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I would like this book to be an arrow aimed at the heart of our civilization. There is something very wrong with what we have made ourselves. We have come to believe that men and women who do not work harder than they wish at jobs they do not particularly enjoy are bad people unworthy of love, care, or assistance from their communities. It is as if we have collectively acquiesced to our own enslavement.

The main political reaction to our awareness that half the time we are engaged in utterly meaningless or even counterproductive activities-usually under the orders of a person we dislike-is to rankle with resentment over the fact there might be others out there who are not in the same trap.

As a result, hatred, resentment, and suspicion have become the glue that holds society together.

As a result, it is indeed possible to say there are partly bullshit jobs, mostly bullshit jobs, and purely and entirely bullshit jobs. This just happens to be a book about the latter (or, to be precise, about entirely or overwhelmingly bullshit jobs-not mostly bullshit jobs, where the meter hovers anywhere near 50 percent) XFN relationships meta data profile Authors. Tantek Celik; Matthew Mullenweg; Eric Meyer; As described in HTML4 Meta data profiles. rel. HTML4 definition of the 'rel' attribute. Here are some additional values, each of which can be used or omitted in any combination (unless otherwise noted, and except where prohibited by law) and their meanings, symmetry, transitivity and inverse if any Near-infinite ways to add rapid-fire apps may For anyone who's been out of the dating game for a while, doing some sexy flirting in an environment where you aren't looking for something

This is a disastrous state of affairs. I wish it to end. Kurt works for a subcontractor for the German military. Or actually, he is employed by a subcontractor of a subcontractor of a subcontractor for the German military. Here is how he describes his work:. The logistics firm has a subcontractor that does their personnel management, and I work for that company. Instead of just carrying his computer over there, he has to fill out a form.

The IT subcontractor will get the form, people will read it and approve it, and forward it to the logistics firm. The logistics firm will then have to approve the moving down the hall and will request personnel from us.

I take the rental car, drive to the barracks, let dispatch know that I arrived, fill out a form, unhook the computer, load the computer into a box, seal the box, have a guy from the logistics firm carry the box to the next room, where I unseal the box, fill out another form, hook up the computer, call dispatch to tell them how long I took, get a couple of signatures, take my rental car back home, send dispatch a letter with all of the paperwork and then get paid.

This might sound like a classic example of ridiculous military red tape of the sort Joseph Heller made famous in his novel Catchexcept for one key element: almost nobody in this story actually works for the military. There was a time, of course, when any national army also had its own communications, logistics, and personnel departments, but nowadays it all has to be done through multiple layers of private outsourcing.

Likely as not, things would improve, since German military bases would presumably have to come up with a more reasonable way to move equipment.

In fact, on the blog where he posted this story, he ended up defending the claim that the job served no purpose against a host of free market enthusiasts who popped up instantly-as free market enthusiasts tend to do on internet forums-to insist that since his job was created by the private sector, it by definition had to serve a legitimate purpose.

He might not be able to admit this to his coworkers-often there are very good reasons not to do so. But he is convinced the job is pointless nonetheless. Provisional Definition: a bullshit job is a form of employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence.

Some jobs are so pointless that no one even notices if the person who has the job vanishes. This usually happens in the public sector:. A Spanish civil servant who collected a salary for at least six years without working used the time to become an expert on the writings of Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza, Spanish media reported. com reported last week. His absence was first noticed inwhen Garcia was due to receive a medal for long service. Deputy Mayor Jorge Blas Fernandez began making inquiries that led him to discover that Garcia had not been seen at his office in six years.

Reached by the newspaper El Mundounnamed sources close to Garcia said he devoted himself in the years before to studying the writings of Spinoza, a seventeenth-century heretic Jew from Amsterdam.

One source interviewed by El Mundo said Garcia became an expert on Spinoza but denied claims Garcia never showed up for work, saying he came in at irregular times.

This story made headlines in Spain. At a time when the country was undergoing severe austerity and high unemployment, it seemed outrageous that there were civil servants who could skip work for years without anybody noticing. He found this situation so demoralizing that he was eventually obliged to seek clinical help for depression.

Finally, and with the concurrence of his therapist, he decided that rather than just continue to sit around all day pretending to look busy, he would convince the water board he was being supervised by the municipality, and the municipality that he was being supervised by the water board, check in if there was a problem, but otherwise just go home and do something useful with his life.

Similar stories about the public sector appear at regular intervals. One popular one is about postal carriers who decide that rather than delivering the mail, they prefer to dump it in closets, sheds, or Dumpsters-with the result that tons of letters and packages pile up for years without anyone figuring it out. This seems pure absurdist caricature, but insomething almost exactly like this did happen in Helsinki.

A Finnish tax auditor working in a closed office sat dead at his desk for more than forty-eight hours while thirty colleagues carried on around him.

