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Publisher's Summary

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber, read by Christopher Ragland. 

Back in 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes prophesied that by the century's end, technology would see us all working 15-hour weeks. But instead, something curious happened. 

Today, average working hours have not decreased but increased. And now, across the developed world, three-quarters of all jobs are in services or admin, jobs that don't seem to add anything to society: bullshit jobs. 

In Bullshit Jobs, David Graeber explores how this phenomenon - one more associated with the 20th-century Soviet Union, but which capitalism was supposed to eliminate - has happened. In doing so, he looks at how we value work and how, rather than being productive, work has become an end in itself; the way such work maintains the current broken system of finance capital; and, finally, how we can get out of it.

©2018 David Graeber (P)2018 Penguin Books Ltd

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The "Bullshit" in the title is very descriptive

I almost never give up on an audiobooks but I am giving up on this one after less than an hour because it was just making me angry. The author presents this book based upon his qualifications as an anthropologist but it quickly becomes apparently that this is a political tract. What annoyed me were the extremely one sided arguments about the nature of a BS job and the use of over simplified examples to make his points.

I was recommended this book by a colleague and was intregued because I think there generally are a lot of wasted jobs out there. I was expecting a balanced and well reasoned assessment but what I got instead was definitions such as teachers and nurses are required because if they weren't there society would notice but lawyers are a bullshit job because if they weren't there no one would be affected. I assume that there was a more deep and reasoned argument later in the book but I couldn't bring myself to continue.

Performance was fine - my only issue was with the content.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Postmodernist propaganda of universal basic income

The author is a self-proclaimed anarchist hoping for the dismantlement of the states.

Basically, he says that since some jobs are pointless, non-productive and boring, then the salaried employees performing these jobs should be free to quit them and still receive the money from "the government" (i.e. from taxes of people who still would be working).
Don't believe me? Read it and see for yourself.
It's a postmodernistic propaganda advocating for Universal Basic Income.

Spoiler alert - the book ends with a cute story about a bunch of feminists forcing a child to burn the New Testament because it was "sexist".

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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interesting, depressing, incomplete

The title is focused on jobs that have no meaningful output, wastes of time and destruction of the soul. So much is truly fascinating and depressing and also misses consistently that this is a perception of the individual, which is accepted as true (and in many cases probably is given the stories that back this up). But, this also opens up the question of jobs that just feel meaningless but are badly taught, and although these are discussed, as well as other angles, some angles just strike me as badly explored.

A strong focus, or recurring theme is that much money could be saved if things were done differently (again true), and more just understood what money is (which is either not discussed or ruled out of scope) leaving especially the concluding chapters hollow because new issues are introduced but not pursued.

Overall there is a lot good here but the potential is squandered by not engaging with some of those topics that are hinted at. Also, being an anarchist occasionally seems to be used as an explanation ... which does not explain everything, to simplify: the supplement industry is a scam because I don't believe Oranges are comparable to Lemons on vitamin C content. So running with the simely, I'm not sure what kind of comparison we are talking about and can I get more detail on how it might be a scam. Here this is about governments becoming a thing of the past and being an anarchist, but how are we getting there and how would this work? (generally or in context, I'm curious on either, yet neither gets any details). These things feel like interesting excursions that would bear relevance and are ignored.

Broadly, it's a good title that misses opportunities both in addressing issues it raises or pointing to alternative sources. Similarly some angles of consideration are missed and feel intentionally ignored because they are present but not pursued or obviously absent.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mike
  • 06-02-18

Generally good, albeit a little one sided.

If you can forgive the author for being a little bit one sided (he knows what he knows and doesn't really entertain how anyone could disagree with him) then you may just be able to see where he is coming from in what is a sensible conclusion on the world of modern work and an enjoyable yarn to get there. At times the author maybe over does things and waxes lyrical on a point that most readers got in his first paragraph introducing the point and in general the book is quite long for a relatively simple conclusion. He also uses anecdote heavily without any real statistical pedigree and focuses far too much on his own limited experiences in academia and liberal circles. Despite all this I tend to find his logic and conclusions sound and found myself enjoying the "story".

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-12-18

Read the original essay

Not really much expanded beyond the original essay there is a great deal of filler material.

