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On Bullsh*t Jobs | David Graeber | RSA Replay - YouTube
"In 2013 David Graeber, professor of anthropology at LSE, wrote an excoriating essay on modern work for Strike! magazine. “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs” was read over a million times and the essay translated in seventeen different languages within weeks. Graeber visits the RSA to expand on this phenomenon, and will explore how the proliferation of meaningless jobs - more associated with the 20th-century Soviet Union than latter-day capitalism - has impacted modern society. In doing so, he looks at how we value work, and how, rather than being productive, work has become an end in itself; the way such work maintains the current broken system of finance capital; and, finally, how we can get out of it."
davidgraeber  bullshitjobs  employment  jobs  work  2018  economics  neoliberalism  capitalism  latecapitalism  sovietunion  bureaucracy  productivity  finance  policy  politics  unschooling  deschooling  labor  society  purpose  schooliness  debt  poverty  inequality  rules  anticapitalism  morality  wealth  power  control  technology  progress  consumerism  suffering  morals  psychology  specialization  complexity  systemsthinking  digitization  automation  middlemanagement  academia  highered  highereducation  management  administration  adminstrativebloat  minutia  universalbasicincome  ubi  supplysideeconomics  creativity  elitism  thecultofwork  anarchism  anarchy  zero-basedaccounting  leisure  taylorism  ethics  happiness  production  care  maintenance  marxism  caregiving  serviceindustry  gender  value  values  gdp  socialvalue  education  teaching  freedom  play  feminism  mentalhealth  measurement  fulfillment  supervision  autonomy  humans  humnnature  misery  canon  agency  identity  self-image  self-worth  depression  stress  anxiety  solidarity  camaraderie  respect  community 
january 2019 by robertogreco
A Way Out – Popula
"I’m telling you this story because I imagine there are others, like me, who want to see a better, kinder world, but they’re not sure how to go about achieving it. When I was 24 I thought it was through proper, respectable channels: NGOs and civil political gamesmanship and gradual pressure for reform. I now know that those proper and respectable channels are an illusion, anesthetizing you to the fact that the world is a vicious brawl for resources, with capitalists leading every major offensive.

And I’m telling you this now, of all times, because I’ve witnessed the future. It’s in Appalachia. It’s in a place called Martin County, Kentucky, where there is no running water, and what little water they do have is poison. It’s in a place called Letcher County, Kentucky, where—instead of rebuilding the public water infrastructure—they’re building another federal prison and calling it economic diversification. It’s in a place called McDowell County, West Virginia, with the highest per capita overdose rate in the nation. In each of these places there are pockets of resistance, begging for help and relief, but no one hears them. In fact, politicians actively ignore them, because the old kind of politics is dead. Look around and you’ll see catastrophe on the horizon of every major issue of our times. The nonprofit sector has failed to manage the contradictions of capitalism in Appalachia, and they will eventually fail you, too.

It is for this reason that we have to acknowledge that what we do in the nonprofit sphere is not actually progressive politics. It’s business.

To escape the logic of this system you have to give up the part of yourself that says you can change the world. You cannot change the world. Mass consumption, mass media, and individualism have rendered the world primitive again, a social vacuum in which there is, paradoxically, no individual. And because there is no individual there is no accountability, no rights, and certainly no social contract. The dream of liberal democracy is dead. All that exists is the global oppressors and the globally oppressed.

I submit that the only thing that offers you a way out of this contradictory mess is the analytic framework of Marxism, combined with the social application of class struggle.

This is a difficult statement to make. It sounds so lame and self-serious. It sounds out of touch. How can you sit there and tell me the working class isn’t interested in wonky economic policies, you might ask, and then shove a 150-year-old book in my face? But Marxism gives you the tools to pry the system apart and see how it works. There’s no wonky economic theory here, nothing like the Stream Protection Rule or stomach ulcers. The words are big but the message is simple, something you already knew: you are worthy, you are not surplus, you must overthrow the capitalist class to reach liberation, and you must band together with your fellow workers to do it. You do not have to sacrifice your intellect, integrity, or potential to the liberal cause of social tinkering. Take my word for it: that road will only lead you to self-doubt and self-abuse.

There is an entire stratum of society dedicated to the cause of social tinkering; it finds its most concrete forms in philanthropy, the liberal media, and the Democratic Party, and over the past two years it has reached a fever pitch of outrage that is at once powerless and powerful. This segment of society is comprised of the upper and middle classes, and as a result the discourse that it produces—and forces onto the rest of us—can only reflect the values of those classes. This is why every few months we are treated to a cataclysmic meltdown about the abolition of norms and procedure, and it’s why they invariably tell us there’s nothing we can do about it except vote them out.

But it’s also why this same segment of society keeps telling us that the left doesn’t have a vision for the future, despite the fact that it does. This vision is actually quite robust and imaginative; for example, there are plenty of working people who are disillusioned with political and electoral systems, and who are fed up with having to work to stay alive, but no one is telling them that human beings shouldn’t have to live like this.

The union traditionally served the purpose of activating these people’s imaginations and class-consciousness, but this is beyond the pale for the liberal theory of change, because there’s no corresponding system of merits or rewards or social-media-savior posturing attached to it. There’s no grant for organizing your workplace, no pat on the head or body of individuals who will thank you for all the great work you’ve done. So as a result, the liberal discourse tells us that history is frozen, and that we’re all just a little bit shell-shocked and uncertain about what to do about it. In fact, they maintain, we are helpless to history—at least until the next election. But this cannot be further from the truth.

Human beings can seize history, and we know this because it’s been done before. In fact, it’s the only thing that’s ever worked. It will take years to build up a movement that is strong enough to do this, and this will require sacrifice and hard work, but it can be done. In Appalachia that will look like organizing the people at the margins of society on the premise that, if they really want it, they can shut the system down, because they create the profit for those at the top. In my community, those people are the nurses, the teachers, and the service industry workers. You could rebut this and say that our country is simply too reactionary and backwards for this to actually work, and you may be correct. But have we even tried? We know that voting is becoming less and less effective as more and more people are purged from electoral rolls. So what other recourse do we have? For starters, we have our labor power—the fact that a fundamental aspect of this system is our collective fate.

If we are going to survive the coming years it is necessary that we demolish the liberal theory of change. This theory tells you that the individual can change everything, while simultaneously insisting that the individual is powerless to change anything, unless it’s in a voting booth. It insists that you, the individual, can be whatever or whoever you want to be, and by doing so, you can somehow compromise or bargain or reason with the forces of capital. I’m here to tell you that you can’t. Those forces only want you dead. You are surplus to them. You are disposable. Sooner or later they will come for you. Don’t let the Hal Rogers of the world lead them to you."
nonprofits  capitalism  2018  tarenceray  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  charitableindustrialcomplex  class  classstruggle  economics  struggle  activism  unions  labor  work  organizing  oppression  neoliberalism  consumption  consumerism  individualism  us  democracy  democrats  theshirkyprinciple  society  socialtinkering  philanthropy  charity  media  politics  policy  socialism  bullshitjobs 
november 2018 by robertogreco
I Asked People If Their Jobs Were Pointless. Oh My God, the Replies | Inc.com
"Inspired by David Graeber's new book, Bullshit Jobs: A Theory, I asked a lot of people if their jobs were pointless.