I need hardly point out the irony in the fact that Kurt was, ultimately, working for the German military. The German military has been accused of many things over the years, but inefficiency was rarely one of them. Still, a rising tide of bullshit soils all boats. In the twenty-first century, even panzer divisions have come to be surrounded by a vast penumbra of sub- sub-sub- and sub-sub-subcontractors; tank commanders are obliged to perform complex and exotic bureaucratic rituals in order to move equipment from one room to another, even as those providing the paperwork secretly post elaborate complaints to blogs about how idiotic the whole thing is.

If these cases are anything to go by, the main difference between the public and private sectors is not that either is more, or less, likely to generate pointless work.

It does not even necessarily lie in the kind of pointless work each tends to generate. The main difference is that pointless work in the private sector is likely to be far more closely supervised.

This is not always the case. Still, in the private sector, there are limits. If Kurt were to simply walk off the job to take up the study of his favorite seventeenth-century Jewish philosopher, he would be swiftly relieved of his position.

If the Cadiz Water Board had been privatized, Joaquin Garcia might well still have been deprived of responsibilities by managers who disliked him, but he would have been expected to sit at his desk and pretend to work every day anyway, or find alternate employment.

I will leave readers to decide for themselves whether such a state of affairs should be considered an improvement. Jobs that, were they to disappear, would make no difference whatsoever. Above all, these are jobs that the holders themselves feel should not exist. Contemporary capitalism seems riddled with such jobs. As I mentioned in the preface, a YouGov poll found that in the United Kingdom only 50 percent of those who had full-time jobs were entirely sure their job made any sort of meaningful contribution to the world, and 37 percent were quite sure it did not.

After all, a very large percentage of jobs involves doing things that no one could possibly see as pointless. My own research suggests that store clerks, restaurant workers, and other low-level service providers rarely see themselves as having bullshit jobs, either.

Many service workers hate their jobs; but even those who do are aware that what they do does make some sort of meaningful difference in the world. The main thing I would like to do in this first chapter is to define what I mean by bullshit jobs; in the next chapter I will lay out a typology of what I believe the main varieties of bullshit jobs to be. This will open the way, in later chapters, to considering how bullshit jobs come about, why they have come to be so prevalent, and to considering their psychological, social, and political effects.

I am convinced these effects are deeply insidious. We have created societies where much of the population, trapped in useless employment, have come to resent and despise equally those who do the most useful work in society, and those who do no paid work at all. But before we can analyze this situation, it will be necessary to address some potential objections. The reader may have noticed a certain ambiguity in my initial definition.

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Most of us would agree that a Mafia hit man does more harm than good in the world, overall; but could you really call Mafia hit man a bullshit job? That just feels somehow wrong. One could argue that anthropologists like myself do something similar.

It makes sense to them in some way. The best way to tease out what those criteria are is to examine borderline cases. So, why does it feel wrong to say a hit man has a bullshit job? I suspect there are multiple reasons, but one is that the Mafia hit man unlike, say, a foreign currency speculator or a brand marketing researcher is unlikely to make false claims. This allows us to refine our definition. Bullshit jobs are not just jobs that are useless or pernicious; typically, there has to be some degree of pretense and fraud involved as well.

The jobholder must feel obliged to pretend that there is, in fact, a good reason why her job exists, even if, privately, she finds such claims ridiculous. There has to be some kind of gap between pretense and reality. Provisional Definition 2: a bullshit job is a form of employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence even though the employee feels obliged to pretend that this is not the case.

Of course, there is another reason why hit man should not be considered a bullshit job. The hit man is not personally convinced his job should not exist. Most mafiosi believe they are part of an ancient and honorable tradition that is a value in its own right, whether or not it contributes to the larger social good.

Kings, earls, emperors, pashas, emirs, squires, zamindars, landlords, and the like might, arguably, be useless people; many of us would insist and I would be inclined to agree that they play pernicious roles in human affairs.

This is a useful point to bear in mind because most people who do a great deal of harm in the world are protected against the knowledge that they do so. Or they allow themselves to believe the endless accretion of paid flunkies and yes-men that inevitably assemble around them to come up with reasons why they are really doing good.

Nowadays, these are sometimes referred to as think tanks. This is just as true of financial-speculating investment bank CEOs as it is of military strongmen in countries such as North Korea and Azerbaijan. Mafiosi families are unusual perhaps because they make few such pretensions-but in the end, they are just miniature, illicit versions of the same feudal tradition, being originally enforcers for local landlords in Sicily who have over time come to operate on their own hook.

True, the hit man might well be employed by the local crime boss in some capacity or other. Perhaps the crime boss makes up some dummy security job for him in his casino.

In that case, we can definitely say that job is a bullshit job. But he is not receiving a paycheck in his capacity as a hit man. This point allows us to refine our definition even further. When people speak of bullshit jobs, they are generally referring to employment that involves being paid to work for someone else, either on a waged or salaried basis most would also include paid consultancies. Obviously, there are many self-employed people who manage to get money from others by means of falsely pretending to provide them with some benefit or service normally we call them grifters, scam artists, charlatans, or fraudsjust as there are self-employed people who get money off others by doing or threatening to do them harm normally we refer to them as muggers, burglars, extortionists, or thieves.

