Bullshit jobs

Published 2021-03-19


Interesting ideas. Probably overstated, but worth reading.

Outline of Bullshit Jobs:

Medieval model of work:

Industrial model of work:

Modern model of work (since ~70s):

We're not in a capitalist free market:

'The pleasure at being the cause' - people derive joy from exercising control over their environment

Why do we have to always look like we're working:

Power games are human, but jobs are power games without a safeword - "I quit" is too expensive

Wasted time in bullshit jobs is hard to use productively, because of stress, guilt and the need to look busy

I used to have to go literally insane to get into work. Scrub away 'me' and become the thing that can do this work. Afterward, I'd often need a day to recover; to remember who I am. (If I didn't, I'd become an acerbic, nitpicky person to people in my private life, enraged over tiny things.)

Obama on health insurance jobs - example of publicly preserving millions of bullshit jobs

It's hard to imagine a surer sign that one is dealing with an irrational economic system than the fact that the prospect of eliminating drudgery is considered to be a problem

Universities used to be run like craft guilds - by academics for academics

[on box-checking] ...one ends up spending so much more time pitching, assessing, monitoring and arguing about what one does than on spends actually doing it.

If the market pays you 40k to browse facebook all day, are you sure that market really knows what is valuable?

'Conspiracy by elite' - 1890s robber barons started a campaign to convince people that capital is source of value, not labour - it worked

Social effects of consumerism:

Paradox of modern work:

Compensatory consumerism - the nice things you can buy to make up for the fact that you don't have a life

Trying to automate stuff often causes more work overall in making things legible to machines - bureaucracy reproduces

The left-wing used to be drawn from workers unions, now run by managerial class who actively support bullshit jobs

Entanglement of finance, education, health:

Foucault made distinction between power and domination - power games have boundaries and players are allowed to quit

Most of us like to talk about freedom in the abstract ... but we don't think a lot about what being free or practicing freedom might actually mean.