If they answered "No, my job has a point, thank you very much," I had a follow-up:

Well, have you ever had a pointless job?

Because Graeber says as many as 40 percent of workers will answer that question with a resounding yes.

The answers I heard? Basically a bunch of resounding yesses. Here are 10 of them, plus a bonus."
bullshitjobs  work  labor  capitalism  2018  davidgraeber 
may 2018 by robertogreco
[Essay] | Punching the Clock, by David Graeber | Harper's Magazine
"In 1901, the German psychologist Karl Groos discovered that infants express extraordinary happiness when they first discover their ability to cause predictable effects in the world. For example, they might scribble with a pencil by randomly moving their arms and hands. When they realize that they can achieve the same result by retracing the same pattern, they respond with expressions of utter joy. Groos called this “the pleasure at being the cause,” and suggested that it was the basis for play.

Before Groos, most Western political philosophers, economists, and social scientists assumed that humans seek power out of either a desire for conquest and domination or a practical need to guarantee physical gratification and reproductive success. Groos’s insight had powerful implications for our understanding of the formation of the self, and of human motivation more generally. Children come to see that they exist as distinct individuals who are separate from the world around them by observing that they can cause something to happen, and happen again. Crucially, the realization brings a delight, the pleasure at being the cause, that is the very foundation of our being.

Experiments have shown that if a child is allowed to experience this delight but then is suddenly denied it, he will become enraged, refuse to engage, or even withdraw from the world entirely. The psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Francis Broucek suspected that such traumatic experiences can cause many mental health issues later in life.

Groos’s research led him to devise a theory of play as make-believe: Adults invent games and diversions for the same reason that an infant delights in his ability to move a pencil. We wish to exercise our powers as an end in themselves. This, Groos suggested, is what freedom is—the ability to make things up for the sake of being able to do so.

The make-believe aspect of the work is precisely what performers of bullshit jobs find the most infuriating. Just about anyone in a supervised wage-labor job finds it maddening to pretend to be busy. Working is meant to serve a purpose—if make-believe play is an expression of human freedom, then make-believe work imposed by others represents a total lack of freedom. It’s unsurprising, then, that the first historical occurrence of the notion that some people ought to be working at all times, or that work should be made up to fill their time even in the absence of things that need
doing, concerns workers who are
not free: prisoners and slaves."



"The idea that workers have a moral obligation to allow their working time to be dictated has become so normalized that members of the public feel indignant if they see, say, transit workers lounging on the job. Thus busywork was invented: to ameliorate the supposed problem of workers not having enough to do to fill an eight-hour day. Take the experience of a woman named Wendy, who sent me a long history of pointless jobs she had worked:

“As a receptionist for a small trade magazine, I was often given tasks to perform while waiting for the phone to ring. Once, one of the ad- sales people dumped thousands of paper clips on my desk and asked me to sort them by color. She then used them interchangeably.

“Another example: my grandmother lived independently in an apartment in New York City into her early nineties, but she did need some help. We hired a very nice woman to live with her, help her do shopping and laundry, and keep an eye out in case she fell or needed help. So, if all went well, there was nothing for this woman to do. This drove my grandmother crazy. ‘She’s just sitting there!’ she would complain. Ultimately, the woman quit.”

This sense of obligation is common across the world. Ramadan, for example, is a young Egyptian engineer working for a public enterprise in Cairo.

The company needed a team of engineers to come in every morning and check whether the air conditioners were working, then hang around in case something broke. Of course, management couldn’t admit that; instead, the firm invented forms, drills, and box-­ticking rituals calculated to keep the team busy for eight hours a day. “I discovered immediately that I hadn’t been hired as an engineer at all but really as some kind of technical bureaucrat,” Ramadan explained. “All we do here is paperwork, filling out checklists and forms.” Fortunately, Ramadan gradually figured out which ones nobody would notice if he ignored and used the time to indulge a growing interest in film and literature. Still, the process left him feeling hollow. “Going every workday to a job that I considered pointless was psychologically exhausting and left me depressed.”

The end result, however exasperating, doesn’t seem all that bad, especially since Ramadan had figured out how to game the system. Why couldn’t he see it, then, as stealing back time that he’d sold to the corporation? Why did the pretense and lack of purpose grind him down?

A bullshit job—where one is treated as if one were usefully employed and forced to play along with the pretense—is inherently demoralizing because it is a game of make-­believe not of one’s own making. Of course the soul cries out. It is an assault on the very foundations of self. A human being unable to have a meaningful impact on the world ceases to exist."
davidgraeber  2018  work  bullshitjobs  capitalism  karlgroos  purpose  well-being  life  living  labor  play  pleasure  delight  employment  depression  slave  wageslavery  wages  freedom  humans  psychology  obligation  morality  care  caring  despair  consumerism 
may 2018 by robertogreco
DAVID GRAEBER / The Revolt of the Caring Classes / 2018 - YouTube
"The financialisation of major economies since the '80s has radically changed the terms for social movements everywhere. How does one organise workplaces, for example, in societies where up to 40% of the workforce believe their jobs should not exist? David Graeber makes the case that, slowly but surely, a new form of class politics is emerging, based around recognising the centrality of meaningful 'caring labour' in creating social value. He identifies a slowly emerging rebellion of the caring classes which potentially represents just as much of a threat to financial capitalism as earlier forms of proletarian struggle did to industrial capitalism.

David Graeber is Professor of Anthropology, London School of Economics and previously Assistant Professor and Associate Professor of Anthropology at Yale and Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. His books include The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy (2015) Debt: The First 5000 Years (2011) and Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (2004). His activism includes protests against the 3rd Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in 2001, and the 2002 World Economic Forum in New York City. Graeber was a leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement, and is sometimes credited with having coined the slogan, 'We are the 99 percent'.

This lecture was given at the Collège de France on the 22nd March 2018."
davidgraeber  care  caring  teaching  nursing  economics  capitalism  labor  work  employment  compensation  resentment  bullshitjobs  finance  politics  policy  us  uk  workingclass  intellectuals  intellectualism  society  manufacturing  management  jobs  liberalism  values  benefits  nobility  truth  beauty  charity  nonprofit  highered  highereducation  activism  humanrights  os  occupywallstreet  opportunity  revolution  revolt  hollywood  military  misery  productivity  creation  creativity  maintenance  gender  production  reproduction  socialsciences  proletariat  wagelabor  wage  salaries  religion  belief  discipline  maintstreamleft  hospitals  freedom  play  teachers  parenting  mothers  education  learning  unions  consumption  anarchism  spontaneity  universalbasicincome  nonprofits  ubi 
may 2018 by robertogreco
OCCULTURE: 52. John Michael Greer in “The Polymath” // Druidry, Storytelling & the History of the Occult
"The best beard in occultism, John Michael Greer, is in the house. We’re talking “The Occult Book”, a collection of 100 of the most important stories and anecdotes from the history of the occult in western society. We also touch on the subject of storytelling as well as some other recent material from John, including his book “The Coelbren Alphabet: The Forgotten Oracle of the Welsh Bards” and his translation of a neat little number called “Academy of the Sword”."



