What are we working for?


“Huge swathes of people in the Western world spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed.” – David Graeber, Syndey Morning Herald

As I grind out yet another job search, David Graeber seems to present the paradox that has often popped in the my head. In his article, he questions why we work so much when technology has essential made us so productive that we need not work more than 15 days a week? In the deftly titled piece “The modern phenomena of nonsense jobs“, he outlines his argument for how messed up inequality and capitalism has made our working world. A few week questions:

  1. In this productive world, why are we still working so much?
  2. Why are the jobs we are work often so pointless?
  3. Conversely, why is there so much inequality and unemployment during this surge of productivity?

Personally, I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, but humanity has proven itself again and again to accept systems that clearly do not benefit itself on the whole. Changing or going against these systems is difficult, time and resource consuming, and often doesn’t provide clear results (Maybe we need more jobs focused on changing these systems?). Truly though, this same argument could be used to explain why the nonprofit sector has exploded in the last few sectors as well.

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

These are what I propose to call ”bullshit jobs;’.”

I’ve seen a lot of ridiculous job positions since I began my search. Does the frozen food industry really need a high paid lobbyist? So If we are really wasting our time, then what should we be using it for? I guess we could get in better physical shape, spend more time with our families, use our creativity to attack big issues like global warming, travel more, spend more time volunteering in our communities, read and educate ourselves, and become masters of the arts, to name a few.

Is there anyone really against this idea?

What is the solution for making our jobs more meaningful? Is a natural evolution in waiting to happen? Is it already happening?

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