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Logan Simmering
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Interesting article I found



Why, despite our technological capacities, are we not all working three- to four-hour days? asks David Graeber.


In 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century's end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Britain or the United States would have achieved a 15-hour working week. There's every reason to believe he was right. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn't happen. Instead, technology has been marshalled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people in the Western world spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.

Why did Keynes's promised utopia - still being eagerly awaited in the 1960s - never materialise? The standard line is he didn't predict the massive increase in consumerism. Given the choice between less hours and more toys and pleasures, we've collectively chosen the latter. This presents a nice morality tale, but even a moment's reflection shows it can't really be true. Yes, we have witnessed the creation of an endless variety of new jobs and industries since the 1920s, but very few have anything to do with the production and distribution of sushi, iPhones or fancy sneakers.

Huge swathes of people in the Western world spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed.

So what are these new jobs, precisely? A recent report comparing employment in the US between 1910 and 2000 gives us a clear picture. Over the course of the last century, the number of workers employed as domestic servants, in industry, and in the farm sector has collapsed dramatically. At the same time, ''professional, managerial, clerical, sales, and service workers'' tripled, growing ''from one-quarter to three-quarters of total employment''. In other words, productive jobs have, just as predicted, been largely automated away (even if you count industrial workers globally, including the toiling masses in India and China, such workers are still not nearly so large a percentage of the world population as they used to be).


But rather than allowing a massive reduction of working hours to free the world's population to pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions and ideas, we have seen the ballooning not even so much of the ''service'' sector as of the administrative sector, up to and including the creation of whole new industries such as financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors such as corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources and public relations. And these numbers do not even reflect on all those people whose job is to provide administrative, technical or security support for these industries, or for that matter the whole host of ancillary industries (dog-washers, all-night pizza-delivery drivers) that only exist because everyone else is spending so much of their time working in all the other ones.
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These are what I propose to call ''bullshit jobs''.

It's as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working. And here lies the mystery. In capitalism, this is precisely what is not supposed to happen. Sure, in the old inefficient socialist states, such as the Soviet Union, where employment was considered both a right and a sacred duty, the system made up as many jobs as it had to (this is why in Soviet department stores it took three clerks to sell a piece of meat). But, of course, this is the sort of very problem that market competition is supposed to fix. According to economic theory, at least, the last thing a profit-seeking business is going to do is shell out money to workers they don't really need to employ. Still, somehow, it happens.

While corporations may engage in ruthless downsizing, the lay-offs and speed-ups invariably fall on that class of people who are actually making, moving, fixing and maintaining things; through some strange alchemy no one can quite explain, the number of salaried paper-pushers ultimately seems to expand, and more and more employees find themselves, not unlike Soviet workers actually, working 40 or even 50-hour weeks on paper, but effectively working 15 hours just as Keynes predicted, since the rest of their time is spent organising or attending motivational seminars, updating their Facebook profiles or downloading television series.

The answer clearly isn't economic: it's moral and political. The ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on its hands is a mortal danger (think of what started to happen when this even began to be approximated in the 1960s). And, on the other hand, the feeling that work is a moral value in itself, and that anyone not willing to submit themselves to some kind of intense work discipline for most of their waking hours deserves nothing, is extraordinarily convenient for them.

Once, when contemplating the apparently endless growth of administrative responsibilities in British academic departments, I came up with one possible vision of hell. Hell is a collection of individuals who are spending the bulk of their time working on a task they don't like and are not especially good at. Say they were hired because they were excellent cabinetmakers, and then discover they are expected to spend a great deal of their time frying fish. Nor does the task really need to be done - at least, there's only a very limited number of fish that need to be fried. Yet somehow they all become so obsessed with resentment at the thought that some of their co-workers might be spending more time making cabinets, and not doing their fair share of the fish-frying responsibilities, that before long there's endless piles of useless, badly cooked fish piling up all over the workshop and it's all that anyone really does.

I think this is actually a pretty accurate description of the moral dynamics of our own economy.