Whilst the first half of the book is entertaining enough Graeber’s inability to offer much of a solution, or at least template for resistance, means he sails perilously close to doing a “bullshit job” in his analysis

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Vlad
  • 06-08-18

Excellent

Graeber is an amazing social scientist, with a gift for precise arguments. This book is an development of his 2013 piece with the same title, and his attempt at a social theory of labour - or lack thereof -, and a must read to anyone who wants to think about work and what it means to us humans.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • MR R KIGHT
  • 09-18-18

A very important book<br />

Read this then tell everyone that you know to read it too. David Graeber is one of the great thinkers of our time.

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  • Erik Krois
  • 08-06-18

The last great taboo?

Fascinating idea that the author has clearly well researched. Worth the read and adds a new dimension to the UBI discussion. If you've never worked in a large corporate office environment you may be in for an eye opener and if you have worked in such environments you'll likely feel a sense of relief to know you are not alone in having a bullshit job.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-24-18

Book serves as a guide to avoid pointless work.

This book serves better as a guide to avoid pointless work rather than an overarching explanation of a large number of modern jobs.
I enjoyed the book as someone who is young and thinking of changing career but wants to stay in an ethical field. The book has helped me realise that as long as a job it is socially useful, plays to my skills and pays a fair wage that I would be happy enough in it.
I am not sure if the author intended it to be a self-help guide, but I think this is the book's biggest strength.

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  • Dr J Wood
  • 07-20-18

Good, but the argument is simple

This was a really interesting book, but there is a lot of repetition. The author seems to assume his point requires extensive backing up and anecdotes. Whilst his explanation is important, I feel I was often hearing the same discussion again. and again in slightly different words. I also found it a little odd to have an American narrator when 70-80% of the author's examples were UK specific.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-07-18

Rather pointless

This book is about how some jobs are worthless and don't need to exist. Perhaps this book itself is a good example of a worthless job that didn't need to be done and doesn't need to exist?

The 2013 essay on BS jobs was good. There was no need to expand it into a book.

Quite a pointless, aimless and weak book. And almost every economic claim in the book is either airheaded anarchistic utopianism or defunct 19th century Marxism. Rarely is a book so pointless AND factually dead wrong.

Only the section on UBI is spot on. But Graeber has some attitude, I'll give him that...

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  • Olly Buxton
  • 05-25-18

Opportunity missed - only Dave Sparts need apply.

This book has such a great premise, and a there is a brilliant book waiting to be written about the topic, but this ain't it.

David Graeber can't help distracting himself from his excellent premise (that there are a huge volume of the best paying professional jobs around the world that are tedious, pointless, and counterproductive: there definitely are; I possess one) to his pet, tiresome and knuckle-headed political theories, which are mainly boring except when they are unintentionally comical. (Graeber describes himself as "your typical socialist libertarian" in once place, in several others as a "radical anarchist committed to the removal of all state apparatus", yet his final (nonsensical) prescription for finally ridding the world of bullshit jobs is that profoundly libertarian, anarchist, anti-statist idea of a universal basic income. Give me strength, or him some clue about macroeconomics - I don't care which.

I almost gave up on the book three times but each time Graeber managed to re-rail himself and talk about actual bullshit jobs for a few paragraphs, before losing his focus again embarking on yet another disquisition on the Labour Theory of Value.

Graeber is quite unable to see the interesting phenomenon he has described in any other terms than an archetypal battle between the rentier forces of running dog capitalism, and some kind of parody of the Marxist characterisation of the heroic working class. It is nothing of the sort, and nor do we bullshit jobbers remotely resent those who do real work. We are profoundly envious and respectful of them but regretful their roles aren't adequately paid for if they were, we would be with them in a heartbeat.

Needless to say, to Graeber a tenured position teaching anthropology at good university doesn't count as a bullshit job (others may beg to differ), and while it may provide a basic income I dare say Graeber won't complain about the supplement this bullshit book provides.

Dismal.

Olly Buxton

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  • MR K Hayes
  • 05-23-18

really enjoyed this book

some great incites and ideas from this book. a great debunking of the efficiency of markets.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • 08-01-18

Bullshit Jobs: A Reality

“It’s hard to imagine a surer sign that one is dealing with an irrational economic system than the fact that the prospect of eliminating drudgery is considered to be a problem.” - David Graeber

For me this is the poignant heart of the entire problem; how is it that in our pursuit of making life easier, we’re now making it harder for lack of imagination?

