The Rise of Pointless Work and What We Can Do About It

Bullshit Jobs

A YouGov poll found that in the United Kingdom only 50% of those who had full-time jobs were entirely sure their job mad any sort of meaningful contribution to the world, and 37% were quite sure it did not. A poll by the firm Schouten & Nelissen carried out in Holland put the latter number as high as 40%.

The definition of a Bullshit Job

On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs

What, I wondered, if these jobs really are useless, and those who hold them are aware of it?

  • “In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century’s end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Great Britain or the United States would have achieved a fifteen-hour work week. [But despite us being capable of it] And yet it didn’t happen…Jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed”. Yes, humans consume ore than before but very few of the jobs that we partake in today are linked to the production of sneakers, cars or iPhones
  • So if technology has allowed the same work to be done with fewer people, where are these would be unemployed working? “A recent report comparing employment in the US between 1910 and 2000 gives us a clear picture. Over the course of the last century, the number of works employed in domestic servants, in industry, and in the farm sector has collapsed dramatically. At the same time, ‘professional, managerial, clerical, sales and service works’ tripped, growing ‘from one-quarter to three-quarters of total employment’.
  • Rather than allowing a massive reduction of working hours, “we have seen the ballooning not even so such of the ‘service’ sector as of the administrative sector…These are what I propose to call ‘Bullshit Jobs’”.
  • “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 not what is supposed to happen…While corporations ay engage in ruthless downsizing, the layoffs and speed-ups invariable fall on that class of people who are actually making, moving, fixing and maintaining things. Through some strange alchemy that no one can quite explain, the number of salaried paper pushers ultimately seems to expand, and more and more employees find themselves working forty or even fifty hour weeks on paper but effectively working fifteen hours just as Keynes predicted”
  • “The answer clearly isn’t economic: its 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. 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”

Time Actually Spent Working

The Five Types of Bullshit Jobs

  1. flunkies, who serve to make their superiors feel important, e.g., receptionists, administrative assistants, door attendants
  2. goons, who oppose other goons hired by other companies, e.g., lobbyists, corporate lawyers, telemarketers, public relations specialists
  3. duct tapers, who temporarily fix problems that could be fixed permanently, e.g., programmers repairing shoddy code, airline desk staff who calm passengers whose bags don’t arrive
  4. box tickers, who create the appearance that something useful is being done when it isn’t, e.g., survey administrators, in-house magazine journalists, corporate compliance officers
  5. taskmasters, who manage — or create extra work for — those who do not need it, e.g., middle management, leadership professionals

Managerial Feudalism

The Will to Power

Obama and Healthcare

The Paradox of Modern Work

  • Most people’s sense of dignity and self-worth is caught up in working for a living.
  • Most people hate their jobs.

Protestant Work Ethic




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Harry Cheslaw

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