Bullshit Jobs

A Theory

David Graeber

Publisher: Penguin, 2018, 333 pages

ISBN: 978-1-141-98347-9

Keywords: Human Resources

Last modified: Sept. 19, 2022, 8:55 a.m.

The rise of pointless work and what we can do about it.

  1. What is a Bullshit Job?
    • Why a Mafia Hit Man Is Not A Good Example of a Bullshit Job
    • On the Importance of the Subjective Element, and Also Why It Can Be Assumed That Those Who Believe They Have Bullshit Jobs Are Generally Correct
    • On the Common Misconception That Bullshit Jobs Are Confined Largely to the Public Sector
    • Why Hairdressers Are a Poor Example of a Bullshit Job
    • On the Difference Between Partly Bullshit Jobs, Mostly Bullshit Jobs, and Purely and Entirely Bullshit Jobs
  2. What Sorts of Bullshit Jobs Are There?
    • The Five Major Varieties of Bullshit Jobs
    1. What Flunkies Do
    2. What Goons Do
    3. What Duct Tapers Do
    4. What Box Tickers Do
    5. What Taskmasters Do
    • On Complex Multiform Bullshit Jobs
    • A Word on Second-Order Bullshit Jobs
    • A Final Note, with a Brief Return to the Question: Is It Possible to Have a Bullshit Job and Not Know It?
  3. Why Do Those in Bullshit Jobs Regularly Report Themselves Unhappy?
    (On Spiritual Violence, Part 1)
    • About One Young Man Apparently Handed a Sinecure Who Nonetheless Found Himself Unable to Handle the Situation
    • Concerning the Experience of Falseness and Purposelessness at the Core of Bullshit Jobs, and the Importance Now Felt of Conveying the Experience of Falseness and Purposelessness to Youth
    • Why Many of Our Fundamental Assumptions on Human Motivation Appear to Be Incorrect
    • A Brief Excursion on the History of Make-Work, and Particularly of the Concept of Buying Other People's Time
    • Concerning the Clash Between the Morality of Time and Natural Work Rythms, and the Resentment It Creates
  4. What is it Like to Have a Bullshit Job?
    (On Spiritual Violence, Part 2)
    • Why Having a Bullshit Job Is Not Always Necessarily That Bad
    • On the Misery of Ambiguity and Forced Pretense
    • On the Misery of Not Being a Cause
    • On the Misery of Not Feeling Entitled to One's Misery
    • On the Misery of Knowing That One Is Doing Harm
    • Coda: On the Effects of Bullshit Jobs on Human Creativity, and On Why Attempts to Assert Oneself Creatively or Politically Against Pointless Employment Might Be Considered a Form of Spiritual Warfare
  5. Why Are Bullshit Jobs Proliferating?
    • A Brief Excursion on Causality and the Nature of Sociological Explanation
    • Sundry Notes on the Role of Government in Creating and Maintaining Bullshit Jobs
    • Concerning Some False  Explanations for the Rise of Bullshit Jobs
    • Why the Financial Industry Might Be Considered a Paradigm for Bullshit Job Creation
    • On Some Ways in Which the Current Form of Managerial Feudalism Resembles Classical Feudalism, and Other Ways in Which It Does Not
    • How Managerial Feudalism Manifests Itself in the Creative Industries through an Endless Multiplication of Intermediary Executive Ranks
    • Conclusion, with a Brief Return to the Question of Three Levels of Causation
  6. Why Do We as a Society Not Object to the Growth of Pointless Employment?
    • On the Impossibility of Developing an Absolute Measure of Value
    • How Most People in Contemporary Society Do Accept the Notion of a Social Value That Can Be Distinguished from Economic Value, Even If It Is Very Difficult to Pin Down What It Is
    • Concerning the Inverse Relationship Between the Social Value of Work and the Amount of Money One Is Likely to Be Paid for It
    • On the Theological Roots of Our Attitudes Toward Labor
    • On the Origins of the Northern European Notion of Paid Labor as Necessary to the Full Formation of an Adult Human Being
    • How, with the advent of Capitalism, Work Came to Be Seen in Many Quarters Either as a Means of Social reform or Ultimately as a Virtue in Its Own Right, and How Laborers Countered by Embracing the Labor Theory of Value
    • Concerning the Key Flaw in the Labor Theory of Value as It Became Popular in the Nineteenth Century, and How Owners of Capital Exploited That Flaw
    • How, over the Course of the Twentieth Century, Work Came to Be Increasingly Valued Primarily as a Form of Discipline and Self-Sacrifice
  7. What Are the Political Effects of Bullshit Jobs, and is There Anything That Can Be Done About This Situation?
    • On How the Political Culture under Managerial Feudalism Comes to Be Maintained by a Balance of Resentments
    • How the Current Crisis over Robotization Relates to the Larger Problem of Bullshit Jobs
    • On the Political Ramifications of Bullshitization and Consequent Decline of Productivity in the Caring Sector as It Relates to the Possibility of a Revolt of the Caring Class
    • On Universal Basic Income as an Example of a Program That Might Begin to Detach Work from Compensation and Put an End to the Dilemmas Described in This Book