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comment by Odder
Odder  ·  256 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: ‘I had to guard an empty room’: the rise of the pointless job

Yeah, the dude who guards an empty room seems to have missed a few critical social queues, which is probably why he's been assigned to guard an empty room. It's likely that his supervisors are not so pointy-haired that they really think he needs to "stay sharp" and not read books or play on his phone: It's that he sucks and they're trying to get him to quit because they either can't fire him or don't want to deal with the hassle. They apparently do a similar thing to force teachers to quit.

Isn't that all kinda Graeber's point though? That we have a mixture of pressures from regulations, unions, office politics, etc. that result in people being paid to do jobs that don't need to be done? The empty room does not need to be guarded for the museum to be safe, and the receptionist's existence doesn't really need to be justified in order for the company to continue to function (in fact, it might do better otherwise). The managers who allow most bullshit jobs continue to exist are usually acting in their own rational self-interest, and some people benefit from the existence of a bullshit job, but that doesn't make the jobs any less bullshit.

user-inactivated  ·  256 days ago  ·  link  ·  

To add a third layer to this, because you and kleinbl00 have very good points, but I got a very different take away from this article.

It's from my experience that people need work, and not for the pay, but to give them something to do with their lives and a sense of meaning. I was very fortunate to meet someone recently who is a social worker who helps people with mental health and substance abuse issues find work. One of the things that they told me about is that many people who have been out of work for a long time feel listless and despondent. So as a result, while they're helping these people find jobs, they're also helping them find volunteer work to get them out of the house and get them moving again. Apparently, among the benefits of creating a weekly regimen, contacts, and work experience for these people, it has a profound impact on their mental health in a positive way. A lot of people truly enjoy work.

When I read this article, my mind replaces "bullshit" with "meaningless" and I can't help but wonder if seemingly meaningless work is just as psychologically unhealthy as no work. It could maybe even be worse.

kleinbl00  ·  256 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    That we have a mixture of pressures from regulations, unions, office politics, etc. that result in people being paid to do jobs that don't need to be done?

And I don't disagree with him. But Graeber's other shoe is basically that the idea for working for wages is not mankind's natural state and that the way we really wanna be is using each others' favor bank so that everyone gets what they need without anybody having to do anything fundamentally useless.

The problem is if we go back to the Land Of Primitives where we're all sharing childcare and hunting and gathering and weaving baskets, the guy/girl who does fuckall all day is a burden on his family, not on his tribe and in this, our modern billion-person tribe, we've developed ornate structures whereby the useless are given marginally useful tasks because a semi-competent person in the slot beats leaving it open.

Douglas Adams had working society conspire to launch their dead weight into space with a "no, no, you guys go ahead we'll catch up later" ruse. In the real world we have the problem of (1) all agreeing on who is worthless (something something eugenics) (2) all agreeing on what to do with them (something something Godwin's Law).

Graeber likes to talk about useless social structures but not so much about useless members of society. The fact that he refers to "lobbyist" as a bullshit job is more of a political statement than a factual one; a lobbyist hired by my wife's professional organization makes us an extra $1500 every time we have a Medicaid delivery and sure - in an ideal world we wouldn't have needed to rely on a lobbyist but in an ideal world we wouldn't have to rely on money either. Plowing through everything to get to the "no money" point looks a lot more like THX-1138 than it does like a Town Called Perfect.