"What you contemplate [too much] you imitate." [Uses the example of atheists contemplating religious fundamentalists and how the atheists begin acting like them.] "People always become what they hate. That’s why it's not good idea to wallow in hate."
2017  johnmichaelgreer  druidry  craft  druids  polymaths  autodidacts  learning  occulture  occult  ryanpeverly  celts  druidrevival  history  spirituality  thedivine  nature  belief  dogma  animism  practice  life  living  myths  mythology  stories  storytelling  wisdom  writing  howwewrite  editing  writersblock  criticism  writer'sblock  self-criticism  creativity  schools  schooling  television  tv  coelbrenalphabet  1980s  ronaldreagan  sustainability  environment  us  politics  lies  margaretthatcher  oraltradition  books  reading  howweread  howwelearn  unschooling  deschooling  facetime  social  socializing  cardgames  humans  human  humanism  work  labor  boredom  economics  society  suffering  misery  trapped  progress  socialmedia  computing  smarthphones  bullshitjobs  shinto  talismans  amulets  sex  christianity  religion  atheism  scientism  mainstream  counterculture  magic  materialism  enlightenment  delusion  judgement  contemplation  imitation  fundamentalism  hate  knowledge 
february 2018 by robertogreco
'Capitalism will always create bullshit jobs' | Owen Jones meets Rutger Bregman - YouTube
"Rutger Bregman is the author of Utopia for Realists and he advocates for more radical solutions to address inequality in society. His ideas include the introduction of a universal basic income, a 15 hour working week and, one which will be hugely popular on YouTube, open borders.

When I went to meet him, he told me politicians have failed to come up with new, radical ideas, instead sticking to an outdated, technocratic form of politics. He argues this has allowed politicians like Geert Wilders and Donald Trump to slowly shift extreme ideas into the mainstream."
rutgerbregman  bullshitjobs  consumerism  utopia  work  labor  davidgraeber  universalbasicincome  2017  inequality  purpose  emotionallabor  society  socialism  leisurearts  artleisure  boredom  stress  workweek  productivity  policy  politics  poverty  health  medicine  openborders  crime  owenjones  socialjustice  progressivism  sustainability  left  us  germany  migration  immigration  capitalism  netherlands  populism  isolationism  violence  pragmatism  realism  privatization  monopolies  ideology  borders  ubi 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Silicon Valley’s Basic Income Bromance — Backchannel — Medium
"A cult of bros, brahmins and braintrusters is pushing the idea of a government-distributed living wage"



"Among the grassroots braintrust, Santens is elite.

His fascination with basic income started in his late 30s, with a Reddit thread about how quickly tech-induced unemployment was coming. He read about basic income as a possible solution, and was hooked. “When I came across this idea and read more and more into it, I’m like wow, this is something that can totally change the world for the better.” In the fall of 2013 he abandoned his career as a freelance web developer to become the movement’s most omnipresent advocate. “People passionate about basic income don’t have a very loud voice,” he says.

In person, Santens doesn’t have one either; he’s polite and thoughtful, a reed-like 6-foot-2. His microphone is Medium and The Huffington Post, the Basic Income subreddit he moderates, and his Twitter account, from which he tweets anything in the day’s news that can be summoned into a case for basic income. Santens also created a Twibbon to superimpose #basicincome on one’s Twitter or Facebook profile pic. Such is the newness of this movement in the United States that the guy who does all this wins a profile in The Atlantic, and gets invited to talk on a Brookings Institution panel.

The technologist crowd says a basic income will become a moral imperative as robots replace workers and unemployment skyrockets. Conservatives say it would replace the kraken of welfare bureaucracy, with its arbitrary income cutoffs and overlapping programs. Optimists say humanity will no longer have to work for survival, freeing us to instead work for self-actualization. (You know, start businesses. Go to school. Do unpaid care, volunteer, and parenting work that doesn’t add a cent to the GDP.) Progressives say it would level the playing field: the working classes could have a taste of the stability that’s become an upper-middle class luxury, and would have bargaining power with low-paid work.

It’s a compelling idea having an international moment: Finland’s government announced first steps toward a basic income pilot project in 2017. Details aren’t finalized, but early plans call for giving 800 to 1,000 euros a month to a large test group for two years instead of any other social benefits. (Tally it up to another socialist program from a Northern European country if you will, but Finland is trying to solve eerily familiar U.S. problems: a growing class of freelancers who were neither eligible for employment benefits nor unemployment, and Finns in the poverty trap: taking a temporary job decreases your welfare benefits.) Several Dutch cities aim to introduce similar programs next year, and the idea of a universal basic income has gotten some consideration and endorsements in Canada, where it was tried for five years in the 1970s in Manitoba.

In the United States, it only makes sense that Silicon Valley would be the natural habitat for basic income bros, brahmins, and braintrusts. The Bay Area is home to a fertile mix of early adopters, earnest change-the-worlders, the Singularity crowd, cryptocurrency hackers, progressives and libertarians — all of whom have their reasons for supporting a universal basic income. “Some of my friends [in favor] are hardcore libertarian types, and others will be left-wing even by San Francisco standards,” says Steven Grimm, an early Facebook engineer who now writes code for a cash transfer platform used by charities, the most direct way he could think of to apply his skills to advance basic income. If we’re name-dropping: Zipcar CEO Robin Chase, Singularity University’s Peter Diamandis, Jeremy Howard, Kathryn Myronuk, and Neil Jacobstein, and Y Combinator’s Sam Altman, Clinton administration labor secretary Robert Reich, Tesla principal engineer Gerald Huff, author Martin Ford, Samasource CEO Leila Janah, and Silicon Valley optimist-in-chief Marc Andreessen all support it.

So of course, while Scott Santens isn’t from here, he needs to come kiss the ring."



"Back in San Francisco at the end of his trip, Santens was mostly killing time before a 2:00 am redeye (to avoid the hotel bill, of course). We leave Patreon and head out to Market Street, and Santens snaps a photo of the Twitter headquarters plopped in the middle of the city’s tech-gentrified skid row, where the city’s polarized classes come into sharp relief.

It’s a boulevard of all the ills Santens believes basic income will solve: the shuffling homeless people — they could get cash in one fell swoop instead of extracting it from a byzantine welfare system. Lining the sidewalk are drug dealers; they could do something else, and their customers — not having to self-medicate their desperation — might dry up, too. We pass the Crazy Horse strip club. No one would have to dance or do sex work out of poverty, leaving it to the true aficionados. The high-interest payday loan shop would lose its raison d’etre.

