Bullshit Jobs: A Theory

David Graeber. Simon & Schuster, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5011-4331-1
A tsunami of useless jobs is prime evidence of capitalism’s moral derangement, according to this bare-knuckled polemic. Drawing on firsthand reports he gathered from workers, anthropologist Graeber (Debt: The First 5,000 Years) taxonomizes pointless busywork: the administrative assistant with time to watch YouTube all day; the PR consultant who writes reports that nobody reads; the subcontractor who drives hundreds of miles to move a client’s computer a few feet; the museum guard eternally watching an empty room. Like an update of economist Thorstein Veblen’s theory of a purposeless “leisure class” as interpreted by Kafka and Dilbert, Graeber’s funny, incisive analysis dissects the absurd social protocols of looking busy when there’s nothing to do, and plumbs the depression and self-loathing that erupt when the psychological drive to be useful is thwarted. Less cogently, he elaborates a thesis that capitalism has a sadomasochistic, quasi-religious obsession with unpleasant labor as a “sacred duty.” In his quest to be provocative, Graeber himself sometimes strays into BS territory (many people, he contends, believe “we should reward useless or even destructive behavior, and, effectively, punish those whose daily labors make the world a better place”), but his many subversive insights into alienating labor make for an enlightening book that every office drone will relate to. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/19/2018
Release date: 05/15/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-5082-6466-8
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-1-5011-4333-5
Compact Disc - 978-1-5082-5741-7
Downloadable Audio - 368 pages - 978-1-5082-5740-0
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