Bullshit Jobs: A Theory
Simon & Schuster
In 2013, a relatively unknown magazine of the radical left called Strike! published an essay by the anthropologist David Graeber called "On the Phenomenology of Bullshit Jobs." Graeber speculated that dangerously high numbers of people hold jobs they know to be pointless—and that the widespread (but rarely discussed) experience of bureaucratized pointlessness is a "scar across our collective soul." The essay went viral, was translated into at least a dozen languages, and was reprinted in newspapers around the world. In Bullshit Jobs: A Theory, Graeber—with help from readers who wrote to him about their own workplace experiences— develops a taxonomy of bullshit jobs, plus a theory as to where they came from, why they make us miserable, and why we tolerate them anyway. The book leaps nimbly between economics, politics, religion, and culture; it's all rather dazzling, and, like so many contemporary jobs, horribly depressing.
A version of this story originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Pacific Standard. Subscribe now and get eight issues/year or purchase a single copy of the magazine. It was first published online on April 23rd, 2018, exclusively for PS Premium members.