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Bullshit jobs: why we're not all working 4h days

David Graeber, who wrote last year's incredible Debt: The First 5,000 Years, has an extraordinary essay up called "On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs," which explores the phenomenon of people in productive industries (nursing, teaching, etc) being relentlessly ground down on wages, job stability and working conditions; while all the big money aggregates to the finance industry and a layer of "bullshit jobs" like corporate attorneys, administrators, etc -- who do jobs that produce no tangible benefit.

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 when tabloids whip up resentment against tube workers for paralysing London during contract disputes: the very fact that tube 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 mobilizing resentment against school teachers, or auto workers (and not, significantly, against the school administrators or auto 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 health care?”

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 it’s 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 3-4 hour days.

by Anonymousreply 408/29/2013

I was just thinking of this very thing after reading the State of Penn school district issues.

What the fuck is going on?

by Anonymousreply 108/19/2013

You forgot the class of professional propagandists, which now numbers in the MILLIONS.

by Anonymousreply 208/20/2013

This is an important discussion. I predict a war with management, a literal war.

by Anonymousreply 308/21/2013

[quote]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 it’s financial avatars – but, at the same time, foster a simmering resentment against anyone whose work has clear and undeniable social value.

This is a very interesting statement. I think this has a lot to do with how we are set up now as a country. As a person living in a big city, I think that jobs become extremely specialized just because of the huge number people living in one place. Jobs that would not exist if it weren't for the huge demand for services. America now has a service driven economy.

It's the corporations that run those services that create the middle management jobs that this article is pitting against jobs with social value. We as Americans expect corporations to provide every service imaginable now. But we also want low taxes, and we allow corporations and the wealthy to evade taxes as well. That's the problem. We give big business all our money first, let them get breaks on top of that, but still expect the government to come out even with big businesses. Our priorities are out of wack.

by Anonymousreply 408/29/2013
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