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Bullshit Jobs: A Theory

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  5,566 ratings  ·  862 reviews
From bestselling writer David Graeber, a powerful argument against the rise of meaningless, unfulfilling jobs, and their consequences.

Does your job make a meaningful contribution to the world? In the spring of 2013, David Graeber asked this question in a playful, provocative essay titled “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs.” It went viral. After a million online views in
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published May 15th 2018 by Simon Schuster
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Popular Answered Questions
David Ask the publicist! (i.e., I didn't write that).

Me, I don't think anyone needs permission, obviously, I think what they were trying to convey was more…more
Ask the publicist! (i.e., I didn't write that).

Me, I don't think anyone needs permission, obviously, I think what they were trying to convey was more "encouragement" - i.e., if you think there's something terribly wrong, well, actually, you're probably right, and a lot of other people think exactly the same thing, you're not alone, maybe we can all get together and do something.(less)
Jed Reisner These questions are all answered in the book. The author doesn't define any specific jobs as bullshit. He says it is up to the employee. He does give…moreThese questions are all answered in the book. The author doesn't define any specific jobs as bullshit. He says it is up to the employee. He does give multiple examples of jobs with stories from the employees themselves. (less)

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You need to get hold of this book. I’ve been recommending it to just about everyone I know.

The author was asked by a new journal / magazine if he would write an article that would be a bit controversial and so he wrote one about how so many people today work in bullshit jobs – and then the journal’s website crashed as a million people went about downloading the article.

I was a bit worried when I started this book because I really don’t like shaming people for the work they do. You know, it’s
Roy Lotz
Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Economies around the world have, increasingly, become vast engines for producing nonsense.

Reading this was cathartic. Like so many people, I, too, have experienced the suffering that is a useless job—a job that not only lacks any real benefit to society, but which also does not even benefit the company. (Lucky for me, I am now a teacher, which, for all its unpleasant aspects, almost never feels useless.) Even though I got a lot of reading and writing done on the job, the feeling of total
☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣
This made my day :) It's definitely a fav forever. Quirky and cool.

We start rating calc at 5 star max.

> Some of the things innovative. Seriously, have my star drives never been built because people around the world have been too busy creating BS PPTs and simply had no time to spend building devices for my space travel? F***!!!!!!! (+1 star)

> Other points felt like BS themselves and made me feel that the author misses the point a bit:
1. If people are ok being with themselves, on their
Otto Lehto
Jul 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book is about how some jobs are worthless and don't need to exist. Perhaps this book itself is a good example of a worthless job that didn't need to be done and doesn't need to exist?

I like David Graeber. His book "Debt" was phenomenal. The book, however, is far from his best. It expands on the short 2013 essay, "On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs," which is still a provocation worth reading. But it didn't need to be expanded into a book. So the worst part of the book is that it is
David Wineberg
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Facebook Salvation for BS Jobholders

The astounding number of hours spent weekly by social media users is a direct result of bullshit jobs, says David Graeber, in his book of the same name. In this context, the average smartphone being consulted 221 times a day is no longer unbelievable. Graeber has uncovered a whole new field for research: jobs where nothing real happens.

We often think of neoliberalism as the era when companies are lean and mean, all the fat is excised and operations optimized.
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Having read and even cited [for a piece on the rise of extreme endurance sports over the past century] Graeber's original essay in Strike magazine, I eagerly preordered this book. I read it with a kind of surreptitious glee while attending college curriculum meetings and during my usual 4-hour commute, some days just go to said meetings, which consisted of adults with PhDs commenting on font size and whether to use the word "show" versus "demonstrate." But I digress.

It takes a lot for me at
Tom Quinn
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
What would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, garbage 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 dockworkers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science-fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. (xxi)

You had me at "ska musicians." But our author pivots quickly:

Writing this book also
Dan Connors
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-books
This is an eye-opening and subversive book, and changed the way I look at jobs. Politicians and economists are always touting how great jobs are- jobs can fix anything and make capitalism work like a charm. This book questions that assumption.

I'm giving this book five out of five stars because it opens up a new topic and asks strong questions that have not before been considered.

