Beyond bullshit jobs
Further develops the arguments of anthropologist and activist David Graeber’s article ‘On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs’. Graeber has argued that, contrary to Keynes’s prediction that by the end of the twentieth century we would all be working 15 hour weeks, technology has in fact been used to devise ways to make us work ever harder. A surprising and depressing number of contemporary jobs are of the ‘bullshit’ variety, in that they contribute virtually nothing of use or value to society. This article takes Graeber’s insight as a starting point, using the concept of ‘bullshit jobs’ to draw out a central contradiction in neoliberal rhetoric. On the one hand, austerity and capitalism alike call for competitive efficiency. On the other, economic growth demands the creation of jobs seemingly for their own sake. This incoherent contrast between leanness and expansiveness has the potential to undermine the logic of the neoliberal imposition of work culture. The article also examines what we mean by meaningful and useful work, and marshals recent research on anti-work in order to review the prospects for resisting work as an arbitrary and pointless imperative.