The thought experiment of basic income serves as a Rorschach test of one’s beliefs about human nature: some people instantly worry that human enterprise would be reduced to playing PlayStation; others point to the studies of cash transfers that show people increase their working hours and production. One cash transfer program in North Carolina revealed long-term beneficial effects on Cherokee children whose parents received some $6,000 a year from a distribution of casino profits. (The kids were more likely to graduate high school on time, less likely to have psychiatric or alcohol abuse problems in adulthood.) No one debates that $1,000 a month, the amount usually discussed as a basic income in the U.S., would only be enough to cover the basics — and in expensive cities like San Francisco, not even that. Anyone wanting to live with greater creature comforts would still have the carrot of paid work.

Santens is, unsurprisingly, of the optimist group. He tells me about his baby boomer dad who moved into The Villages, the luxury retirement community in Florida (“basically Walt Disney World for senior citizens”). He says it’s a great case study in that people stay busy even when they don’t have to work: the seniors join kayak and billiards clubs, paint watercolors, and go to Zumba. “People do all sorts of things.” His dad is partial to golf.

Before he goes, I ask what he would do if he truly got a basic income, one that was not dependent on advocating basic income. “I’d do more screen-writing,” he says. “I’m a sci-fi writer at heart.”
You might be a basic income bro if, if and when basic income comes, you finally can do something else."
laurensmiley  siliconvalley  universalbasicincome  libertarianism  economics  2015  policy  government  miltonfriedman  richardnixon  edwardsnowden  martinlutherkingjr  scottsantens  arjunbanker  robinchase  peterdiamandis  jeremyhoward  kathrynmyronuk  neiljacobstein  samaltman  robertreich  geraldhuff  martinford  leilajanah  marcandreessen  rosebroome  jimpugh  finland  erikbrynjolfsson  federicopistono  singularityuniversity  automation  future  robots  bullshitjobs  efficiency  publicassistance  mlk  ubi 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Intervention – “Vernacular Values: Remembering Ivan Illich” by Andy Merrifield | AntipodeFoundation.org
"Illich had it in for professional institutions of every kind, for what he called “disabling professions”; this is what interests me most in his work, this is what I’ve been trying to revisit, trying to recalibrate and reload, in our own professionalised times. I’ve been trying to affirm the nemesis of professionalism: amateurs. Illich said professionals incapacitate ordinary peoples’ ability to fend for themselves, to invent things, to lead innovative lives beyond the thrall of corporations and institutions. Yet Illich’s war against professionalism isn’t so much a celebration of self-survival (letting free market ideology rip) as genuine self-empowerment, a weaning people off their market-dependence. We’ve lost our ability to develop “convivial tools”, he says, been deprived of our use-value capacities, of values systems outside the production and consumption of commodities. We’ve gotten accustomed to living in a supermarket.

Illich’s thinking about professionalisation was partly inspired by Karl Polanyi’s magisterial analysis on the “political and economic origins of our time”, The Great Transformation (Beacon Press, 1944). Since the Stone Age, Polanyi says, markets followed society, developed organically as social relations developed organically, from barter and truck systems, to simple economies in which money was a means of exchange, a mere token of equivalent worth. Markets were always “embedded” (a key Polanyi word) in social relations, always located somewhere within the very fabric of society, whose institutional and political structure “regulated” what markets could and couldn’t do. Regulation and markets thus grew up together, came of age together. So “the emergence of the idea of self-regulation”, says Polanyi, “was a complete reversal of this trend of development … the change from regulated to self-regulated markets at the end of the 18th century represented a complete transformation in the structure of society.”

We’re still coming to terms with this complete transformation, a transformation that, towards the end of the 20th century, has made the “disembedded” economy seem perfectly natural, perfectly normal, something transhistorical, something that always was, right? It’s also a perfectly functioning economy, as economic pundits now like to insist. Entering the 1990s, this disembedded market system bore a new tagline, one that persists: “neoliberalism”. Polanyi’s logic is impeccable: a “market economy can exist only in a market society.”

Inherent vices nonetheless embed themselves in this disembedded economy. Land, labour and money become vital parts of our economic system, of our speculative hunger games. But, says Polanyi, land, labour and money “are obviously not commodities” (his emphasis). “Land is only another name for nature, which is not produced by man”, he says; “labour is only another name for human activity which goes with life itself”; “actual money … is merely a token of purchasing power which, as a rule, is not produced at all, but comes into being through the mechanism of banking or state finance”. Thus “the commodity description of labour, land and money is entirely fictitious”, a commodity fiction, the fiction of commodities.

Still, we live in fictitious times (as filmmaker Michael Moore was wont to say): land, labour and money as commodities provide us with the vital organising principle of our whole society. So fiction remains the truth, and fictitious truth needs defending, needs perpetuating; the postulate must be forcibly yet legitimately kept in place. But kept in place how, and by whom? By, we might say, a whole professional administration, by a whole professional cadre, by a whole professional apparatus that both props up and prospers from these fictitious times. Professionalism is the new regulation of deregulation, the new management of mismanagement, an induced and imputed incapacitation."



"Vernacular values are intuitive knowledges and practical know-how that structure everyday culture; they pivot not so much—as Gramsci says—on common sense as on “good sense”. They’re reasonable intuitions and intuitive reason: words, habits and understandings that inform real social life—the real social life of a non-expert population. Illich reminds us that “vernacular” stems from the Latin vernaculam, meaning “homebred” or “homegrown”, something “homemade”. (We’re not far from the notion of amateur here.) Vernacular is a mode of life and language below the radar of exchange-value; vernacular language is language acquired without a paid teacher; loose, unruly language, heard as opposed to written down. (“Eartalk”, Joyce called it in Finnegans Wake, a language for the “earsighted”.) To assert vernacular values is, accordingly, to assert democratic values, to assert its means through popular participation."



"Illich chips in to add how professionals peddle the privileges and status of the job: they adjudicate its worthiness and rank, while forever tut-tutting those without work. Unemployment “means sad idleness, rather than the freedom to do things that are useful for oneself or for one’s neighbour”. “What counts”, Illich says, “isn’t the effort to please or the pleasure that flows from that effort but the coupling of the labour force with capital. What counts isn’t the achievement of satisfaction that flows from action but the status of the social relationship that commands production—that is, the job, situation, post, or appointment”.

Effort isn’t productive unless it’s done at the behest of some boss; economists can’t deal with a usefulness of people outside of the corporation, outside of stock value, of shareholder dividend, of cost-benefit. Work is only ever productive when its process is controlled, when it is planned and monitored by professional agents, by managers and the managers of managers. Can we ever imagine unemployment as useful, as the basis for autonomous activity, as meaningful social or even political activity?"



"Perhaps, during crises, we can hatch alternative programmes for survival, other methods through which we can not so much “earn a living” as live a living. Perhaps we can self-downsize, as Illich suggests, and address the paradox of work that goes back at least to Max Weber: work is revered in our culture, yet at the same time workers are becoming superfluous; you hate your job, your boss, hate the servility of what you do, and how you do it, the pettiness of the tasks involved, yet want to keep your job at all costs. You see no other way of defining yourself other than through work, other than what you do for a living. Perhaps there’s a point at which we can all be pushed over the edge, voluntarily take the jump ourselves, only to discover other aspects of ourselves, other ways to fill in the hole, to make a little money, to maintain our dignity and pride, and to survive off what Gorz calls a “frugal abundance”.

