As an anthropologist, Graeber is less concerned with validating...statistic[s] and more interested in exploring why so many people believe this about their own jobs. In doing so, he helps the reader better understand not just the nature of one’s own job, but jobs in general ... Reading through his taxonomy, one engages with what I believe to be the central pleasure of the book, trying to figure out whether you or people you know have jobs that fit these categories ... Reading Graeber’s book made me appreciate how fortunate I am. I can’t claim to do the most important work in the world, but I can report finding great personal satisfaction in the work I do.
Graeber is not an economist; he is an anthropologist who has done fieldwork in highland Madagascar and cops to being an anarchist who wants to see governments and corporations have less power. Yet his argument cries out for stronger economic evidence. Especially since an economist would find a number of flaws in it ... That’s not to say that Graeber’s argument is not without merit — in my own unscientific research, I encountered a few friends who said that their jobs fit his description perfectly. And Graeber’s anthropological eye and skepticism about capitalism are useful in questioning some parts of the economy that the West has come to accept as normal ... If nothing else, this book asks readers whether there might be a better way to organize the world of work. That’s a question worth asking.
There might be something refreshing about the fact that capitalism has not yet gained full control over its means and ends, and that there are millions of people sitting around getting paid to do nothing all day. Graeber doesn’t buy it. On the contrary: He considers bullshit jobs to be a profound form of psychological violence, a scourge that’s fueling resentment, anomie, depression, and apathy ... Graeber insists that there’s no value in working for the sake of just working. That often gives the impression that anyone who does want to work for work’s sake must be a bit of a sucker and that the compulsion to work is a manifestation of false consciousness or, worse, stupidity. He thus glosses over the strongly felt benefits, be they professional, social, or psychological, that many people get from their jobs. If Graeber’s unscientific assertions about bullshit jobs feel vital, urgent, and intuitively true, his dismissals of work’s inherent value—not moral, but social—feel incomplete.