Losing Control of Our Time and the Rise of Bullshit Jobs

Losing Control of Our Time and the Rise of Bullshit Jobs

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Losing Control of Our Time and the Rise of Bullshit Jobs

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.



  1. I forsee a world of bullshit jobs as the only politically feasible response to automation.

  2. Alex Kudlick, that’s depressing.

  3. Well it’s either that or Universal Basic Income eh?

  4. Kenny Chaffin Gideon Rosenblatt yea, my thoughts exactly. The thing about more bullshit jobs is they can just keep creeping up, whereas a UBI would require some act of will to implement.

  5. Where are all these bullshit jobs?

    Try as I may, I can’t seem to find gainful employment for adequate compensation that doesn’t combine the constant need for self-reinvention, perpetual learning, deep personal investment and bet-placing on the strength of heavy risk-analysis of incomplete information, and the constant, nagging fear that forces entirely beyond my control will up-end everything.

    Does your mileage seriously differ?

  6. Ha! Amusingly said! John Jainschigg, that has been my experience too.

    But I know people for whom this is true, including a family member or two and some very close friends. It’s not that everything about their job is bullshit, and I think that’s part of the problem with this framing. It’s more like bullshit processes within jobs. Some jobs entail a lot of those kinds of processes and some very little.

  7. Kenny Chaffin Alex Kudlick, I actually do believe that a UBI will help provide some stability in the coming era. But I also think that income is only part of the problem. One of the things I like about this piece is its emphasis on the critical importance of meaning within our work. UBI doesn’t necessarily solve that. It might lead to that through more financial freedom and time, but that’s not a given.

    I’m working on a big picture view of a non-bullshit version of work that comes next…

  8. I very much like the illustration here: bullshit jobs and cash cows properly aligned.

    vox.com – Bullshit jobs: why they exist and why you might have one

  9. Gabby Thiede, thank you. That’s a good one.

  10. John Jainschigg Gideon Rosenblatt I’ll second the notion of “bullshit parts of jobs” rather than bullshit jobs. I’ve worked at companies where at times I felt I was really creating value for the organization, moving quickly on hard problems and enabling our customers to solve theirs. At other times at the same company it has felt like a drag, sitting in the office because that’s what everyone else was doing, meeting back and forth with no purpose other than generating more opportunities for people to talk.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a company that didn’t have some bullshit. It feels impossible when you put a group of humans together and expect that their time will be filled.

  11. I dunno. As a young person, I remember thinking exactly this way, but in aging, my view of what constitutes ‘bullshit’ and what doesn’t has become less stringent. I guess, at this point, I believe a lot of the ostensible bullshit is actually necessary social ‘connective tissue’ and what’s now called ’emotional labor,’ enabling the other, more ostensibly ‘productive’ activities.

    Obviously, I’m not talking about sorting paper clips by color to no good purpose. But I am probably talking about things like meetings and housework — much-maligned until you try to avoid doing them.

  12. John Jainschigg, when you read more of his interviews a lot of what he’s talking about relates to humans dealing with the backwash of information overload that is coming as we work more closely with machines that accelerate the propagation of data.

    To your other point, I’m now becoming a big believer in the Zen approach to work.

  13. Gideon Rosenblatt can you elaborate on the Zen approach to work?

  14. He means the aspect of work that reminds you what it feels like to kneel, silently, as your patellas slowly liquefy, until roused by the lash of a split-bamboo shinai across your shoulders. Right, Gideon Rosenblatt? (lol)

  15. 🤔

    I thought it had something to do with motorcycle maintenance…

  16. Actually, Alex Kudlick, there’s some really cool quote that goes something like “when sweeping, sweep,” which is to say turn your work into an exercise in mindfulness. It’s actually a really great practice. When I manage to do it, even the the most mindless task becomes enjoyable.

  17. We need to contextualize “work” always within the relative framework of our lifetimes, is what I understand Graeber reminds us of. “Punching the clock” has a different ring when sweeping the floors is not a welcomed break in the daily routine but at the time the only chance to pay you the roof over your head at night.

  18. If I could actually get a job sweeping floors, and that was my only task? I’d go for that.

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