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Bullshit Jobs - Book Discussion Questions

E6668f7e8236edd235fdbff53d171b00?s=47 Paul M
October 02, 2018

Bullshit Jobs - Book Discussion Questions

E6668f7e8236edd235fdbff53d171b00?s=128

Paul M

October 02, 2018
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  1. Boundless Book Club Think-boundless.com “Bullshit Jobs” By David Graeber September

    2018
  2. 2 Welcome! ➢This is the first book club I’ve run!

    ➢Excited to hear open discussion and ideas ➢This conversation is meant to be provocative and also exploring with some taboo ideas. Let’s default to curiosity instead of “here is why this can’t work.”
  3. 3 Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber ➢Longform article in 2013

    ➢Turned into a book in 2018 ➢Graeber is an anthropologist and self-proclaimed “anarchist” ➢This is a book about the “psychological, social, and political effects” of the current system NOT a prescription for the future
  4. Ten topics #1 Bullshit Jobs Definitions & Estimates #2 Five

    Types of BS Jobs #3 “Shit” Jobs & Equal Pay Argument #4 From fried locusts to the “time famine” #5 Three types of unpaid labor #6 Public Sector vs. Private Sector #7 Service Economy? Or Not? #8 Politics: Obsessed with Jobs? #9 Brief History of Labor & Economics #10 The Answer: Oprah gives everyone $$?
  5. 5 “A bullshit job is a form of paid employment

    that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence even though, as part of the conditions of employment, the employee feels obliged that this is not the case” DEFINITION
  6. 6 Have you ever had a “bullshit job” as Graeber

    defines it? What was it like? QUESTION
  7. Claim: Half our economy is “bullshit” “In no sense am

    I denying that the bullshitization of all aspects of the economy is a critically important social issue. Simply consider the figures cited earlier. If 37 percent to 40 percent of jobs are completely pointless, and at least 50 percent of the work done in nonpointless office jobs is equally pointless, we can probably conclude that at least half of all work being done in our society could be eliminated without making any real difference at all.” 7
  8. Claim: Half our economy is “bullshit” “In no sense am

    I denying that the bullshitization of all aspects of the economy is a critically important social issue. Simply consider the figures cited earlier. If 37 percent to 40 percent of jobs are completely pointless, and at least 50 percent of the work done in nonpointless office jobs is equally pointless, we can probably conclude that at least half of all work being done in our society could be eliminated without making any real difference at all.” 8 →Too high, too low or about right?
  9. Five Types Of BS Jobs 9 1 Flunkies “I have

    X people working for me” 2 Goons Advertising, telemarketing, PR 3 Duct Tapers Fixing pointless problems 4 Box Ticker Beautiful reports, reality on paper 5 Task Master Assigning work to other people
  10. 10 "typically involve work that needs to be done and

    is clearly of benefit to society; its just that the workers who do them are paid and treated badly“ • Data Point: Oxfam estimates that 41 million people in are earning below $12 an hour—below the poveAmericarty threshold for a family of four, even working 40 hours a week. Shit jobs:
  11. 11 “It’s commonplace to hear that grade school or middle

    school teachers shouldn’t be paid well, or certainly not as well as lawyers or executives, because one wouldn’t want people motivated primarily by greed to be teaching children. The argument would make a certain amount of sense if it were applied consistently—but it never is. (I have yet to hear anyone make the same argument about doctors.)” Exceptions: Doctor is not a “shit job”
  12. Equal Income Argument G. A. Cohen 12 1. Gifted people

    already receive a benefit by being gifted 2. Some people are biologically wired for “hard work” (a natural gift again) 3. Even if some worked harder than others, would need to know if it was altruistic or selfish 4. If altruistic, doesn’t make sense to give them more rewards. It would only make sense to reward “selfish”. 5. Since motives shift, you cannot simply divide selfish and altruists. Thus, it makes better moral sense to frustrate the egoists. 6. Thus it does not make sense to reward greater “effort” or productivity
  13. Question: If we were designing an economy from scratch and

    would set salaries, who would make the most? 13
  14. A history of time 14 14th Century – Clock Towers