A con job is an act, not a profession. For this reason, one cannot say that burglar is, precisely, a job, either. These considerations allow us to formulate what I think can serve as a final working definition:. Final Working Definition: a bullshit job is a form of paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence even though, as part of the conditions of employment, the employee feels obliged to pretend that this is not the case.

The attentive reader may have noticed one remaining ambiguity. The definition is mainly subjective. I define a bullshit job as one that the worker considers to be pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious-but I also suggest that the worker is correct. This is especially true if the company is up to anything illegal. True, there are exceptions. Banks will often do this. Are they just pretending not to notice, or are they actually unaware?

Social value, after all, is largely just what people think it is. In which case, who else is in a better position to judge? Sticklers will no doubt raise objections here too. They might ask: How can one actually know for sure what the majority of people working in an industry secretly think? When I spoke in broad strokes about useless industries in the original essay, I did so on the assumption that lobbyists and financial consultants are, in fact, largely aware of their uselessness-indeed, that many if not most of them are haunted by the knowledge that nothing of value would be lost to the world were their jobs simply to disappear.

I could be wrong. It is possible that corporate lobbyists or financial consultants genuinely subscribe to a theory of social value that holds their work to be essential to the health and prosperity of the nation.

It is possible they therefore sleep securely in their beds, confident that their work is a blessing for everyone around them.

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Perhaps they really do have to force themselves to believe in what they do. At the very, very top of the food chain, this does appear to be the case. But even more significantly: the sort who are not particularly high ranking. Look, I meet a lot of these people on Wall Street on a regular basis right now I know them. These are the people I have lunch with. And I am going to put it very bluntly: I regard the moral environment as pathological. They are tough, greedy, aggressive, and feel absolutely out of control in a quite literal sense, and they have gamed the system to a remarkable extent.

They genuinely believe they have a God-given right to take as much money as they possibly can in any way that they can get it, legal or otherwise. If you look at the campaign contributions, which I happened to do yesterday for another purpose, the financial markets are the number one campaign contributors in the US system now. We have a corrupt politics to the core both parties are up to their necks in this.

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So there you have it. If Sachs was right-and honestly, who is in a better position to know? In fact, they might almost be considered opposites. Bullshit jobs often pay quite well and tend to offer excellent working conditions. Some jobs, of course, are intrinsically unpleasant but fulfilling in other ways. There are so many other jobs you could do.

And give up show business!? Other jobs-ordinary cleaning, for example-are in no sense inherently degrading, but they can easily be made so. The cleaners at my current university, for instance, are treated very badly. As in most universities these days, their work has been outsourced. They are employed not directly by the school but by an agency, the name of which is emblazoned on the purple uniforms they wear. They are paid little, obliged to work with dangerous chemicals that often damage their hands or otherwise force them to have to take time off to recover for which time they are not compensate and generally treated with arbitrariness and disrespect.

There is no particular reason that cleaners have to be treated in such an abusive fashion. But at the very least, they take some pride in knowing-and, in fact, I can attest, for the most part do take pride in knowing-that buildings do need to be cleaned, and, therefore, without them, the business of the university could not go on.

Shit jobs tend to be blue collar and pay by the hour, whereas bullshit jobs tend to be white collar and salaried. Those who work shit jobs tend to be the object of indignities; they not only work hard but also are held in low esteem for that very reason.

Those who work bullshit jobs are often surrounded by honor and prestige; they are respected as professionals, well paid, and treated as high achievers-as the sort of people who can be justly proud of what they do.

These are two profoundly different forms of oppression. I do know people who quit such jobs to become cleaners, though, and are quite happy that they did. All I wish to emphasize here is that each is indeed oppressive in its own way. It is also theoretically possible to have a job that is both shit and bullshit.

Once, while serving time in exile at a Siberian prison camp, Dostoyevsky developed the theory that the worst torture one could possibly devise would be to force someone to endlessly perform an obviously pointless task. Most peasants worked far harder. But peasants were working at least partly for themselves. It once came into my head that if it were desired to reduce a man to nothing-to punish him atrociously, to crush him in such a manner that the most hardened murderer would tremble before such a punishment, and take fright beforehand-it would only be necessary to give to his work a character of complete uselessness, even to absurdity.

Hard labor, as it is now carried on, presents no interest to the convict; but it has its utility. The convict makes bricks, digs the earth, builds; and all his occupations have a meaning and an end. Sometimes the prisoner may even take an interest in what he is doing.

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He then wishes to work more skillfully, more advantageously. But let him be constrained to pour water from one vessel into another, to pound sand, to move a heap of earth from one place to another, and then immediately move it back again, then I am persuaded that at the end of a few days, the prisoner would hang himself or commit a thousand capital crimes, preferring rather to die than endure such humiliation, shame, and torture. I doubt anyone would deny that there are plenty of useless bureaucrats in the world.

You are as likely to encounter an exrating little man in a suit reading out incomprehensible rules and regulations in a bank or mobile phone outlet than in the passport office or zoning board. No doubt some of this misconception is due to memories of countries such as the Soviet Union, which had a policy of full employment and was therefore obliged to make up jobs for everyone whether a need existed or not.

