On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs (from STRIKE! Magazine)

The Little People

The Little People

“jobs have had to be created, that are, in effect, pointless.”

is that you? Here’s an interesting rant.

I always thought this of most jobs, they were just invented because people needed to be busy doing something. Not that everything has an inherent need or value, though. Many, many jobs are just busywork, and I’ve had a few. I guess that farming vegetables and livestock is pretty important, and up till about 150 years ago that’s what the vast majority of the human race actually did each and every day.  You know, to keep from starving to death.

But is, say being a doorman (main duties: opening the door for people coming in or going out) on the same level of importance in the grand scheme of things? This is not to disparage doormen (or doorwomen) — I chose that because it’s something I actually did for awhile in my way-younger life. The easy answer is it’s no, not necessary. People can open their own damn doors, I think this was a left over from a more Downton Abbey-style world, even though it was right here in the U.S.

Another example: On a business trip to Japan a few years ago, I went shopping for family gifts in the Ginza district. In the store where I bought some items, there was one person to help you pick it out, then a cashier, a wrapper-upper, a bagger, and then a greeter/goodbye-er person. It seemed excessive even then, and that was long before the Crash of 2008. I work part-time in a store right now, and guess what — should we be lucky enough to have a paying customer in the flesh, I serve all of the above functions, and more.

I also worked for a movie studio for a long time, and our entire department was deemed “makework” by the new muckymuck who hated anything the previous muckymuck did. All of the jobs were internal public relations functions, a job category David Graeber specifically mentions. And guess what – we all lost those jobs, eventually, they really did just go away.

So it’s all interesting. I do remember being in grade school in the 1960s where we were promised a future of almost unending leisure, as the automated world would open up life for so many people in a way never seen before. Europe largely chose to invest such wealth into creating that kind of a world for its citizens; here in the U.S. the powers that be decided they needed to have all the money and so the 99% would be required to work even harder than ever. I suspect that will change, one way or the other.

What do you think? Would you rather live in a world (like the author of this piece says, totally possible with today’s technology) where people only have to work 3-4 hours a day for survival, or do you like it as it is? This is mainly a political question. Does the thought of all that free time excite you, or does it scare you?

One thought on “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs (from STRIKE! Magazine)

  1. MaryEC

    Well, I’m glad to know STRIKE! Magazine does not deem *my* job bullshit. Whew, dodged that bullet, eh?

    But speaking of make-work jobs: In Oregon they don’t let you get out of your car to pump your own gas. There are still people who do it for you–I am told this is not because of any inherent danger to the public from pumping fuel, but rather an effort to preserve jobs. Bad idea? I don’t know. Gas doesn’t seem more expensive there.

    Also, not that CNN is necessarily the most authoritative source, but it looks like the average work week in France, Germany, Italy, Sweden etc. is about 35 hours, only 3 hours fewer than the US average of 38 (http://money.cnn.com/gallery/news/economy/2013/07/10/worlds-shortest-work-weeks/5.html).

    I wonder what people would do with an extra 3-4 hours a day if they weren’t working? Writers and painters and volunteer firefighters seem pretty thin on the ground. Somehow, I imagine more TV and video games, beer-drinking and shopping, Facebook and petty crime.

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