Bullshit Jobs: A Theory
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Simon & Schuster
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From bestselling writer David Graeber—“a master of opening up thought and stimulating debate” (Slate)—a powerful argument against the rise of meaningless, unfulfilling jobs…and their consequences.
Does your job make a meaningful contribution to the world? In the spring of 2013, David Graeber asked this question in a playful, provocative essay titled “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs.” It went viral. After one million online views in seventeen different languages, people all over the world are still debating the answer.
There are hordes of people—HR consultants, communication coordinators, telemarketing researchers, corporate lawyers—whose jobs are useless, and, tragically, they know it. These people are caught in bullshit jobs.
Graeber explores one of society’s most vexing and deeply felt concerns, indicting among other villains a particular strain of finance capitalism that betrays ideals shared by thinkers ranging from Keynes to Lincoln. “Clever and charismatic” (
The New Yorker),
Bullshit Jobs gives individuals, corporations, and societies permission to undergo a shift in values, placing creative and caring work at the center of our culture. This book is for everyone who wants to turn their vocation back into an avocation and “a thought-provoking examination of our working lives” (
“Clever and charismatic.”
—The New Yorker
"One of our most important and provocative thinkers...”—
“Graeber is an American anthropologist with a winning combination of talents: he’s a startlingly original thinker...able to convey complicated ideas with wit and clarity."
The Telegraph (UK)
"A brilliant, deeply original political thinker…”—
“A master of opening up thought and stimulating debate."
“Graeber wants us to unshackle ourselves from the limits imposed by bureaucracy, precisely so we can actually get down to openly and creatively arguing about our collective future."—
"A thought-provoking examination of our working lives."
"Buoyed by a sense of recognition, the reader happily follows Graeber in his fun attempts to categorize bulls--- jobs into Goons, Flunkies, Box Tickers, Duct Tapers, and Taskmasters, which inevitably bleed together into Complex Multiform Bulls--- Jobs. It’s funny, albeit painful, that we’ve gotten work so wrong and spend so much time at it."
Praise for DEBT: The First 5000 Years
“Fresh...fascinating... Graeber's book is not just thought provoking, but also exceedingly timely.”—
Gillian Tett, The Financial Times
“The book is more readable and entertaining than I can indicate... It is a meditation on debt, tribute, gifts, religion and the false history of money. Graeber is a scholarly researcher, an activist and a public intellectual.”—
Peter Carey, The Observer
Praise for Utopia of Rules:
“[A] fizzing, fabulous firecracker of a book… Our contemporary bureaucrats are revealed, in fact, as none other than you and me, forever administering and marketing ourselves."—
The Literary Review
About the Author
David Graeber is a Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics. He is the author of
DEBT: The First 5,000 Years, and a contributor to
The Guardian, and
The Baffler. He lives in London.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
What Is a Bullshit Job?
Let us begin with what might be considered a paradigmatic example of a bullshit job.
Kurt works for a subcontractor for the German military. Or . . . actually, he is employed by a subcontractor of a subcontractor of a subcontractor for the German military. Here is how he describes his work:
The German military has a subcontractor that does their IT work.
The IT firm has a subcontractor that does their logistics.
The logistics firm has a subcontractor that does their personnel management, and I work for that company.