—————

Now, I realise any such argument is going to run into immediate objections: ''Who are you to say what jobs are really 'necessary'? What's necessary anyway? You're an anthropology professor, what's the 'need' for that?'' (And indeed a lot of tabloid readers would take the existence of my job as the very definition of wasteful social expenditure.) And, on one level, this is obviously true. There can be no objective measure of social value.

I would not presume to tell someone who is convinced they are making a meaningful contribution to the world that, really, they are not. But what about those people who are themselves convinced their jobs are meaningless? Not long ago, I got back in touch with a school friend whom I hadn't seen since I was 12. I was amazed to discover that, in the interim, he had become first a poet, then the frontman in an indie rock band. I'd heard some of his songs on the radio having no idea the singer was someone I actually knew. He was obviously brilliant, innovative, and his work had unquestionably brightened and improved the lives of people all over the world. Yet, after a couple of unsuccessful albums, he'd lost his contract and, plagued with debts and a newborn daughter, ended up, as he put it, ''taking the default choice of so many directionless folk: law school''. Now he's a corporate lawyer working in a prominent New York firm. He was the first to admit that his job was utterly meaningless, contributed nothing to the world, and, in his own estimation, should not really exist.

There's a lot of questions one could ask here, starting with: what does it say about our society that it seems to generate an extremely limited demand for talented poet-musicians, but an apparently infinite demand for specialists in corporate law? (Answer: if 1 per cent of the population controls most of the disposable wealth, what we call ''the market'' reflects what those people think is useful or important, not anyone else.) But even more it shows that most people in these jobs are ultimately aware of it. In fact, I'm unsure I've ever met a corporate lawyer who didn't think their job was bullshit. The same goes for almost all the new industries outlined above. There is a whole class of salaried professionals who, should you meet them at parties and admit that you do something that might be considered interesting (an anthropologist, for example), will want to avoid even discussing their line of work entirely. Give them a few drinks, and they will launch into tirades about how pointless and stupid their jobs really are.

This is a profound psychological violence. How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one's job should not exist? How can it not create a sense of deep rage and resentment? Yet it is the peculiar genius of our society that its rulers have figured out a way, as in the case of the fish-fryers, to ensure that rage is directed precisely against those who actually do get to do meaningful work. For instance: in our society, there seems a general rule that, the more obviously one's work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it. Again, an objective measure is hard to find, but one easy way to get a sense is to ask: what would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, rubbish collectors or mechanics, it's obvious that, were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or stevedores would soon be in trouble, and even one without science-fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It's not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity chief executives, lobbyists, public relations researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.) Yet, apart from a handful of well-touted exceptions (doctors), the rule holds surprisingly well.

Even more perverse, there seems to be a broad sense that this is the way things should be. This is one of the secret strengths of right-wing populism. You can see it in Britain, when tabloids whip up resentment against transport workers for paralysing London during contract disputes: the very fact that the workers can paralyse London shows that their work is actually necessary, but this seems to be precisely what annoys people. It's even clearer in the US, where Republicans have had remarkable success mobilising resentment against schoolteachers or car workers (and not, significantly, against the school administrators or car industry managers who actually cause the problems) for their supposedly bloated wages and benefits. It's as if they are being told: ''But you get to teach children! Or make cars! You get to have real jobs! And on top of that you have the nerve to also expect middle-class pensions and healthcare?''

If someone had designed a work regime perfectly suited to maintaining the power of finance capital, it's hard to see how they could have done a better job. Real, productive workers are relentlessly squeezed and exploited. The remainder are divided between a terrorised stratum of the, universally reviled, unemployed and a larger stratum who are basically paid to do nothing, in positions designed to make them identify with the perspectives and sensibilities of the ruling class (managers, administrators, etc) - and particularly its financial avatars - but, at the same time, foster a simmering resentment against anyone whose work has clear and undeniable social value. Clearly, the system was never consciously designed. It emerged from almost a century of trial and error. But it is the only explanation for why, despite our technological capacities, we are not all working three to four-hour days.

