Today’s recommendation will be Bullshit Jobs - A Theory by David Graeber, first published in 2018.

A provocative claim

The first line of this books Wikipedia-page quotes: "Bullshit Jobs: A Theory (...) postulates the existence of meaningless jobs and analyzes their societal harm.". For me, hearing about this claim, made me immediatly re-evaluate what I experienced in my employments, what I heard of others and what outlook I had on some specific professions. Could it be, that not my missing knowledge and distorted perspective made me think some jobs were entirely useless but that there was actual evidence? I had to give this read.

Graeber, the anarchist

The author, David Graeber, who is not with us any longer, was professor, anthropologist and interestingly, anarchist. I stumbled upon this information after reading the book halfway and it actually explained a lot, which is why I feel the need to mention this. The book is very provocative, outlining an almost dystopian development of our work-culture until today, resulting in a majority of us doing no useful work at all or maybe "undoing" others work.

Much philosophy, some anecdotes, few data

Graeber dives (at least for my little experience) deep into historical, political and mostly philosophical backgrounds of what is actually considered “work”, its role in our economy, society and history, whom it is supposed to benefit and what (monitary or not) gains it should yield. Expectedly, considering the authors background, there is much philosophical reasoning to be found in the book and few actual evident data (like I would have preferred); nevertheless he gives loads of interesting anecdotical accounts of people of varying profession, shining a light on what is going on behind the curtains of big and prestigious firms or institutions.

He is on to something

His initial point is (which rings true for me) that it is paradoxical, how the world society has come so far in automatization of work and efficiency-improvements through fast-paced technological advancements, while it seems as there exists more work to be done than ever and we seem to be far away from a 15-hour-work-week, contradicting all forecasts from the past. I think on the premise, that something seems off here, we can all agree.

I will not spoil the main-points of the book here, but I enjoyed most parts of it, as it opened up very interesting perspectives for me, laid out the widespread, though hidden,phenomenon of useless jobs and sets it in context of societal and cultural developments in our post-industrialized world.

I may not agree with everything stated in the book, but still recommend giving it a read, as it helps to see things in our work-culture more critical, although they may seem like unchangeable circumstances.

Further resources