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Publisher's Summary

From best-selling writer David Graeber, a powerful argument against the rise of meaningless, unfulfilling jobs and their consequences.

Does your job make a meaningful contribution to the world? In the spring of 2013, David Graeber asked this question in a playful, provocative essay titled “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs”. It went viral. After a million online views in 17 different languages, people all over the world are still debating the answer. 

There are millions of people - HR consultants, communication coordinators, telemarketing researchers, corporate lawyers - whose jobs are useless, and, tragically, they know it. These people are caught in bullshit jobs. Graeber explores one of society’s most vexing and deeply felt concerns, indicting among other villains a particular strain of finance capitalism that betrays ideals shared by thinkers ranging from Keynes to Lincoln. 

Bullshit Jobs gives individuals, corporations, and societies permission to undergo a shift in values, placing creative and caring work at the center of our culture. This book is for everyone who wants to turn their vocation back into an avocation.

©2018 David Graeber (P)2018 Simon & Schuster Audio

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Premise and theory ok....but it just drags on and on. PLUS a cringe-worthy narration.

The original article that Graeber wrote in 2013 was eye-opening and left me wanting for a deeper dive. That’s what I expected this book to be. After 5 years of research and countless testimonials, Bullshit Jobs, achieved nothing more than redundant corroborations to the original article’s premise. By five chapters in, I felt as if I wasn’t learning anything new. Just got more examples of the same. However, still, the theory and examination of a workforce that has been broken by bullshittery is a fun and interesting endeavor in itself. It just didn’t require such a long strung book to back it up.

To boot...this particular narration of the book is what made me first lose interest. The narrator (a male) takes the liberty in employing a quasi-falsetto female voice when a woman’s testimonial is being presented. This is not only distracting, but even worse it leaves me with a cringy second-hand embarrassment I didn’t expect to bare while listening to an academic book.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Incredibly disappointing...

I am at a loss. I can't conceive of how anyone would view this book as a convincing critique of the failures of the labor market. It is the first book I have returned for a refund in many years.

For anyone with a basic understanding of economics, this book is likely to leave you frustrated and confused. Having spent the lion's share of my career helping organizations root out waste and inefficiency, I can say from personal experience that there is a tremendous amount of bullshit to go around. Without question, we undervalue certain roles and overvalue others, and our economic system creates massive inefficiencies and unnecessary work. There are so many interesting, nuanced stories to be told about misaligned incentives and the negative side-effects of market forces. I was eagerly waiting for this book to shed light on what's really going on. Unfortunately, Bullshit Jobs does not tackle the real issues at any depth, nor does it offer anything approaching a compelling analysis of the root causes. Instead, the author is content to wildly over-extrapolate surveys and anecdotes from disgruntled employees to manufacture a simplistic narrative that paints nearly half of the labor pool as fundamentally unnecessary. If this were remotely reflective of reality, my job would be a cake walk.

I looked over the author's bio, and I can only assume that he has never actually worked in a company. Perhaps he has, but I am not sure where and when. That may be forgivable for an academic, but I saw no evidence that he did any real on-site, in-person analysis of actual workplace behavior. His most convincing examples of wasted effort involve edge-cases from public sector employees in Europe, and/or were drawn from emails from individuals who would obviously be predisposed to agree with him. These anecdotes were happily projected across the entire global economy, and positioned as self-evident thereafter.

If you want to understand why our economic system is failing to deliver fulfillment and prosperity among the masses, there are plenty of rigorous, insightful, data-driven books to review from individuals who have real expertise. I would recommend Piketty's book Capital in the Twenty-First Century as a powerful counterpoint to this book. This book is essentially a blog-run-amok--a weak attempt to turn a viral essay into a manifesto without any deep diligence or curiosity.

Let's get curious about what is really going on. Let's dive deep, let's understand the facts. We can do better than this.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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feeling like an ant under a magnifying lens

this book shines an at times uncomfortable light on the bullshittery that comprises most office work today.

the breakdown of BS work into sub-categories makes it easier to separate what is useful from what is, essentially, fluff designed to pad out a bloated work day. My only wish is for some follow-up with meaningful action one can take to reduce the amount of useless activities, or at least reclaim that time for more personally fulfilling endeavors. While a great conversation starter to talk about the greater issues that society faces, individuals need some kind of action plan to help extricate themselves from the honey trap of a BS job.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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The book was great but I didn’t like the reader

The reader changed his voice when reading quotes, which would normally be a good thing because it signals to the listener when the quotes begin and end, but he didn’t change his tone, he literally changed his voice. He made his voice higher than his own when quoting women, and strangely, lower than his own when quoting men. The result is that quotes from women were read in a childish voice and sounded simpering, while quotes from men sounded authoritative. The voices were annoying, but the gender bias they introduce is pernicious, and this should not have gone unnoticed by whomever makes the decisions.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Good start but the second half was forced leftist propoganda

While the first half was rather decent (some analysis was a bit off and it was clearly visible that author and/or people behind testimonies don’t have a clear grasp of some Industries or extremely complex processes) and I can mostly agree with analysis, the second half was completely unnecessary and should have been made into another book for pushing leftist ideas.
But the main point is clear - a lot of jobs are filled with fluff and could be optimized. However advent of collabotation and communication prevents it since someone always needs you.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

spot on, too long.

this is trying too hard to be intellectual. Id prefer have the length and pure rhetoric instead on this topic.

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The main idea doesn't require a full book

I have a great respect to the points raised by the author. nevertheless it didn't require a full book as the main idea kept coming up again and again. it became boring

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Poorly Reasoned Disappointment

I downloaded this book because I had an inkling that the author was on to something. And he is - unfortunately, it is buried under some deep misconceptions about how the economy works and an unworkable central definition of which jobs are "bullshit."

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If you are employed, I highly recommend this

So much of it rings true, and is important for all of us to discuss :)

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Thought provoking

A bit too oriented at times, but an excellent theoretical overview, and some really powerful ideas. The last four chapters were significantly more interesting. Don’t hesitate to skip a bit, but it’s worth finishing.