David Graeber is a professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics. This article first appeared in Strike! Magazine, a radical British quarterly that covers politics, philosophy and art. The article has subsequently struck a chord worldwide and we thank Strike! and Professor Graeber for allowing the Informant to republish it.


http://www.smh.com.au/national/public-service/the-modern-phenomenon-of-nonsense-jobs-20130831-2sy3j.html
 
Dale Hodgins
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We all have a say in which jobs exist. If we buy whatever is being sold, we're voting to keep that business moving in that direction.

Some examples : Get a salon tan --- Somebody will spend their time promoting the idea that this makes sense.

Sign up for something while talking to a telemarketer --- Your phone will ring quite often

Buy drugs --- Dealers will exist. Some will have building with nice displays inside. Others will wear track suits and hang around downtown.

Answer the door and give missionaries time or money --- More people will find themselves in missionary positions. Well, look at where that went.
 
Logan Simmering
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Dale Hodgins wrote:
Sign up for something while talking to a telemarketer --- Your phone will ring quite often


I've always wondered what the actual conversion rate for telemarketing is, I can't imagine it's terribly high.

Same with SPAM E-mail's, these things must on some level be profitable, but who actually responds to that kind of marketing?
 
Rufus Laggren
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> BS jobs... Why?

Well, a person doesn't decide to do a BS job, they decide to get some money and that's just the way that's out there front 'n' center for them to get it. I think your friend is the poster boy - BS jobs pay the bills and people _have_ to pay the bills. A person just grabs the branch of the money tree that he sees w/in easy reach cuz he has a problem needs solving _yesterday_. It takes a certain about of pig headed unreasonableness to hold off and look for the virtuous way to get money.

Why do people make societies and institutions that create situations like this? Weakness (if you will). Dishonesty w/ourselves and others is my pet peeve. Why do people create things like the Constitution and other works of moral art? Strengths (if you will). About half and half I'd say. But the one does not preclude the other - AT ALL. And _that's_ a place where people get dishonest: The "can't happen here" and "I'm not like that" lie.

So we end up with the "Best of all possible worlds and the worst of all possible worlds" (as always). I think Dale put it well - a person votes when he makes his choices, whether it's spending money or earning it. And that's how we ended up here...


Rufus
 
wayne stephen
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRVdiHu1VCc&feature=player_detailpage

Mike Rowe from "Dirty Jobs " and an inspirational message about hard work.
 
wayne stephen
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=ls1YhhMHdNY

Mike Rowe from "Dirty Jobs" again { with Bill Maher } talking about " Bullshit Jobs ".

True story : I met with my High School Guidance Counselor and he had determined that I was suited for a job like " High School GuidanceCounselor ".
That's the last time I listened to a Guidance Counselor .
 
David Hartley
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Other than thinking there is any real difference between the left wing and right wing; the article makes a few good points...

Though many of us live paycheck to paycheck just to keep a roof and food; Dale makes an excellent point. Our power is in what we do and don't purchase.
 
leila hamaya
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that was a good read.

so completely agree with the ideas behind this.

people have forgotten how easy it is to live, or how it could really be quite easy to inch along and have enough. it isnt currently set up that way, but it could be.

even...alternative type people, however we could classify people who have deep insights inside things and are making better choices, and creating alternatives. they seem to be still stuck on some "work ethic" type non sense, and seem to hold the assumption so many share- that life is supposed to be hard work. i sooooooo strongly disagree...but people keep making it more and more that way. but now with the price of things so absurdly inflated and with so much greed and nickle and diming everyone...it is has become quite hard- nearly impossible really- to just inch along- even if you do work hard.

also there is huge inequities, so some people work much too hard doing the real work we need, while others do very little of value. and somehow , in some strange twist, doing little of value translate to high paycheck for the pencil pushers, and meaningless jobs, while cleaning toilets, taking out the garbage, growing food, etc etc, only earns you a low wage.