Perhaps it’s time to get politicised around non-work and undercut the professionalisation of work and life. In opting out, or at least contesting from within, perhaps we can create a bit of havoc, refuse to work as we’re told, and turn confrontation into a more positive device, a will to struggle for another kind of work, where use-value outbids exchange-value, where amateurs prevail over professionals. If, in times of austerity, capitalists can do without workers, then it’s high time workers (and ex-workers) realise that we can do without capitalists, without their professional hacks, and their professional institutions, that we can devise work without them, a work for ourselves. Illich throws down the gauntlet here, challenges us to conceive another de-professionalised, vernacular non-working future. He certainly gets you thinking, has had me thinking, and rethinking, more than a decade after I’ve had any kind of job."
via:javierarbona  ivanillich  professionals  experts  amateurs  economics  conviviality  karlpolanyi  politics  capitalism  neoliberalism  empowerment  self-empowerment  unschooling  deschooling  production  consumption  corporatism  corporations  institutions  self-survival  invention  innovation  markets  society  labor  land  commodities  nature  money  michaelmoore  andymerrifield  bureaucracy  control  systems  systemsthinking  deregulation  regulation  management  incapacitation  work  vernacula  vernacularvalues  values  knowledge  everyday  culture  informal  bullshitjobs  andrégorz  antoniogramsci  marxism  ideleness  freedom  capital  effort  productivity  socialactivism  maxweber  time  toolsforconviviality 
july 2015 by robertogreco
BusinessTown
"An ongoing project attempting to explain our highly intangible, deeply disruptive, data-driven, venture-backed, gluten-free economic meritocracy to the uninitiated. With apologies to Richard Scarry."

[via: http://kottke.org/15/01/richard-scarrys-business-business-town
see also: http://boingboing.net/2014/11/26/tom-the-dancing-bug-richard-s.html ]
humor  richardscarry  labor  work  siliconvalley  business  2015  meritocracy  bullshitjobs  disruption 
january 2015 by robertogreco
BULLSHIT JOBS | 'SEARCH TERMS'
"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 their hands is a mortal danger (think of what started to happen when this even began to be approximated in the ‘60s). 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 cabinet-makers, and then discover they are expected to spend a great deal of their time frying fish. Neither 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 who 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 front man 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% of the population controls most of the disposable wealth, what we call “the market” reflects what they think is useful or important, not anybody else.) But even more, it shows that most people in these jobs are ultimately aware of it. In fact, I’m not sure 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 that, 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 job really is. This is a profound psychological violence here. 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, 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 dock-workers 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 CEOs, lobbyists, PR 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."
bullshitjobs  via:ayjay  davidgraeber  economics  2015  idleness  productivity  labor  work  morality  discipline  socialvalue  capitalism  control  power  dignity  wageslavery 
january 2015 by robertogreco
My letter of application to the Harvard Kennedy School's Senior Professorship of Social Innovation
"Dear Sir or Madam, But Most Likely Sir:

I am writing to apply for your advertised position in Social Innovation. As a Comparative Literature Ph.D, I am proficient in the fabrication of closed tautological circles of non-meaning; this makes me the ideal candidate for a job seeking “innovative teachers…for the position of lecturer in innovation.”

On the other hand, as an Assistant Professor of English, I know only too well the dangers of failing to innovate. For example, I am often forced to talk to human students who are sitting in bounded classrooms often wired for multimedia applications I am unable or simply unwilling to use. Paper books are an obsolete technology barely worthy of the word, and poetry, despite its promising shortness, takes far too long to understand. These hardships have granted me an acute understanding of the innovation deficit your department so bravely seeks to overcome.

In spite of English Literature’s disciplinary hostility to “innovation,” change agency, and both entre- and intra-preneurship, my training as a literature scholar would offer immediate benefits to your department’s offerings in Social Innovation. For example, I would be pleased to proofread your job advertisements, in order to innovate their presently sub-optimal levels of intelligibility.

The professorship is open to both distinguished practitioners, especially those with a deep understanding of social entrepreneurship, and to tenure-level scholars in fields related to social innovation, including social entrepreneurs, social intrapreneurs and, more broadly, social change makers.

“Social entrepreneurs” are not a field, as the sentence’s syntax suggests, and that final clause could be made nimbler by using the adjective “social” only once, as here: “social entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and change makers.” In addition, it’s not clear that “change makers” constitutes a broader category than “entrepreneurs,” yet neither is it obviously more specific. Given my exposure to creative industries like literature, I would be excited to invent more terminology to make this list of synonyms for “businessman” even longer.

But innovating new ways of saying “entrepreneur” isn’t the only thought-leadership I would exercise within the field of Innovation Studies. As thinkfluencers have argued persuasively, disruption must occur not only within fields and businesses but institutions and organizations. My first intrapreneurial initiative, therefore, would be to fatally disrupt your (hopefully soon to be our) department. Moving our courses entirely online and replacing department faculty other than myself with low-wage adjuncts armed with xeroxes of J.S. Schumpeter quotations would improve efficiency, reach even more students, and ultimately make a bigger difference.

To paraphrase a great disruptor: We must destroy the Professorship of Social Innovation in order to save it. I am available for immediate Skype interviews.

Sincerely,

John Patrick Leary"
2014  via:javierarbona  johnpatrickleary  language  business  education  highered  malarkey  highereducation  bullshitjobs  intrapreneurs  entrepreneurs  changeagency  thoughtleaders  leadership  thinkfluencers  disruption  endoftimes  socialentrepreneurship  entrepreneurialism  jsschumpter  innovation  canon  changemaking  changemakers 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Why America's favorite anarchist thinks most American workers are slaves | Making Sen$e | PBS NewsHour
"Q: So you like this idea?

A: I think it’s great. It’s an acknowledgement that nobody else has the right to tell you what you can best contribute to the world, and it’s based on a certain faith — that people want to contribute something to the world, most people do. I’m sure there are a few people who would be parasites, but most people actually want to do something; they want to feel that they have contributed something to the society around them.

The problem is that we have this gigantic apparatus that presumes to tell people who’s worthy, who’s not, what people should be doing, what they shouldn’t. They’re all about assessing value, but in fact, the whole system fell apart in 2008 because nobody really knows how to do it. We don’t really know how to assess the value of people’s work, of people’s contributions, of people themselves, and philosophically, that makes sense; there is no easy way to do it. So the best thing to do is just to say, alright, everyone go out and you decide for yourselves."



"Q: So would you get rid of government programs?

A: It depends on which. The amounts of money that they’re now talking about giving people aren’t enough to take care of things like health care and housing. But I think if you guarantee those sorts of basic needs, you could get rid of almost all the programs on top of that. In huge bureaucracies, there are so many conditionalities attached to everything they give out, there’s jobs on jobs on jobs of people who just assess people and decide whether you are being good enough to your kids to deserve this benefit, or decide whether you’re trying hard enough to get a job to get that benefit. This is a complete waste. Those people [making the decisions] don’t really contribute anything to society; we could get rid of them.