The definition of a bullshit job, in the author's opinion, is "a form of employment that is so completely pointless,
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Outside of office parties and other social gatherings to the idea of a bullshit job was not much discussed. It was never made into an issue by labor rights people or the political chattering classes until this author hit a nerve when he broached the topic in an essay. It is a social problem and a concept which is a touchstone about the value of labor and work and what is its role in the economy. It begins to hit questions of what kind of labor is valuable and is it necessary that 37% to 40% of ...more
Jul 20, 2018 rated it liked it
In 2013, David Graeber published a captivating essay in Strike Magazine about the phenomenon of "Bullshit Jobs" (link: The basic thesis was that entire industries employing tens of millions of people had been created that serve no purpose whatsoever. These jobs could all cease existing tomorrow without the broader society being affected at all, except perhaps for the better. Sprawlingly amorphous fields like the "financial services industry" employ ...more
The Good:
Engaging a wider audience:
--What I appreciate most with Graeber’s books is his ability to take emancipatory history and theory, and play (there is no better word to describe the action) with ways to present them in accessible, engaging, and meaningful thought-experiments/narratives for a general audience (esp. in rich countries). Another review described the results succinctly as “[making] the strange, familiar, and the familiar, strange.”
--I like to think this is a principle of
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Maybe from confirmation bias, or maybe from that love that misery finds through good company, I was gravitationally attracted to Prof. Graeber’s work on b.s. jobs. To begin, my credentials: I’m quite familiar with white collar b.s. work since in my 25-year career in finance, I spent the last seven years or so, owing to a politically motivated demotion (more politely announced as a reorganization), truly working for only around one hour a week on average. Since I was an established member of the ...more
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So I wasn't sold on the first half of this book--the diagnosis of bullshit jobs. But the last half or third, I read like 5 times because it's Graeber at his best--diagnosing the bullshit in the ways we talk about the economy and money and debt. The reason I didn't love the diagnosis is because I think someone being miserable in their work is so human and so expansive that it's just the human condition--we are all unhappy. However, what does the proliferation of finance do to businesses and the ...more
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
"This is not a book about a particular solution. It's a book about a problem . . . I hesitate to make policy suggestions . . . " -- page 270 (now he tells us -- with only fifteen pages left in the book!)

Bullshit Jobs has a great attention-grabbing, provocative title and some occasionally good stories from the interviewees who are all too aware that their various jobs are, well . . . see the title. However, this probably worked much better in its original format as an online article. Author
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When ‘Bullshit Jobs’ was published, I initially wasn’t particularly eager to read it as I gathered it contained material familiar from Graeber’s previous work: an essay in Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion, and Desire, his book The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy, and his initial article on the titular topic. Despite the clear structure, it outlines a looser theory than his other work, based on internet ethnography of uncertain ...more
Aris Catsambas
Sep 01, 2018 rated it did not like it
Concise summary: the book is a 280-page too long rambling mess consisting of half-baked ideas & inconsequential anecdotes. The author is political where there is no call for politics, and philosophically & mathematically inept.

I was planning to write a long critique, but I realised that to write an exhaustive review of everything that is wrong with the book I would need to write one of longer length. Instead, I will point out that the book goes off the mark starting with the very
Eric Lin
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book. I loved Debt: The First 5,000 Years, and hoped for something closer to that, where Respected Anthropologist David Graeber walks us through the evolution of labor, and explains how we arrived at our current model. Unfortunately, we got David Graeber, "Researcher"* who spends the first half of his book reading comments and emails from people who read his original article in Strike! magazine, and the second half of his article trying to taxonomize, opine, conject, and ...more
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a book about my life. My bullshit job started in high school - I had to do stuff that was neither useful nor interesting (memorizing), while being under constant sadistic supervision. So I learned how to fake it, trying to use my time (while faking it) more productively - I learned to write with my left hand (I'm right-handed) in a mirror-like fashion. Not useful, but at least if was something to do with my frustrated brain.

So I worked hard at faking it and then played hard by partying
David Buccola
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
David Graeber continues to shine as one of the most provocative thinkers alive. “Bullshit Jobs” is larger exposition of his essay from a few years ago: “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs.” It’s a book I’ve been looking forward to since that essay was published back in 2013, and I was not disappointed. This is a book that every working person should read.

