and the rest browsing cat memes.

Graeber developed a suspicion that this was rather common and, in 2013, wrote an essay for Strike! magazine, “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs.” It was just a hypothesis—halfway a joke—but the piece was translated into at least a dozen languages and reprinted all over the internet, where it elicited floods of comments from people saying: “I have a bullshit job.”

A subsequent YouGov survey found that 37 percent of British workers believe their job makes no “meaningful contribution to the world”—more than Graeber expected.

in preamble to interview, from http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/21134/capita
lism-job-bullshit-david-graeber-busywork-labor

KizzyK - 15 May 2018 09:40:40 (#4 of 106)

I've felt for a long time that our education system ought to allow everyone to follow two paths, one practical and one more academic so that everyone has the ability to do a bullshit type job AND a hands on actually useful job.

GyratingTrampoline - 15 May 2018 09:42:21 (#5 of 106)

That's a great idea. It could also be a way to break down the idea that in order to compete with each other we all need to spend our lives becoming more and more specialised in a single area. We are more likely to feel fulfilled in what we do if we can move between multiple things.

RosyLovelady - 15 May 2018 09:43:14 (#6 of 106)

#2

And that's supposed to be all right, Baillie, because the gratification from doing useful work should mean you don't need to be paid well for it. It's only bankers and other "wealth creators" who talk of being "compensated" for their risky jobs.

SheikYerbouti - 15 May 2018 09:44:16 (#7 of 106)

There are many jobs that could be automated but aren't simply because its cheaper to employ people to do them. The example I like is the car washing business, which has been automated since the 50s but is increasingly done by hand because Eastern European cash in hand workers are cheaper than tens of thousands worth of machinery.

FrankieTeardrop - 15 May 2018 09:47:06 (#8 of 106)

"And that's supposed to be all right, Baillie, because the gratification from doing useful work should mean you don't need to be paid well for it. It's only bankers and other "wealth creators" who talk of being "compensated" for their risky jobs."

That is actually the case, Rosy. My partner is an example of someone who wouldn't feel happy unless they were doing a job that helped people.

GyratingTrampoline - 15 May 2018 09:47:33 (#9 of 106)

I think at the heart of this is the distinction between making a meaningful contribution to the world and generating profit for an employer.

Market idealists would tell us that a rational economy would not allow businesses to exist if they didn't do something useful for someone, and a rational business would not employ people who didn't do something useful for the business, therefore as a rule employees will tend to be making a useful contribution to someone whether they feel that way or not.

I don't think you can challenge this dismal orthodoxy without coming back that old jtt set-piece about what do we mean when we say 'value' ie whether there an innate value to things beyond what someone is prepared to pay for them. But in this case it's an inversion - we are positing an innate lack of value even when someone is prepared to pay.

FrankieTeardrop - 15 May 2018 09:49:30 (#10 of 106)

“I think at the heart of this is the distinction between making a meaningful contribution to the world and generating profit for an employer.”

Are employers not part of the world?

bailliegillies - 15 May 2018 09:49:58 (#11 of 106)

#5

One of the most interesting things that I noticed was that many people who lacked academic education were far more adaptable to changes that happened and could move more easily between different types of work. I noticed it very much in the oil industry, especially in the early days, people moving from one discipline to another as the industry changed, in fact it was essential that you were fluid if you wanted to stay employed.

SheikYerbouti - 15 May 2018 09:50:15 (#12 of 106)

I don't think you can challenge this dismal orthodoxy without coming back that old jtt set-piece about what do we mean when we say 'value' ie whether there an innate value to things beyond what someone is prepared to pay for them.

You don't need to go that far, all you need is the observation that managers and employers do not always act rationally or in the best interests of the organisation.

GyratingTrampoline - 15 May 2018 09:51:17 (#13 of 106)

it was essential that you were fluid if you wanted to stay employed



Maybe that's how it is in the oil industry. In coal however it's more important to be solid

FrankieTeardrop - 15 May 2018 09:52:02 (#14 of 106)

Arf

FrankieTeardrop - 15 May 2018 09:53:29 (#15 of 106)

"But in this case it's an inversion - we are positing an innate lack of value even when someone is prepared to pay."

If someone is prepared to pay, it has value to them. Simples.

GyratingTrampoline - 15 May 2018 09:54:56 (#16 of 106)

all you need is the observation that managers and employers do not always act rationally



The guardian piece I linked in #1 describes 'goons' as a sub-category of bullshit job

"These are people whose jobs have an aggressive element but, crucially, who exist only because other people also employ people in these roles. The most obvious example of this are 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."



Someone in a role like this could be employed for rational reasons, but still might feel that their activity doesn't make the world a better place.

bailliegillies - 15 May 2018 09:55:50 (#17 of 106)

And that's supposed to be all right, Baillie, because the gratification from doing useful work should mean you don't need to be paid well for it. It's only bankers and other "wealth creators" who talk of being "compensated" for their risky jobs.



Unfortunately Rosy that is how the system has been rigged. Logically people in finance should get low wages because of the numbers who want to work in that industry and we should be offering nurses, teachers and others vital to maintain our communities more money to attract the best into those careers. It doesn't happen thanks to our feudal history which rewards those who can hold society to ransom, aka the bankers.

HouseOfLametta - 15 May 2018 09:56:36 (#18 of 106)

Those people are often very proud of their work, and have a very powerful and cohesive culture.

SunkenTreasures - 15 May 2018 09:57:07 (#19 of 106)

I've done a bullshit job that I inherited from someone who absolutely loved it. I couldn't do it. It felt like an absolute waste of my life and I left within three months to start my own business.

As others have said, it actually takes quite a bit of effort to look busy when you aren't, and the need to spend time doing that and bullshitting about your own importance is mentally and spiritually exhausting.

RosyLovelady - 15 May 2018 09:57:58 (#20 of 106)

< My partner is an example of someone who wouldn't feel happy unless they were doing a job that helped people. >

That's fine, if you have supplementary resources with which to be jobly generous, like upper class nurses from the early history of the profession (or is nursing an "industry" nowadays?)

Previous
|
Next
|
Top
|
Bottom
Check Subscriptions
|
Home » Issues