This is how the USSR ended up with shops where customers had to go through three different clerks to buy a loaf of bread, or road crews where, at any given moment, two-thirds of the workers were drinking, playing cards, or dozing off.

This is always represented as exactly what would never happen under capitalism. In fact, the pressure on corporations to downsize and increase efficiency has redoubled since the mergers and acquisitions frenzy of the s. But this pressure has been directed almost exclusively at the people at the bottom of the pyramid, the ones who are actually making, maintaining, fixing, or transporting things. Anyone forced to wear a uniform in the exercise of his daily labors, for instance, is likely to be hard-pressed.

In the upper echelons of those same companies, things are not the same. When managers began trying to come up with scientific studies of the most time- and energy-efficient ways to deploy human labor, they never applied those same techniques to themselves-or if they did, the effect appears to have been the opposite of what they intended. As a result, the same period that saw the most ruthless application of speed-ups and downsizing in the blue-collar sector also brought a rapid multiplication of meaningless managerial and administrative posts in almost all large firms.

The end result was that, just as Socialist regimes had created millions of dummy proletarian jobs, capitalist regimes somehow ended up presiding over the creation of millions of dummy white-collar jobs instead. For now, let me just emphasize that almost all the dynamics we will be describing happen equally in the public and private sectors, and that this is hardly surprising, considering that today, the two sectors are almost impossible to tell apart.

If one common reaction is to blame government, another is, oddly, to blame women. I will return to this dynamic in the next chapter when we examine the role of flunkies; here I will just emphasize that we do have statistical evidence in this regard. The result was to reveal that men are far more likely to feel that their jobs are pointless 42 percent than women do 32 percent.

Again, it seems reasonable to assume that they are right. Finally, the hairdressers. All are to be placed in suspended animation and sent to a new world; except that only the B ship is actually built and it is sent on a collision course with the sun. One begins reading off the plaques next to each sarcophagus:.

The next sarcophagus revealed itself to be the last resting place of an advertising account executive; the one after that contained a secondhand car salesman, third class. I will be honest here. I have no particular bone to pick with Douglas Adams; in fact, I have a fondness for all manifestations of humorous British seventies sci-fi; but nonetheless, I find this particular fantasy alarmingly condescending. First of all, the list is not really a list of useless professions at all.

Does that mean that they deserve to die? To justify extermination, Adams seems to have intentionally selected people that he thought were not only useless but also could be thought of as embracing or identifying with what they did. Before moving on, then, let us reflect on the status of hairdressers.

Why is a hairdresser not a bullshit job? Well, the most obvious reason is precisely because most hairdressers do not believe it to be one. To cut and style hair makes a demonstrable difference in the world, and the notion that it is unnecessary vanity is purely subjective: Who is to say whose judgment of the intrinsic value of hairstyling is correct?

I well remember, as a teenager in New York in that year, observing how small crowds would often gather outside the barbershop on Astor Place to watch punk rockers get elaborate purple mohawks. Was Douglas Adams suggesting those giving them the mohawks also deserved to die, or just those hairdressers whose style sense he did not appreciate? In working-class communities, hair parlors often serve as gathering places; women of a certain age and background are known to spend hours at the neighborhood hair parlor, which becomes a place to swap local news and gossip.

They seem to be imagining a gaggle of middle-aged women idly gossiping under their metallic helmets while others fuss about making some marginal attempts at beautification on a person who it is suggeste being too fat, too old, and too working class, will never be attractive no matter what is done to her.

Now, some might feel I am being unfair. What about superposh hairdressers who charge insane amounts of money to make the daughters of financiers or movie executives look odd in some up-to-the-moment fashion? Might they not harbor a secret suspicion that their work is valueless, even pernicious? Would not that then qualify them as having a bullshit job? In theory, of course, we must allow this could be correct. But let us explore the possibility more deeply.

We are speaking of overt displays of wastefulness and extravagance. If the retail worker genuinely believes that he provides nothing of value to his customers, can we then say that retail worker does, indeed, have a bullshit job?

I would say the technical answer, according to our working definition, would have to be yes; but at least according to my own research, the number of retail workers who feel this way is actually quite small. Purveyors of expensive perfumes might think their products are overpriced and their clients are mostly boorish idiots, but they rarely feel the perfume industry itself should be abolished.

My own research indicated that within the service economy, there were only three significant exceptions to this rule: information technology IT providers, telemarketers, and sex workers. Many of the first category, and pretty much all of the second, were convinced they were basically engaged in scams.

The most compelling argument to this effect was from a former exotic dancer, now professor, who made a case that most sex work should be considered a bullshit job because, while she acknowledged that sex work clearly did answer a genuine consumer demand, something was terribly, terribly wrong with any society that effectively tells the vast majority of its female population they are worth more dancing on boxes between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five than they will be at any subsequent point in their lives, whatever their talents or accomplishments.