Q: So you’d get rid of, say, the food stamp bureaucracy?

A: If we had a basic income, we wouldn’t need to decide who needs food and who doesn’t."



"Q: Are you surprised that there’s right wing support for this?

A: Not at all. Because I think there are some people who can understand that the rates of inequality that we have mean that the arguments [for the market] don’t really work. There’s a tradition that these people are drawing on, which recognizes that the kind of market they really want to see is not the kind of market we see today.

Adam Smith was very honest. He said, well obviously this only works if people control their own tools, if people are self-employed. He was completely rejecting the idea of corporate capitalism.

Q: Smith rejected corporate capitalism because it became crony capitalism.

A: Well, he rejected the corporate form entirely; he was against corporations. At the time, corporations were seen as, essentially, inimical to the market. They still are. Those arguments are no less true than they ever were. If we want to have markets, we have to give everybody an equal chance to get into them, or else they don’t work as a means of social liberation; they operate as a means of enslavement.

Q: Enslavement in the sense that the people with enough power, who can get the market to work on their behalf…

A: Right — bribing politicians to set up the system so that they accumulate more, and other people end up spending all their time working for them. The difference between selling yourself into slavery and renting yourself into slavery in the ancient world was basically none at all, you know. If Aristotle were here, he’d think most people in a country like England or America were slaves.

Q: Wage slaves?

A: Yes, but they didn’t make a distinction back then. Throughout most of recorded history, the only people who actually did wage labor were slaves. It was a way of renting your slave to someone else; they got half the money, and the rest of the money went to the master. Even in the South, a lot of slaves actually worked in jobs and they just had to pay the profits to the guy who owned them. It’s only now that we think of wage labor and slavery as opposite to one another. For a lot of history, they were considered kind of variations of the same thing.

Abraham Lincoln famously said the reason why we have a democratic society in America is we don’t have a permanent class of wage laborers. He thought that wage labor was something you pass through in your 20s and 30s when you’re accumulating enough money to set up on your own; so the idea was everyone will eventually be self-employed.

Do People Like to Work? Look at Prisons"

Q: So is this idea of a guaranteed basic income utopian?

A: Well, it remains to be seen. If it’s Utopian, it’s because we can’t get the politicians to do it, not because it won’t work. It seems like people have done the numbers, and there’s no economic reason why it couldn’t work.

Q: Well, it’s very expensive.

A: It’s expensive, but so is the system we have now. And there’s a major savings that you’ll have firing all those people who are assessing who is worthy of what.

Philosophically, I think that it’s really important to bear in mind two things. One is it’ll show people that you don’t have to force people to work, to want to contribute. It’s not that people resist work. People resist meaningless work; people resist stupid work; and people resist humiliating work.

But I always talk about prisons, where people are fed, clothed, they’ve got shelter; they could just sit around all day. But actually, they use work as a way of rewarding them. You know, if you don’t behave yourself, we won’t let you work in the prison laundry. I mean, people want to work. Nobody just wants to sit around, it’s boring.

So the first misconception we have is this idea that people are just lazy, and if they’re given a certain amount of minimal income, they just won’t do anything. Probably there’s a few people like that, but for the vast majority, it will free them to do the kind of work that they think is meaningful. The question is, are most people smart enough to know what they have to contribute to the world? I think most of them are.

Q: What Is Society Missing Without a Basic Income?

A: The other point we need to stress is that we can’t tell in advance who really can contribute what. We’re always surprised when we leave people to their own devices. I think one reason why we don’t have any of the major scientific breakthroughs that we used to have for much of the 19th and 20th centuries is because we have this system where everybody has to prove they already know what they’re going to create in this incredibly bureaucratized system.

Q: Because people need to be able to prove that they’ll get a return on the investment?

A: Exactly. So they have to get the grant, and prove that this would lead to this, but in fact, almost all the major breakthroughs are unexpected. It used to be we’d get bright people and just let them do whatever they want, and then suddenly, we’ve got the light bulb. Nowadays we don’t get breakthroughs like that because everybody’s got to spend all their time filling out paperwork. It’s that kind of paperwork that we’d be effectively getting rid of, the equivalent of that.

Another example I always give is the John Lennon argument. Why are there no amazing new bands in England anymore? Ever since the ’60s, it used to be every five, 10 years, we’d see an incredible band. I asked a lot of friends of mine, well, what happened? And they all said, well they got rid of the dole. All those guys were on the dole. Actually in Cockney rhyming slang, the word for dole is rock and roll — as in, “oh yeah, he’s on the rock and roll.” All rock bands started on public relief. If you give money to working class kids, a significant number of them will form bands, and a few of those bands will be amazing, and it will benefit the country a thousand times more than all of those kids would have done had they been lifting boxes or whatever they’re making them do now as welfare conditionality.

Q: And in the United States, the entire abstract expressionist movement, whatever you think of it — Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock — was all on the WPA [Works Progress Administration], on the dole.

A: Absolutely, look at social theory. I remember thinking, why is it that Germany in the ’20s, you have Weber, Simmel, all these amazing thinkers? In France, you have this endless outpouring of brilliant people in the ’50s, Sartre… What was it about those societies that they produced so many brilliant thinkers? One person told me, well, there’s a lot of money — they just had these huge block grants given to anybody. And you know, again, 10 out of 11 of them will be people we’ve completely forgotten, but there’s always that one that’s going to turn out to be, you know Jacques Derrida, and the world changes because of some major social thinker who might otherwise have been a postman, or something like that."

[See also: http://maymay.net/blog/2014/04/20/david-graeber-on-death-by-bureaucracy-if-we-had-a-basic-income-we-wouldnt-need-to-decide-who-needs-food-and-who-doesnt/ ]
davidgraeber  2014  economics  universalbasicincome  productivity  wageslavery  labor  work  bullshitjobs  bureaucracy  switzerland  us  policy  government  creativity  art  music  anarchism  anarchy  socialism  libertarianism  libertarians  friedrichhayek  socialwelfare  namibia  democracy  markets  deirdremccloskey  donmccloskey  communitarianism  incomeinequality  inequality  motivation  ubi 
september 2014 by robertogreco
World Processor | The Baffler
[via: http://tinyletter.com/audreywatters/letters/hack-education-weekly-newsletter-no-70 ]

"As Processed World veteran Dennis Hayes explained it to me, “We were really examining social history. We were asking questions that went unasked. We were asking, ‘What’s the value of a job that creates no value? Or that simply creates more work?’”"



"As Daniel Brook recounts in his book The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America, Carlsson and friends liked to “dress up as investment bankers and bow in unison at the stock ticker in front of the Charles Schwab building.” Marina Lazzara, one of the magazine’s poetry editors, recalled this period fondly. “I miss those days,” she told me. “We were really out in the streets.”"



