Excerpts from The Economist interview with David Graeber, author of..
The Economist: What is a “bullshit job” and can you give a few examples?
David Graeber: A bullshit job is one that even the person doing it secretly believes need not, or should not, exist. That if the job, or even the whole industry, were to vanish, either it would make no difference to anyone, or the world might even be a slightly better place.
Something like 37-40% of workers according to surveys say their jobs make no difference. Insofar as there’s anything really radical about the book, it’s not to observe that many people feel that way, but simply to say we should proceed on the assumption that for the most part, people’s self-assessments are largely correct. Their jobs really are just as pointless as they think they are.
Unless you get very lucky, your choices are largely limited to two options. You can get a basically bullshit job, which will pay the rent but leave you wracked with the guilty feeling that you are being forced, against your will, to be a fraud and a parasite. Or, you can get a helpful, useful job taking care of people, making or moving or maintaining things that people want or need – but then, likely you will be paid so little you won’t be able to take care of your own family.
There is an almost perfect inverse relation between how much your work directly benefits others, and remuneration.
A response from John Gerber, who teaches Sustainable Food and Farming in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass Amherst.
Farming and marketing fresh, local food is GOOD WORK
There is a difference between “finding a job” and engaging in good work. The great British economist, E.F. Schumacher, wrote a book called Good Work about this topic. According to Schumacher, good work should...
- …provide the worker with a decent living (food, clothing, housing)
- …enable the worker to perfect their natural gifts & abilities
- …allow the worker to serve and work with other people to free us from our inborn egocentricity
FINDING GOOD WORK IN AGRICULTURE….
Not possible? Well, don’t sell yourself short. If you ever thought that growing food for your neighbors might be good work for you, take a look at this article on the future of good work in agriculture; “Where will agricultural graduates work?”
Today, it seems “impossible” to choose farming as a career but THE FUTURE IS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT THAN THE PAST. To learn about what one critical thinker thinks about this topic, be sure to read “A Nation of Farmers” by Sharon Astyk.
And if you have a BS job and are looking for a career change, and you love gardening, cooking, or buying local food… you are invited to explore the Sustainable Food and Farming ONLINE program at UMass Amherst.
We offer an online: