I finished reading the great work of David Graeber: Bullshit Jobs, and especially liked the list of five types of entirely pointless jobs:
- flunkies, who serve to make their superiors feel important, e.g., receptionists, administrative assistants, door attendants, makers of websites whose sites neglect ease of use and speed for looks;
- goons, who act to harm or deceive others on behalf of their employer, e.g., lobbyists, corporate lawyers, telemarketers, public relations specialists, community managers;
- duct tapers, who temporarily fix problems that could be fixed permanently, e.g., programmers repairing bloated code, airline desk staff who calm passengers whose bags do not arrive;
- box tickers, who create the appearance that something useful is being done when it is not, e.g., survey administrators, in-house magazine journalists, corporate compliance officers, quality service managers;
- taskmasters, who manage—or create extra work for—those who do not need it, e.g., middle management, leadership professionals.
I does not take a lot of intellectual power to connect all five to the pure essence of what I call “the information lens“, blocking the insight from the reality, or the map from the ground. Still, the pure joy of touching reality with pure understanding has its benefits, as quoted:
I do not think there is any thrillNikola Tesla
that can go through the human heart
like that feltby the inventor
as he sees some creation of the brain
unfolding to success…
such emotions make a man
forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.
A second idea developed in the book, worth pointing out, is the reference to the 2009 NEF publication “A Bit Rich – Calculating the real value to society of different professions”.
This report sets out to shatter some myths about pay and value. Chief among them – and the point of the research – is to show that there is not a straightforward relationship between high financial rewards and good societal outcomes. This isn’t just an intellectual exercise – it has big implications for the way in which our society and economy are structured. Financial incentives are very powerful, and we tend to shower them on some of the professions that are the most socially and environmentally costly. This promotes undesirable behaviour, while positive activities are discouraged.
The mere economic fact of this insight is in shocking, and asking for some sound reflection and appropriate actions.
As the key idea of the book is related to “virtue is it’s own reward” for the job, or as Epicurus wrote
virtutum omnium pretium in ipsis estEpicurus
What the pandemic will bring to humanity, after close to 2 years of lockdown and teleworking, might be inspired by those ideas and help people and business to surmount the information lens.
Maybe meaningfull and inspiring in this context is to summarise the 2019 paper: “The Five Paradoxes of Meaningful Work: Introduction to the special Issue ‘Meaningful Work: Prospects for the 21st Century’”, where is set forth a future research agenda based on five fundamental paradoxes of meaningful work.
individuals have an innate drive to seek out meaningful work to satisfy their inner needs, yet this same drive can push them to harmful excesses.
meaningfulness arises in the context of self-fulfilment and self-actualization, yet it is dependent on the ‘other’ for its realization
meaningfulness is a subjective assessment, yet it is also grounded in an external, objective context that shapes and legitimizes what may be considered meaningful by the individual.
meaningfulness is subjectively ‘found’ and is not amenable to managerial control, yet it is also normatively regulated.
meaningfulness is a pervasive sense of the value of one’s work, yet it is also linked with spatial, temporal, and material contexts which may be temporary, partial, or episodic.
Nice article on this topic can be found at https://www.bigissue.com/opinion/david-graeber-to-save-the-world-were-going-to-have-to-stop-working/