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Viking ZX

Author of Science-Fiction and Fantasy novels! Oh, and some fanfiction from time to time.

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You Might Want to Read … Bullshit Jobs · 9:38pm Nov 19th, 2021

So this post isn’t quite a “Why You Should Read …” but at the same time, I did want to throw this book out for consideration.

You might have hear of it. Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber is the eventual path taken by an essay written in the early 2010s that you might have heard of. Specifically because it set the internet on fire for a time, prompting everyone from national news chains to CEOs and middle managers everywhere (unsurprisingly, given the context) to descend upon the small web-host that carried it, crashing it numerous times.

You can still read the original essay on that same site, in fact, and it’s reproduced in the opening chapter of the book. And it still argues the same thing: That many of the jobs embraced by modern America are, in fact (and understand I’m using the author’s terms here), bullshit. They’re pointless jobs that serve no real purpose, to the degree that if those “working” them were to secretly vanish, no one would notice.

Surprised? Well, the author actually posts several examples of people doing just that, including one “highly important” individual who, after the company attempted to give them an award for not missing a day in eight years of work, was discovered to have not even shown up at the building nor done any work in over six years, and in fact was out of the country on yet another vacation, collecting a paycheck for a pointless job with no other requirement than “make the people above you feel important.”

Which in short is the entire phenomenon the book examines. It doesn’t present a theory that these jobs exist: Rather it demonstrates that they do exist, are a staggeringly large part of the American working world, and then asks the question “Why?” Positing that a job might be pointless is fairly subjective. Proving that one is pointless is very doable. Bullshit Jobs points out that they do exist, and in large numbers, something acknowledged both by those working them and the companies employing those positions themselves. It then goes on to ask “Why?”

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Comments ( 2 )

Jealousy is Jealousy, no matter how you flavor it.

And its rare a manager that improves conditions because they can get a team to work smarter, not harder.

Two words: Office Space

It can be argued that meaningless jobs at higher levels in an organization are a necessary evil, because it can just be so (censored) difficult to fire people in the US. (I understand France has it worse, but I'm not in France, so...) I'm not going to say I've seen this personally at work (because the internet is forever) but I understand certain organizations promote certain employees to the head office when they have reached a level of blithering incompetency that makes the Peter Principle seem like a flat line instead of a curve. Odd offices in the middle of the building seem to be a common nesting spot for the Lesser Spotted Boobie, where they can sharpen their skills in producing pretty charts and reports for management about how the number of left-handed Lithuanians in the organization has skyrocketed over the last three years. Of course, these reports have to be written, and the clucking dunderheads can barely spell their names, so certain competent office staff are rotated through the support sections to 'edit' the final reports, spinning gold from straw every quarter.

I would add to your recommendation: Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicolas Taleb. My favorite line is "...these self-described members of the “intelligentsia” can’t find a coconut in Coconut Island."

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