Brandt School Universität Erfurt

Professor Kemmerling talked with author David Graeber on 'bullshit jobs'

On September 21, Professor Achim Kemmerling presented the latest publication of Dr. David Graeber on ‘bullshit jobs’ as part of the Erfurter Herbstlese, a series of lectures on literature every autumn in Erfurt.

The discussion round consisted of a sound introduction by Professor Kemmerling who presented the structure and the background of Dr. Graeber’s book “Bullshit Jobs: A Theory”. Following, the author presented himself and the evolution of his idea.

David Graeber is an anthropologist teaching at the London School of Economics as well as anarchist and leading figure of the Occupy Wall Street movement. His first popular and provoking essay published in 2013 meant the starting point of his career: Immediately, the response via twitter and e-mail was very high including various stories about people’s own experiences on useless work. Based on this feedback and personal meetings, Dr. Graeber wrote his book on so-called ‘bullshit jobs’.

Hence, what is a ‘bullshit job’? Dr. Graeber underlined a meaningless job would be pointless and offering no benefit for society. The evolvement of this kind of jobs goes along with outsourcing and managing tendencies in fields such as the financial sector, marketing, public relations and consulting. Dr. Graeber’s thesis is based on a definition of work that does not include producing anything but providing social services. Regarding this, he is tackling two dilemmas: Firstly, individuals are well paid but unable to confess to have a meaningless job and therefore face psychological harm. Secondly, those employees that do have jobs offering social benefits have to deal with precarious conditions such as low payment, high workload and probable job cuts. Therefore, Dr. Graeber described the frustrating situation of both groups in precarious jobs and bullshit jobs as a potential precondition for radical voting.

The solution for society to end pointless jobs offered by Dr. Graeber is a universal basic income that would allow people leaving a ‘bullshit job’ for a more meaningful and self-determined workplace. Thanks to the introducing and explaining words by Professor Kemmerling, the audience could well understand and discuss the very interesting topic. Professor Kemmerling's review of Dr. Graeber's book can be found on his personal blog.

Additionally, you find an article about the event in German in the local newspaper Thüringer Allgemeine here.