If the same woman can make five times as much money stripping as she could teaching as a world-recognized scholar, could not the stripping job be considered bullshit simply on that basis? One might add that the mutual contempt between service provider and service user in the sex industry is often far greater than what one might expect to find in even the fanciest boutique.

The only objection I could really raise here is that her argument might not go far enough. Finally, I must very briefly address the inevitable question: What about jobs that are just partly bullshit? To some degree, this is probably just the inevitable side effect of the workings of any complex organization. I might add that this is certainly true of my own work as a professor. Teachers in higher education spend increasing amounts of time filling out administrative paperwork.

This can actually be documented, since one of the pointless tasks we are asked to do and never used to be asked to do is to fill out quarterly time allocation surveys in which we record precisely how much time each week we spend on administrative paperwork. All indications suggest that this trend is gathering steam. However inexorable, the process of bullshitization is highly inconsistent. It has, for obvious reasons, affected middle-class employment more than working-class employment, and within the working class, it has been traditionally female, caregiving work that has been the main target of bullshitization: many nurses, for instance, complained to me that as much as 80 percent of their time is now taken up with paperwork, meetings, and the like, while truck drivers and bricklayers still carry on largely unaffected.

In this area, we do have some statistics. Figure 1 is excerpted from the US edition of the - State of Enterprise Work Report see next page. Figures that dramatic must be partly the result of random statistical noise-after all, if such trends really continued, in less than a decade, no US office worker would be doing any real work at all-but if nothing else, the survey makes abundantly clear that 1 more than half of working hours in American offices are spent on bullshit, and 2 the problem is getting worse.

As a result, it is indeed possible to say there are partly bullshit jobs, mostly bullshit jobs, and purely and entirely bullshit jobs. This just happens to be a book about the latter or, to be precise, about entirely or overwhelmingly bullshit jobs-not mostly bullshit jobs, where the meter hovers anywhere near 50 percent.

In no sense am I denying that the bullshitization of all cts of the economy is a critically important social issue. Simply consider the figures cited earlier. If 37 percent to 40 percent of jobs are completely pointless, and at least 50 percent of the work done in nonpointless office jobs is equally pointless, we can probably conclude that at least half of all work being done in our society could be eliminated without making any real difference at all.

Actually, the number is almost certainly higher, because this would not even be taking into consideration second-order bullshit jobs: real jobs done in support of those engaged in bullshit.

We could easily become societies of leisure and institute a twenty-hour workweek. Maybe even a fifteen-hour week. Instead, we find ourselves, as a society, condemned to spending most of our time at work, performing tasks that we feel make no difference in the world whatsoever. My research has revealed five basic types of bullshit jobs.

In this chapter, I will describe them and outline their essential features. First, a word about this research. I am drawing on two large bodies of data. As a result, there was a great deal of online discussion, over the course of which many participants made references to personal experiences of jobs they considered particularly absurd or pointless.

I downloaded of these and spent some time sorting through them. The second body of data was actively solicited. In the second half ofI created an email account devoted solely to research and used my Twitter account to encourage people who felt they now or once had a bullshit job to send in firsthand testimonies. I ended up assembling over such testimonies, ranging from single paragraphs to eleven-page essays detailing whole sequences of bullshit jobs, along with speculations about the organizational or social dynamics that produced them, and descriptions of their social and psychological effects.

Most of these testimonies were from citizens of English-speaking countries, but I also received testimonies from all over Continental Europe, as well as Mexico, Brazil, Egypt, India, South Africa, and Japan. Some of these were deeply moving, even painful to read. Many were hilarious. Needless to say, almost all respondents insisted their names not be used.

After culling the responses and trimming them of extraneous material, I found myself with a database of more thanwords, which I duly color coded. This is particularly true of the following typology, which grew directly from these conversations and which I like to see less as my own creation and more as the product of an ongoing dialogue. I will call these: flunkies, goons, duct tapers, box tickers, and taskmasters.

And for the truly magnificent, the very uselessness of the uniformed retainers hovering around you is the greatest testimony to your greatness. Well into the Victorian era, for instance, wealthy families in England still employed footmen: liveried servants whose entire purpose was to run alongside carriages checking for bumps in the road. Servants of this sort are normally given some minor task to justify their existence, but this is really just a pretext: in reality, the whole point is to employ handsome young men in flashy uniforms ready to stand by the door looking regal while you hold court, or to stride gravely in front of you when you enter the room.

Often retainers are given military-style costumes and paraphernalia to create the impression that the rich person who employs them has something resembling a palace guard. Such roles tend to multiply in economies based on rent extraction and the subsequent redistribution of the loot. If so, you are in possession of an awful lot of food. Enough, in fact, to support a population exactly as large as that of peasant food producers. The obvious thing to do is to slap a uniform on them and assign them some minor or unnecessary task.

It makes you look good, and at least that way, you can keep an eye on them. Some old-fashioned feudal-style retainer jobs still do exist. They perform the same function in the houses of the very rich that electronic intercoms have performed for everyone else since at least the s.

One former concierge complains:. Bill: Another bullshit job-concierge in one of these buildings. Half my time was spent pressing a button to open the front door for residents and saying hello as they passed through the lobby.