    17th Century – Mass Adoption (Pocket Watches) “spending time” vs “passing time” 17th Century Religion – “Husbandry” Of Time Good use of time = moral goodness 18th/19th Century – Social Problem Poor seen as lacking “time discipline” 20th/21st Century – Optimization “time famine” / optimize time
  15. In Madagascar time might be measured by “a rice-cooking” (about

    half an hour) or “the frying of a locust” (a moment). - Time, Work-Discipline and Industrial Capitalism”, by E.P. Thompson 15 Fried locusts
  16. Leslie Perlow coined the phrase “time famine” in 1999 “a

    feeling of having too much to do and not enough time to do” 16 →Can time be “spent”? What do you think? →How does our mindset of time being finite impact how we approach our lives?
  17. Three Ignored Types Of Unpaid Labor 17 Emotional Labor: Study

    of air hostesses and need to be “perky, empathetic, good natured” lead to feelings of “emptiness” and “depression” Interpretive Labor: Needing to constantly understand and translate the intentions of someone “higher up” in an organization Caring Labor: Stay at home parents, caring for sick, elderly or loved ones, helping out in the community
  18. Public Sector 18 Private Sector +66% managers and administrators at

    universities +135% managers and administrators at universities Is private sector really that efficient? Do we need these jobs? Yes/No?
  19. Do we need these jobs? Yes/No? 19

  20. Do we really have a growing service economy? 20

  21. 21 Common Ground: Jobs? “Everybody who supports single-payer health care

    says, ‘Look at all this money we would be saving from insurance and paperwork.’ That represents one million, two million, three million jobs [filled by] people who are working at Blue Cross Blue Shield or Kaiser or other places. What are we doing with them? Where are we employing them?” Who said it?
  22. A brief history of labor 22 16th Century – Guilds

    & Apprenticeships Work seen as transformative for young men 17th – 19th Century – Guilds fall apart Religion - work is punishment & redemptive 19th Century – Gospel Of Work / Producerism Carlyle: Labor be viewed as essence of life itself 19th Century – Reaction to Producerism Work is divine because it is source of wealth ((Luddism, Chartism, Riccardian, Adam Smith) 1861 – “Labor Theory Of Value” accepted Lincoln: “labor is prior to &independent of capital” BUT assumes workers eventually become owners
  23. A brief history of labor part 2 23 Late 1800s

    – Reactionary Economic Theories Labor theories: Marx, Ingersoll, Kearney Late 1800s – Work still tied to “public benefit” Law: Could only get LLC if proved benefit 1890s – “Gospel Of Wealth” (Carnegie, et al…) Capitalists argue capital over Labor Early 20th Century – Shift to consumerism Still rooted in “managerialist” approach – balancing benefit of multiple stakeholders 1970s – “Shareholder value” / Friedman “One social responsibility of business…to increase profits”
  24. Wealth Creation Is A New Idea “As Karl Marx once

    pointed out: prior to the industrial revolution, it never seems to have occurred to anyone to write a book asking what conditions would create the most overall wealth. ”
  25. Wages have become dethatched from profits

  26. Universally Basic Income: The Only Solution? 26 Some benefits/reasons: •

    Way to re-distribute hidden work: we still do work for machines (e.g. when using facebook, we are helping train their advertising algorithm) • Applies universally – no free loaders • Does not take away incentive to work (at least one what people want to work on) • Simplified social safety net (1,000s of programs => single program)
  27. Universal Basic Income Are you on Board? 27

  28. Thank you! I am fascinated by the changing dynamics in

    the workplace – or perhaps the fact that the dynamics don’t seem to be changing. I want to help imagine a more sane future of work and this book discussion is my attempt to help raise some of the tougher questions. I’d love to hear from anyone that wants to have a conversation about any of these ideas. Paul Millerd Creator & Freelance Consultant Boundless: The Human Side Of Work CONTACT ME → E-MAIL ME → WRITING → PODCAST → CONSULTING