I’ll begin with Graeber’s definition of a Bullshit Job. It should be noted that shit jobs and Bullshit Jobs are not the same thing. Here is how
May 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Graeber is a really entertaining writer even though I found that his theorizing of what makes a job bullshit to be too extended for my tastes. (Also I’m pretty sure he’d see most of my work as bullshit, and my belief to the contrary to be at least in part because I’m high enough in the hierarchy that people flatter me that my work is not bullshit.) His basic thesis: many modern jobs are bullshit, in the sense that they could disappear completely and the world would be unharmed or even better ...more
Kanske Ervast Svartfors
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have now read this book four times, last two times for my MA. I still found it extremely engaging, fun and informative, but it does have few chapers that lag a bit. Nevertheless, the book contains so much information that I knew already after the first read that I have to take up this book again. And, as it is with books like this, although this book can easily be read for pleasure, requires close reading or studying the text to even start to get the whole picture of the painted in sight.

Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not going to lie, I may have driven my partner crazy by reading sections of this out loud in a fit laughter. The picture Graeber paints is horrifying, but way too familiar to not just have a laugh. This can't true, right? The proliferation in service industry was restaurant workers, cashiers, and hotel workers, right? Not that guy asking about TPS reports from Office Space...

As someone who teaches undergraduates (in the US) and feels a pull to pitch college's value as preparing people for a job
May 21, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Bullshit Jobs: A Theory by David Graeber is a book about the numerous occupations that exist for the seeming singular purpose of occupying a person’s time without any tangible or intangible benefit for society. Sort of. What this book truly is about is Graeber’s complaints and rants about life in an imperfect world where the activity that people spend most of their time on, their job, has a number of elements that they only put up with because they are paid to do them. To illustrate his point, ...more
Zac Scy
Jun 05, 2018 rated it liked it
The categorization of the different types of "bullshit jobs" as well as how they affect workers and companies was interesting. It gave another lens through which one can view workplace dynamics and imbalances in power. These tend to leak out into people's private lives and can have great detrimental effects on relationships. That's what I found the real value of the book to be.

It's a book I would recommend people read, but with at least one caveat.

What stops this book from getting 4 stars for me
Jun 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recommended
This has taken a chunk out of my ability to small talk at dinner parties, because this book became my small talk and no one really actually wants to talk about the bullshit of the managerial class over Rosé.

So wonderfully written, has made Kids These Days seem like a collection of notes.
Hazel Bright
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read a lot of books, and I've become accustomed to repetitions of the same general knowledge. This doesn't bother me. I'm used to it. This book was a thrill to read because it broke new ground, describing ideas that were completely new to me. Graeber is an incredibly innovative lateral thinker; all of his assertions well-supported historically, philosophically, and empirically. For a book with such a provocative title, it provides a plethora of sound, well-reasoned, comprehensive, and ...more
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
He did it again.
I'm still not sure I'm interested in anarchism, but I'm definitely here for histories of labor, biting feminist critiques of the missing value of care work in capitalism and Marxism, and interviews with people finding themselves in the spiritual crisis of our current moment. I feel like D.G is inside my brain; I just read "Player Piano" three months ago and felt nearly exactly the same about it as he did. I've been shifting more and more towards care-focused feminism after
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
About 250 pages too long. I should have just read his online article -

Thought-provoking idea gets it 2 stars.
Apr 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Got too bogged down in the "science" when I thought it was going to be more entertaining than it was. I don't really feel like I've learned anything new. It basically just posits that most jobs fall into various "bullshit" categories (which are all a little to similar to one another anyway), and there's not much we can do about it.
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
First, David Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs is an extremely pleasurable read, and you should read it, if nothing else for the accounts of the utterly useless things people have been employed to do. The book was born in the wake of the storm of Graeber’s 2013 article “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs“. The premise is simple: In 1930 John Maynard Keynes predicted, with the pace of mechanisation and technological advances, that by the end of the century the world would enjoy a 15-hour work week. Given ...more
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David Rolfe Graeber is an American anthropologist and anarchist.

On June 15, 2007, Graeber accepted the offer of a lectureship in the anthropology department at Goldsmiths College, University of London, where he currently holds the title of Reader in Social Anthropology.

He was an associate professor of anthropology at Yale University, although Yale controversially declined to rehire him, and his
“We have become a civilization based on work—not even “productive work” but work as an end and meaning in itself.” 17 likes
“Shit jobs tend to be blue collar and pay by the hour, whereas bullshit jobs tend to be white collar and salaried.” 15 likes
More quotes…