In some countries, such as Brazil, such buildings still have uniformed elevator operators whose entire job is to push the button for you. Gerte: In I worked as a receptionist at a Dutch publishing company. The phone rang maybe once a day, so I was given a couple of other tasks:. Mints were supplied by someone else at the company; I just had to take a handful out of a drawer next to the candy dish and put them in the candy dish.

I found this task stressful, actually, because they told me that if I forgot or waited too long, all of the weights would fall, and I would be left with the onerous task of grandfather clock repair. Why shell out a full-time salary and benefits package for a woman-actually, it would seem, in this case, two women-just to sit at the front desk all day doing nothing? The answer is: because not doing so would be shocking and bizarre.

No one would take a company seriously if it had no one at all sitting at the front desk. Pay me, for example? Other flunkies are Badges of Importance.

The following account is from Jack, who was hired as a cold caller in a low-level securities trading firm. Jack: My job, as a cold caller, was to call these people.

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That last point was especially stressed to me during my training. The reasoning behind this was that the brokers themselves would seem, to the potential client, to be more capable and professional if they were so damn busy making money that they needed an assistant to make this call for them.

There was literally no other purpose to this job than to make my neighbor the broker appear to be more successful than he actually was. I was some kind of totem figure for him. Owning me could mean the difference between his getting a meeting with a visiting regional head or not; but for the most part, it just put him on a slightly higher rung on the social ladder of the workplace.

There we often find cases where no one is entirely sure how or why certain positions were invented and maintained. Here is Ophelia, who works for an organization that runs social marketing campaigns:. Ophelia: My current job title is Portfolio Coordinator, and everyone always asks what that means, or what it is I actually do? I have no idea. My job description says all sorts of stuff about facilitating relationships between partners, etc. It has occurred to me that my actual title refers to a bullshit job.

However, the reality of my working life is functioning as a Personal Assistant to the Director. In fact, most of the time, I seem to be the only one at my workplace who has something to do. Some days I run around frantically, whilst most of the midlevel managers sit around and stare at a wall, seemingly bored to death and just trying to kill time doing pointless things like that one guy who rearranges his backpack for a half hour every day.

Ophelia suspects her job was originally just an empty place filler, created so that someone could boast about the number of employees he had working under him. But once it was created, a perverse dynamic began to set in, whereby managers off-loaded more and more of their responsibilities onto the lowest-ranking female subordinate her to give the impression that they were too busy to do such things themselves, leading, of course, to their having even less to do than previously-a spiral culminating in the apparently bizarre decision to hire another manager to stare at the wall or play Pokemon all day, just because hiring him would make it look like that was not what everyone else was doing.

Ophelia ends up sometimes working frenetically; in part because the few necessary tasks handed off to her are augmented with completely made-up responsibilities designed to keep low-level staff bustling:. Ophelia: We are divided between two organizations and two buildings. If my boss the boss of the whole place, in fact goes to the other building, I have to fill in a form to book a room for her.

Every time. It is absolute insanity, but it certainly keeps the receptionist over there very busy and therefore, indispensable. It also makes her appear very organized, juggling and filing all this paperwork. It occurs to me that this is what they really mean in job ads when they say that they expect you to make office procedures more efficient: that you create more bureaucracy to fill the time.

Or the boss? In cases like that, no one minds if the flunky does absolutely nothing:. It would be fascinating-though probably impossible-to write a history of books, designs, plans, and documents attributed to famous men that were actually written by their secretaries.

Here again, I think we are forced to fall back on the subjective element. Judy: The only full-time job I ever had-in Human Resources in a private sector engineering firm-was wholly not necessary. I was an HR Assistant.

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My job took, I shit you not, one hour a day-an hour and a half max. The other seven or so hours were spent playing or watching YouTube. Phone never rang, Data were entered in five minutes or less. I got paid to be bored. My boss could have easily done my job yet again-fucking lazy turd. When I was doing anthropological fieldwork in highland Madagascar, I noticed that wherever one found the tomb of a famous nobleman, one also invariably found two or three modest graves directly at its foot.

An analogous logic seems to be at work in corporate environments. Why did the Dutch publishing outfit need a receptionist? At the very least, there must be a boss, and editors, and those editors have to have some sort of underlings or assistants-at the very minimum, the one receptionist who is a kind of collective underling to all of them.

Once the unnecessary flunky is hired, whether or not that flunky ends up being given anything to do is an entirely secondary consideration-that depends on a whole list of extraneous factors: for instance, whether or not there is any work to do, the needs and attitudes of the superiors, gender dynamics, and institutional constraints. By doing so, they would effectively reduce managers to nothing. Kings of the air. The most obvious example of this are national armed forces.

Countries need armies only because other countries have armies. But the same can be said of most lobbyists, PR specialists, telemarketers, and corporate lawyers. Also, like literal goons, they have a largely negative impact on society. I think almost anyone would concur that, were all telemarketers to disappear, the world would be a better place. But I think most would also agree that if all corporate lawyers, bank lobbyists, or marketing gurus were to similarly vanish in a puff of smoke, the world would be at least a little bit more bearable.

