Björn Rust (he/him) is a post-industrial designer cum researcher, innovator and educator, developing context-sensitive innovation practices for people, planet and beyond.

Recent writings

  1. Opportunity hoarding
  2. Doing away with bullshit
  3. The course of my life, so far

Doing away with bullshit

What began as an article for Strike in August 2013 has evolved into viral outrage against the absurdist realities many of us face day-to-day. David Graeber’s clear-eyed account of the system that produces bullshit jobs has become a rallying cry for all those suffering through yet another inefficient meeting while wondering what happen to John Maynard Keynes’ promise of a 15-hour working week?

Graeber's analysis of one informant’s testimony reveals the physical and social isolation brought on by a collective understanding that we ought not to discuss our subjugation to jobs that produce little value for no meaningful purpose. In conforming to this bargain, many of us consent to the bullshit, which Harry Frankfurt describes as indifference to the truth.

However, at this moment, many of us are not bound by the conditions that facilitate such jobs. Instead, ‘non-essential’ workers privileged enough to hold ongoing positions are telecommuting—in theory, freeing us from the private hells we have constructed, which Graeber claims force us to become a little bubble unto ourselves. But the social isolation created by our bargain is compounded by the isolation imposed by our current situation. And whether we feel it or not, social isolation is often accompanied by higher levels of surveillance, as Ivan Manokha writes in a piece for the Monthly Review. For some that might mean those inefficient meetings have become more frequent as employers ‘check-in’; for others, it might be much more nefarious, as Manokha describes.

This oversight fails to acknowledge the cram-and-slack rhythm that comes from jobs shaped by actual production needs and amnesia for efficiency, which was once defined as higher productivity from less labour. Bullshit jobs necessitate that we labour regardless of the actual production needs for the sake of growth, or a concept of an employer owning our time.

If you find yourself in such a role, remember that Graeber fantasises »... about eliminating the jobs, not the people who have them«. Imagine if we seized this moment to do away with the bullshit—given the concepts and technology to facilitate doing so have existed for decades. It might even be cowardly of us not to demand change.

Inspired by: Overland
Reference: The New Yorker

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