We left the shady canopies of the jungle, stood upright, learned to sweat, braved the savannah, built primitive canoes and populated new lands, harnessed steam, tamed electrons and are now on the precipice of being able to free everyone from drudgery and our biggest dilemma is we can’t work out a productive way to imagine how this might be.

The history of humanity, of all life for that matter, is one of change; increasing complexity and control that feeds back into itself. Yet, now, for lack of a mental model that has been stripped via indoctrination, we are now at an impasse with ourselves - the economy has become a kind of shotgun pointed back on itself and instead of trying to invent our way out of that situation we’re merely spending all our time trying to figure out how to keep the proverbial gun from firing, and we’re losing precious time.

David makes a strong, neigh impenetrable, argument that 50%+ of current occupations have been invented to keep the wheels turning, for no other reason than to allow people to earn money to spend back in; a useless exercise that wastes resources and life.

Think about the plethora of occupations that exist to support other occupations that are meaningless, that contribute no social value whatsoever, or those that exist merely because we’re all too busy working bullshit jobs to be able to find time to cook, or look after our children.

I used to work at a callcenter that sold everything from energy to internet, and the primary value statement was attempting to compare different costs of the same service and then harass people to try and save them an average of maybe $10/m if they change provider, which was obviously worth money to the business. I couldn’t stomach it - it’s literally a bunch of people that turn up, and get pushed to hit sales targets, that produce nothing of value... nothing. It only exists because we have 20+ electricity providers in Australia... why? There’s only one electrical infrastructure and electrons always work the same. These companies don’t provide anything, they meter your use and bill you with increasingly complex arrays of discounts and rates, all with a different colour letterhead to their competitor.

There are literally thousands and thousands of people, even hundreds of thousands, fuck it, millions of people, that work in what I call ‘Self Serving Chains of Reliance’, and it’s insanity.

We don’t trust people to not work, work is a virtue in and of itself even if it’s a heinous waste of time and resources; the narrative from top-down has worked a treat and we now beat one another over the head for being lazy if we’re not willing to torture ourselves, unless we’re of the lucky few that manage to get paid for something that matters.

People are what we tell them they are, and what we make them. And we have told them they are lazy, and convinced them of this truth; a more permeating self perpetuating prophecy there is not.

And don’t even get me started on the statistically proven inversely proportionate relationship between job income and social value contribution... what kind of world do we want?

We need to return to a time where self-help books (usually about wealth) are tossed in the trash and books that deal with structuring the world in such a way that we produce not monetary wealth, but the kinds of people we want to be around.

Aristotle had it right when he said, “Men [and women] acquire particular quality by constantly acting in a particular way.”

What ways are we forcing people to act in, and in doing so what qualities are they attaining that continually create the world?

If you can think of a reason for your job to exist, outside of giving you money that you need, or merely occupying your time, please pick up this book - it’s more important than the title may suggest.

We are torturing ourselves, and we’re on the precipice of vindication via autonomy or a divide such that we’ve never seen; what world will we choose?

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • simon
  • 06-18-18

Incredible uncovering of the useless job epidemic

I have been aware of the massive overtaking of pretty much every industry by bureaucratic and administration for quite a while, witnessing it in my own field (construction) and how so many people don't really contribute anything of any value to society, well this book goes deep into this issue which lies hidden from most people, David does it in an entertaining way, i laughed out loud several times hearing examples of peoples insanely useless jobs from all over the world, but he also backs up his theory with facts. I enjoyed this book so much that this is actually the first book review i've ever written and i'm probably going to listen to it again straight away!.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Zeveq
  • 08-24-18

Worth a read

Light hearted, easy to follow, interesting content, this book does say important things about major problems our society is facing. I would recommend it. But the writing feels frustratingly one-sided: the author stresses the cases which support his argument, conspicuously avoids critical nuances, omits many factors which play against his pitch, and seems to label anyone who differs as naive, ignorant or overly particular, depending on how articulate they are. I did however enjoy the delight with which he seems to enjoy words like 'ramification', 'proliferation', and 'sundry'.

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  • Michael Sheridan
  • 08-04-18

Meaningless employment

“Bullshit jobs” is an insightfully exposes the proliferation of meaningless work in our modern workplaces.