Bullshit guarantee… (?)

David Graeber, professor in anthropology at the London School of Economics has conceived the concept of bullshit jobs. He defines a bullshit as any job which would not be missed by anyone if those jobs would suddenly disappear. More over he classifies jobs as bullshit ones if the very people who do those jobs consider their work as useless.

Examples given by Graeber of such bullshit jobs are telemarketers and corporate lawyers. Of the latter, he argues that virtually corporate lawyers agree that their own job is meaningless. I would add to this list the ever-growing layers of managers as well.

In fact he argues that most jobs in our modern capitalist society are bullshit jobs. And most interestingly, many of this jobs are created by the private sector. Though many silly jobs existed in the former Soviet Union, it is actually strange that profit-seeking corporations are paying people to do… actually nothing.

One could wonder whether bullshit jobs are a problem at all. However, as argued many people with such jobs are not happy and only “do” this work, because they need the money it pays. And even with so many bullshit jobs most nation have still no full employment.

In order to achieve full employment, some economists have proposed a job guarantee, a government-funded program to give a job to everyone who wants to work. This idea is interesting and makes sense from a purely economical perspective and certainly does deserve more discussion.

However, the proponents of job guarantee programs are quite silent when it comes to the answering the question: what kind of work will a JG offer? I am afraid that an ill-designed job guarantee will only contribute to the proliferation of bullshit jobs.

In the Soviet Union, with its commitment to full employment, bureaucrats were unable to create enough meaningful jobs for everyone. So it is a legitimate question to ask: why would (Western) bureaucrats be able to do a better job?

Let me make myself clear: I do not oppose a job guarantee per se, but we should be careful with designing such program. If this turns out be a bullshit guarantee, public support of such policy would quickly disappear…

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2 thoughts on “Bullshit guarantee… (?)”

  1. Here’s another example of a “bullshit job:” a very unhappy and unfulfilled fast-food worker slaving away the hours shoveling unhealthy food to unhealthy customers while earning an insufficient wage to live.

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