…one that even the person doing it secretly believes need not, or should not, exist. That if the job, or even the whole industry, were to vanish, either it would make no difference to anyone, or the world might even be a slightly better place.
Something like 37-40% of workers according to surveys say their jobs make no difference. Insofar as there’s anything really radical about the book, it’s not to observe that many people feel that way, but simply to say we should proceed on the assumption that for the most part, people’s self-assessments are largely correct. Their jobs really are just as pointless as they think they are.
I came away from this interview with the same sense I had after reading Graeber’s book, which is that his theory is compelling and emotionally resonant, but that it feels like it is only part of a larger picture.
Graeber’s focus, both here and in his book, is—understandably—on all the valuable and fulfilling stuff that people could be accomplishing if they were not wasting their days in pointless, soul-killing jobs just to earn a paycheck. That’s a fine question to ask, but I am also interested in why we have such an oversupply of bullshit jobs in the first place.
The analogy that comes to mind is all the of “bad debt” debates we saw after the 2008 financial crisis.
In those debates, we had everyone talking about why so many people getting loans that had no business getting loans, and why banks that should never have been giving at those loans were giving them. Despite a lot of noise from the Right that the whole thing hinged upon the personal moral failures of individuals, the real answer is that there was a demand for debt. The finance industry, in pursuit of ever more methods of squeezing money out of the markets, “innovated”—they found ways to sell debt, and in so doing, drove up the demand for debt.
So I guess my question here is, what has driven the demand for bullshit jobs?