"This was but one among the magazine’s darkly comic dispatches from the absurdist trenches of the overmanaged workplace. Others gestured at something more haunting, such as the anonymous San Franciscan who wrote in issue 7, “I’m unemployed now and should be typing my resume. Typing a resume becomes more and more like typing a suicide note, and yet choosing not to work is a kamikaze mission.” It was to this group—torn between the exigencies of white-collardom and the seeming impossibility of living as one chooses—that Processed World ultimately spoke."



"Many of us know we work bullshit jobs; others would be only too happy to have one, to escape the suffocating anxieties of living on the margins. Those employed in socially useful jobs—teachers, nurses, social workers—must contend with low pay or, if they agitate for something more, being vilified."



"Along the way, the sense of community and common cause epitomized by Processed World has been sublimated into the incessant branding and self-promotion from which none of us appears immune. We are all living precariously, and so we tread water by competing for the occasional life preserver thrown out by the attention economy. Do your job well and maybe the Washington Post, the Daily Beast,or the latest buzzy new-media property will hire you as its token leftist columnist. Hit the jackpot, and you’ll become the next Chris Hayes.

Who can blame them? It’s now so expensive to live in a coastal metropolis that one hopes to sell out at least a little bit."
jacobsliverman  culture  society  economics  siliconvalley  2014  1981  processedworld  bullshitjobs  labor  via:audreywatters  chrishayes  marinalazzara  chriscarlsson  caitlinmanning  technology  efficiency  productivity  jobs  unemployment  employment  busyness  capitalism  sellingout  sellouts  attention  attentioneconomy  markets  precarity 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Everyone is doing strategy right now. – disambiguity
"Everyone wants the strategy job. It’s much sexier than the ‘implementing the strategy’ jobs. That’s why the people who have managed to get the strategy jobs have a vested interest in making sure that doing strategy stuff seems very important and serious and senior. And confusing. You don’t understand exactly what these strategy people do, do you? (Except make frameworks or models and wave their hands around a lot). That’s kind of the plan. You continue to be intimidated by strategy and keep doing the implementing while the strategy guys get to go to the fancy lunches.

Fact is, everyone is doing strategy stuff all the time. If you choose to do one thing and not the other (which we all do every day), we’ve got a strategy. We might not know what that strategy is, but it’s there."
strategy  leisareighelt  bullshitjobs  hierarchy  hierarchies  2014 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Are you paid to look busy?
"You had an article recently, the name of which I can’t say on television, so let’s call it “BS Jobs.” What was the point?

So, all my life, there’s people, you meet them at parties, you run into them, you ask them what they do, and they kind of look sheepish and don’t want to admit it, you know? They say, well, it’s not really very interesting. It’s like, well, I’m a human resource consultant; I work at a computer firm where I fill out forms of a certain kind to make it faster for somebody else to do this, or I’m a middle man among seven layers of middlemen in this sort of outsourcing… They’re always embarrassed; they don’t look like they do anything. All those people out there who have these jobs that you don’t think they’re really doing anything, they must be suffering, they must know that their jobs are essentially made up. Imagine going to work every day knowing you’re not really doing anything. What must that do to someone’s soul?

How could you have dignity in labor if you secretly believe your job shouldn’t exist? But, of course, you’re not going to tell your boss that. So I thought, you know, there must be enormous moral and spiritual damage done to our society. And then I thought, well, maybe that explains some other things, like why is it there’s this deep, popular resentment against people who have real jobs? They can get people so angry at auto-workers, just because they make 30 bucks an hour, which is like nowhere near what corporate lawyers make, but nobody seems to resent them. They get angry at the auto-workers; they get angry at teachers. They don’t get angry at school administrators, who actually make more money. Most of the problems people blame on teachers, and I think on some level, that’s resentment: all these people with meaningless jobs are saying, but, you guys get to teach kids, you get to make cars; that’s real work. We don’t get to do real work; you want benefits, too? That’s not reasonable.

You mean that the resentment is born of envy?

It’s envy of people who get to have meaningful jobs that actually produce something. I think that’s a major political force in America, and other places as well. It seems to operate to the benefit of the people running the society. I don’t think they set it up as a conspiracy, but they let it happen, because if you think about it, that’s exactly what’s not supposed to happen in a capitalist system. You know, we all made fun of the Soviet Union because they would just make up these meaningless jobs because well, we have full employment. So they just make up jobs, moving things from one side to another. Or there’d be three different people to buy a piece of bread — you have to get a ticket from one, you have to go over here.

But we’re doing the same thing, except instead of making up meaningless proletarian jobs, we’re making up meaningless office jobs, and these guys are basically paid to act busy all day. A lot of them may really work one or two hours, and the rest of the time they’re downloading stuff from the Internet, or playing around on Facebook or something. But, their job is to sit in an office, and basically valorize the idea that everybody should look busy all the time, that work is valuable in itself.

We used to think work was valuable because it produces something. Now we think that work is just valuable itself. If you’re not busy all the time doing something, anything — doesn’t really matter what it is — you’re a bad person, and that’s exactly the sort of logic that basic income would get rid of.

What percentage of jobs do you think of these days, very ballpark estimate, as “BS jobs”?

I’d say 20 percent. But it’s hard for me to say. The last thing I want to do is come in and say, you, your job is BS, while you, you’re okay. The whole idea is that people should decide for themselves what’s valuable. But if you talk about jobs where the people who actually are working at them secretly feel that they really don’t produce anything, or don’t do anything, I’d say about 20 percent has been my experience. But, of course, you know, we’d have to do extensive research to see if that’s really true.

After you wrote the article, what kind of response did you get?

Oh, that was what was remarkable. I mean if ever there was a hypothesis that was confirmed by the response… I wrote this in a very obscure British lefty magazine called Strike Magazine, going out on the Internet, and within three or four weeks, I think it had been translated into 14 different languages, including Catalan, Estonian, Korean. It was circulated around the world, and I got all these messages from people saying, oh, people in the financial services industry have been passing this back and forth — I got this five times in the last week sent to me from different friends — and then people would start writing these blogs, these confessionals. There was one I saw in Australia, where people were writing things like, it’s true, I’m a corporate lawyer, I contribute nothing to society, I’m miserable all the time, I just do this for my children, otherwise I’d get out. Over and over again, people saying yes, it’s true, my job does nothing."
culture  jobs  work  2014  society  davidgraeber  inefficiency  productivity  bullshitjobs  careers  capitalism  universalbasicincome  economics  labor  employment  socialsafetynet  class  ubi 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Two ways to work for nothing – GEOFF SHULLENBERGER
"In an interview about The People’s Platform, Astra Taylor notes that of late “more and more of us are encouraged to think of ourselves as artists no matter what our line of work. It’s a way of framing some of the unappealing things about our current economic condition — the lack of stability or of a social safety net—as something desirable and empowering. The ethos of the artist — someone who is willing to work with no guarantee of reward, who will sacrifice and self-exploit around the clock — is demanded of people across the board.” This tendency manifests itself in many realms: Taylor gives the example of Apple Store employees being told they should be grateful just to have the experience of working for Apple, but the rhetoric used to draw freelancers into digital sweatshops matches what she describes even more perfectly. Then we have the phenomenon I have been examining lately on this blog: the replacement of skilled workers with volunteers.