The obvious question is: Are these really bullshit jobs at all? Would these not be more like the Mafia hit men of the last chapter? Here again we must appeal to the subjective element.

Sometimes the ultimate pointlessness of a line of work is so obvious that few involved make much effort to deny it. Most universities in the United Kingdom now have public relations offices with staffs several times larger than would be typical for, say, a bank or an auto manufacturer of roughly the same size. Obviously, I am being slightly facetious here: this is not the only thing a PR department does.

I have included goons as a category of bullshit job largely for this reason: because so many of those who hold them feel their jobs have no social value and ought not to exist. The YouGov survey did not break down its results by profession, and while my own research confirms such feelings are by no means unique, none of those who reported such attitudes were particularly high-level.

The same is true of those who work in marketing or PR. Tom: I work for a very large American-owned postproduction company based in London. There are parts of my job that have always been very enjoyable and fulfilling: I get to make cars fly, buildings explode, and dinosaurs attack alien spaceships for movie studios, providing entertainment for audiences worldwide.

More recently, however, a growing percentage of our customers are advertising agencies. They bring us adverts for well-known branded products: shampoos, toothpastes, moisturizing creams, washing powders, etc. We also work on TV shows and music videos. We reduce bags under the eyes of women, make hair shinier, teeth whiter, make pop stars and film stars look thinner, etc.

We airbrush skin to remove spots, isolate the teeth and color correct them to make them whiter also done on the clothes in washing powder adspaint out split ends and add shiny highlights to hair in shampoo commercials, and there are special deforming tools to make people thinner. These techniques are literally used in every commercial on TV, plus most TV drama shows, and lots of movies. Particularly on female actors but also on men.

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When I asked why he considered his job to be bullshit as opposed to merely, say, evilTom replied:. I believe we passed the point where most jobs were these type of jobs a long time ago.

Supply has far outpaced demand in most industries, so now it is demand that is manufactured. My job is a combination of manufacturing demand and then exaggerating the usefulness of the products sold to fix it. In fact, you could argue that that is the job of every single person that works in or for the entire advertising industry. He was drawing a distinction between what might be called honest illusions and dishonest ones. Where honest illusions add joy into the world, dishonest ones are intentionally aimed toward convincing people their worlds are a tawdry and miserable sort of place.

Similarly, I received a very large number of testimonies from call center employees. So once again, what really irks is 1 the aggression and 2 the deception. Here I can speak from personal experience, having done such jobs, albeit usually very, very briefly: there are few things less pleasant than being forced against your better nature to try to convince others to do things that defy their common sense.

I will be discussing this issue in greater depth in the next chapter, on spiritual violence, but for now, let us merely note that this is at the very heart of what it is to be a goon. Duct tapers are employees whose jobs exist only because of a glitch or fault in the organization; who are there to solve a problem that ought not to exist. I am adopting the term from the software industry, but I think it has more general applicability. One testimony from a software developer describes the industry like this:.

Pablo: Basically, we have two kinds of jobs. One kind involves working on core technologies, solving hard and challenging problems, etc. The other one is taking a bunch of core technologies and applying some duct tape to make them work together. The former is generally seen as useful. The latter is often seen as less useful or even useless, but, in any case, much less gratifying than the first kind.

The feeling is probably based on the observation that if core technologies were done properly, there would be little or no need for duct tape. Coders are often happy to perform the interesting and rewarding work on core technologies for free at night but, since that means they have less and less incentive to think about how such creations will ultimately be made compatible, that means the same coders are reduced during the day to the tedious but paid work of making them fit together.

Cleaning is a necessary function: things get dusty even if they just sit there, and the ordinary conduct of life tends to leave traces that need to be tidied up. But cleaning up after someone who makes a completely gratuitous and unnecessary mess is always irritating.

Having a full-time occupation cleaning up after such a person can only breed resentment. The most obvious examples of duct tapers are underlings whose jobs are to undo the damage done by sloppy or incompetent superiors. He tended to avoid using verbs. I lost twelve pounds working in that company. My job was to convince him to undertake a major reworking of every report he produced.

Of course, he would never agree to correct anything, let alone undertake a rework, so I would then have to take the report to the company directors. They were statistically illiterate too, but being the directors, they could drag things out even more. There is, it seems, a whole genre of jobs that involve correcting the damage done by a superior who holds his position for reasons unrelated to ability to do the work.

The company sold it to pharmacists to use on their websites. For many months, I was never allowed to see it. I just wrote stuff that used it. In the end, the programmer was reduced to writing very primitive Eliza scripts [51] to mimic speech for the Web pages just to cover up the fact that the Algorithm was basically gibberish, and the company, it turned out, was a pure vanity project run by a rented CEO who used to manage a gym.

I have any number of testimonies of this sort. Not only was this a textbook example of an automatable job, it actually used to be automated! There was some kind of disagreement between various managers that led to higher-ups issuing a standardization that nullified the automation.