i've certainly ranted this rant before. once i tried it with my mailman, since we used to chat sometimes, and used junkmail as an example. not just trees wasted and a waste of ink, but tons of extra work for postal people- when nobody wants this mail!
he unfortunately didnt get it, and just responded with the old stand by, default response about it creating more jobs.....as though we really need more jobs, no matter what was being done...even if its something most everyone could agree we would be better off without.

its the inefficiencies and the meaningless jobs, jobs created just to create jobs, thats taking up all of our slack! that and a lot of the inequities, and somehow people still hold onto to the thinking and believing it should be hard to just get what you need.... and the whole honor of the work ethic. so thats whats been created....now to just get what was provided to all of us for FREE- a place on earth, some food, a place one can build a home and a life...all of these things have been stolen, then repeatedly bought and sold. i know people think its strange i have this perspective, but to me its seems to be that simple, we were all given these things, and they have been stolen and then greedily inflated, and bought and sold over and over again at some profit.

but even with that, when you really get down to what you truly need, it is possible for a person to work a very short work week, have what they NEED, and plenty of time for enjoying life, creative pursuits, enjoying each others company and all that good stuff that you would think we would all want for ourselves and want to give each other too....and i know this is not only possible, and could be easy, but i am perplexed at how this isnt the way that people decided to structure things. it seems like a no brainer, that we, our ancestors, would have wanted to steer things in this direction, not intentionally set out to create these nearly impossible ways, and then hold onto the ideas that things SHOULD be hard....

to me it seems the world is a place of such an amazing abundance, that people would have to work very hard at intentionally creating scarcity, and all the difficulty of just getting by....
 
Rufus Laggren
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> work ethic...

I think a lot of that may have to do with the old truism "the devil finds work for idle hands". Also, there _is_ real suffering in the world (right?) and sometimes (lots of times?) it helps greatly when it comes down to "keep busy" - did me. And of course it helps "keeping busy" if work is valued and honored. So... Work ethic. Reason to the rhyme.

Think of work as therapy. Kinda like religion. Besides garnering the necessary, it's something people do to keep off the street and out of trouble, direct their energies..

Not to say the "system" is perfect or anything. Lots of folk are struggling for real, scraping by; and lots out there sliding or free loading. Been that way a long time... What'd old Mr. Cheerfulness say in Ecclesiastes? Ah, gotta love a search engine! " For there is a man whose labor is with wisdom, and with knowledge, and with skilfulness; yet to a man that hath not labored therein shall he leave it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great evil." (2.21)

Cheers

Rufus
 
Dale Hodgins
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I always seek out useful work that I'm good at. When I get a good contract, I tear into the building like a crazed vulture. I work hard and that shows in my physique. I have overdone it sometimes, but I usually manage jobs so that I come out a few weeks later in great condition.

I enjoy most of the challenges involved and I enjoy being the super knowledgeable guy who my customers trust to pull it off.

I like the recycling aspect and conducting a giant yard sale that is often the most interesting event in the neighborhood.

I like making the calls to volunteer groups to give them plants from the landscape.

I enjoy the challenge of calling around to find a home for every useful item from free firewood to swing sets to compost bins.

I really enjoy being a slave driver and showing new workers how to accomplish things.

I enjoy gobbling up all of the tasty treats that are brought by people who loaded up on free stuff.

My work is hard sometimes. Welcome to life. I don't ever want to retire. I'm 49 and I hope to be useful for another 50 years.

Sometimes, I walk around the empty site after a demolition or building move and take stock of what has transpired. I got some exercise, met lots of people, recycled tons of stuff, barked orders while teaching worthwhile skills and made a nice chunk of money.

When people ask what became of the old such and such building, I tell them that I ripped it apart with my bare hands.

I have a real, no nonsense job, and I like it. I think that might be considered a work ethic.
 
Dale Hodgins
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A girl named Mandy, called to see if I would like to donate money to a worthless cause. It was an online magazine meant to raise the self esteem of kids. It looked like a web site from 1994. Other kids would mock any of their fellows who would spend any time there.

Mandy and I spent 5 minutes brainstorming to help her in looking for a better job that wouldn't bring shame to herself and her family.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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