Alongside the imperative to embrace your exploitation as an artist embraces her vocation, though, proliferates the contrasting logic of what David Graeber called ”bullshit jobs” in a memorable article from last year. In a recent interview on the subject, Graeber explains that he is mainly referring to “meaningless office jobs [where workers] are basically paid to act busy all day. A lot of them may really work one or two hours, and the rest of the time they’re downloading stuff from the Internet, or playing around on Facebook or something. But, their job is to sit in an office, and basically valorize the idea that everybody should look busy all the time, that work is valuable in itself.” As Graeber notes, the expansion of this area of employment seems to be an economic paradox: “According to economic theory, at least, the last thing a profit-seeking firm is going to do is shell out money to workers they don’t really need to employ. Still, somehow, it happens.” Graeber’s solution: “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 their hands is a mortal danger… 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.”

Compare this to BuzzFeed’s and Coursera’s translation strategies: they really need the translation to be done, but they have invented elaborate schemes to avoid paying translators. The value and necessity of the work of translation to their companies could not be clearer, yet in this area a logic of ruthless efficiency applies, but not when it comes to the kind of jobs Graeber is describing: much of that work does not seem to be fundamentally needed by anyone, yet paradoxically organizations are willing to pay workers for it. As long as it is something that you would do even if it were unpaid, it is increasingly becoming something you have to do for free or for very little. On the other hand, you can be paid to do the kind of jobs that no one would do if managers did not invent them.

For Graeber, bullshit jobs carry with them a moral imperative: “If you’re not busy all the time doing something, anything — doesn’t really matter what it is — you’re a bad person.” But the flipside of that logic seems to be: if you actually like doing x activity, if it is valuable, meaningful, and carries intrinsic rewards for you, it is wrong for you to expect to be paid (well) for it; you should give it freely, even (especially) if by doing so you are allowing others to profit. In other words, we’ll make a living from you doing what you love (for free), but we’ll keep you in check by making sure you have to make a living doing what you hate."
bullshitjobs  geoffshullenberger  astrataylor  labor  work  economics  art  2014  davidgraeber  busyness  inefficiency  waste  politics  morality  productivity  happiness  translation  taskrabbit  buzzfeed  coursera  employment  coercion  discipline  society  capitalism  universalbasicincome  socialsafetynet  class  ubi 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Why the cult of hard work is counter-productive
"In the vanguard of “productivity” literature and apps was David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” (GTD) system, according to which you can become “a wizard of productivity” by organising your life into folders and to-do lists. The GTD movement quickly spread outside the confines of formal work and became a way to navigate the whole of existence: hence the popularity of websites such as Lifehacker that offer nerdy tips on rendering the messy business of everyday life more amenable to algorithmic improvement. If you can discover how best to organise the cables of your electronic equipment or “clean stubborn stains off your hands with shaving cream”, that, too, adds to your “productivity”...

The paradox of the autodidactic productivity industry of GTD, Lifehacker and the endless reviews of obscure mind-mapping or task-management apps is that it is all too easy to spend one’s time researching how to acquire the perfect set of productivity tools and strategies without ever actually settling down to do something. In this way, the obsessive dream of productivity becomes a perfectly effective defence against its own realisation.

As Samuel Johnson once wrote: “Some are always in a state of preparation, occupied in previous measures, forming plans, accumulating materials and providing for the main affair. These are certainly under the secret power of idleness. Nothing is to be expected from the workman whose tools are for ever to be sought.”

...

"It took a long time before the adjective “productive” – which once simply meant “generative”, as applied to land or ideas – acquired its specific economic sense, in the late 18th century, of relating to the production of goods or commodities. (The noun form is first recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary in an essay by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in which he writes of the “produc­tivity” of a growing plant.) To call a person “productive” only in relation to a measured quantity of physical outputs is another way that business rhetoric has long sought to dehumanise workers.

One way to counter this has been to attempt to recuperate the supposed vice of idleness – to hymn napping, daydreaming and sheer zoning out. Samuel Johnson is sometimes counted among the champions of faffing, perhaps simply because of the name of his essay series The Idler"



"David Graeber, the anthropologist and author of Debt: the First 5,000 Years, would also probably approve of it as a characterisation of what he calls “bullshit jobs”. In a recent essay for Strike! magazine, Graeber remarks on “the creation of whole new industries like financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors like corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources, and public relations”, all of which he describes as “bullshit” and “pointless”. Their activity is to be contrasted with that of what Graeber calls “real, productive workers”. 

It is telling that even in such a bracingly critical analysis, the signal virtue of “productivity” is left standing, though it is not completely clear what it means for the people in the “real” jobs that Graeber admires. It is true that service industries are not “productive” in the sense that their labour results in no great amount of physical objects, but then what exactly is it for the “Tube workers” Graeber rightly defends to be “productive”, unless that is shorthand for saying, weirdly, that they “produce” physical displacements of people? And to use “productive” as a positive epithet for another class of workers he admires, teachers, risks acquiescing rhetorically in the commercialisation of learning. Teaching as production is, etymologically and otherwise, the opposite of teaching as education. 

Idleness in the sense of just not working at all, rather than working at a bullshit activity, was championed by the dissident Marxist Paul Lafargue, writer of the 1883 manifesto The Right to Be Lazy. This amusing denunciation of what Lafargue calls “the furious passion for work” in capitalist civilisation, which is “the cause of all intellectual degeneracy”, rages against its own era of “overproduction” and consequent recurring “industrial crises”. The proletariat, Lafargue cries, “must proclaim the Rights of Laziness, a thousand times more noble and more sacred than the anaemic Rights of Man concocted by the metaphysical lawyers of the bourgeois revolution. It must accustom itself to working but three hours a day, reserving the rest of the day and night for leisure and feasting.”"
productivity  brain  labor  idleness  bullshitjobs  2013  time  gtd  davidallen  via:shannon_mattern  lifehacker  samueljohnson  laziness  puritans  work  workethic  gettingthingsdone 
december 2013 by robertogreco
On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs | Strike! Magazine
"So what are these new jobs, precisely? A recent report comparing employment in the US between 1910 and 2000 gives us a clear picture (and I note, one pretty much exactly echoed in the UK). 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 like financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors like 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 deliverymen) that only exist because everyone else is spending so much of their time working in all the other ones.

These are what I propose to call “bullshit jobs.”"



"There is a whole class of salaried professionals that, 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 job really is.

This is a profound psychological violence here. 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, 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 dock-workers 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 CEOs, lobbyists, PR 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 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 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 3-4 hour days."

[Also here with an altered title: http://www.smh.com.au/national/public-service/the-modern-phenomenon-of-nonsense-jobs-20130831-2sy3j.html ]
economics  employment  jobs  politics  davidgraeber  capitalism  work  meaning  purpose  waste  power  resentment  vocations  bullshitjobs  2013  administrativebloat 
september 2013 by robertogreco

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