In a more material sense, duct taping might be considered a classic working-class function. There will always be a certain gap between blueprints, schemas, and plans and their real-world implementation; therefore, there will always be people charged with making the necessary adjustments.

It goes without saying that duct tapers are almost always aware they have a bullshit job and are usually quite angry about it. I encountered a classic example of a duct taper while working as a lecturer at a prominent British university. One day the wall shelves in my office collapsed. This left books scattered all over the floor, and a jagged half-dislocated metal frame that once held the shelves in place dangling cheerfully over my desk.

A carpenter appeared an hour later to inspect the damage but announced gravely that, since there were books all over the floor, safety rules prevented him from entering the room or taking further action. I would have to stack the books and then not touch anything else, whereupon he would return at the earliest available opportunity to remove the dangling frame.

I duly stacked the books, but the carpenter never reappeared. There ensued a series of daily calls from Anthropology to Buildings and Grounds. Each day someone in the Anthropology Department would call, often multiple times, to ask about the fate of the carpenter, who always turned out to have something extremely pressing to do. He seemed like a nice man. He was exceedingly polite and even-tempered, and always had just a slight trace of wistful melancholy about him, which made him quite well suited for the job.

The following testimony is from a woman hired to coordinate leisure activities in a care home:. Betsy: Most of my job was to interview residents and fill out a recreation form that listed their preferences. That form was then logged on a computer and promptly forgotten about forever. The paper form was also kept in a binder, for some reason. Completion of the forms was by far the most important part of my job in the eyes of my boss, and I would catch hell if I got behind on them.

A lot of the time, I would complete a form for a short-term resident, and they would check out the next day. I threw away mountains of paper. The interviews mostly just annoyed the residents, as they knew it was just bullshit paperwork, and no one was going to care about their individual preferences.

The most miserable thing about box-ticking jobs is that the employee is usually aware that not only does the box-ticking exercise do nothing toward accomplishing its ostensible purpose, it actually undermines it, since it diverts time and resources away from the purpose itself. So here Betsy was aware that the time she spent processing forms about how residents might wish to be entertained was time not spent entertaining them. This serves two functions. This is usually not true, either.

A fact-finding commission is a way of telling the public that the government is doing something it is not. But large corporations will behave in exactly the same way if, say, they are revealed to be employing slaves or child laborers in their garment factories or dumping toxic waste. All of this is bullshit, but the true bullshit job category applies to those who are not just there to stave off the public this at least could be said to serve some kind of useful purpose for the company but to those who do so within the organization itself.

The corporate compliance industry might be considered an intermediary form. It is explicitly created by US government regulation:. Layla: I work in a growing industry born out of the federal regulation the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Clients are big companies-tech, auto companies, etc. Our company creates due diligence reports for our clients: basically one to two hours of internet research that is then edited into a report. There is a lot of jargon and training that goes into making sure every report is consistent.

I vividly remember the endless discussions that ensued, when I was a junior professor at Yale University, about a first-year archaeology graduate student whose husband had died in a car crash on the first day of the term. For some reason, the shock caused her to develop a mental block on doing paperwork. She still attended lectures and was an avid participant in class discussions; and she turned in papers and got excellent grades. As the eminence grise of the department would point out during faculty meetings, that was all that really mattered.

So your performance is completely irrelevant. I had to learn about it from other students later on. That was just reality-from an administrative point of view. Eventually, after last-minute attempts to have her fill out a sheaf of late-application appeal documents also met with no response, and after numerous long soliloquies from the Director of Graduate Studies about just how inconsiderate it was of her to make things so difficult for those who were only trying to help her, [55] the student was expelled from the program on the grounds that anyone so incapable of handling paperwork was obviously not suited for an academic career.

None of which helps the citizens of that council in the slightest. He then told all the employees who were with a customer when the alarm went off to return to the building immediately.

The other employees could return when one of the people dealing with a customer needed them for something, and so on and so forth. If this had happened when I was at that council, I would have been in the car park for a very long time!

Almost none of this had any real bearing on providing services:. The report then got filed away-making absolutely no difference to the residents but still somehow requiring many hours of staff time, not to mention all the hours the residents themselves spent filling in surveys or attending focus groups.

In my experience, this is how most policy works in local government. Note here the importance of the physical attractiveness of the report. This is a theme that comes up frequently in testimonies about box-ticking operations and even more so in the corporate sector than in government. The meetings in which such emblems are displayed might be considered the high rituals of the corporate world.

Many of these reports are nothing more than props in a Kabuki-like corporate theater-no one actually reads them all the way through.

I often work with global PR agencies on this, and write reports with titles like How to Improve Engagement Among Key Digital Health Care Stakeholders. It is pure, unadulterated bullshit, and serves no purpose beyond ticking boxes for marketing departments. But it is very easy to charge a very large amount of money to write bullshit reports.

I was recently able to charge around twelve thousand pounds to write a two-page report for a pharmaceutical client to present during a global strategy meeting. House 30, Suite-1A Road 18, Block A, Banani.

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