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Daily Archive: 21/04/2019



April 2019



Bullsh*t Jobs by David Graeber

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
People interested in labor issues and economic theory.

In a nutshell:
Some jobs don’t serve a purpose. They’re usually paid fairly well, but they don’t need to exist. Why do we as a society allow these jobs to exist, and what are they doing to the people who hold them?

Worth quoting:
“We can probably conclude that at least half of all work being done in our society could be eliminated without making any real difference at all.”
“The underlying assumption is that if humans are offered the option to be parasites, of course they’ll take it. In face, almost every bit of available evidence indicates that this is not the case.”
“How does it come to seem morally wrong to the employer that workers are not working, even if there is nothing obvious for them to do?”

Why I chose it:
It looked kind of interesting. And it was! Kind of.

There is a lot going on in this book, and while the author tries to make it accessible and interesting, it sometimes falls a bit more into the academic text realm than I’d prefer. Additionally, despite the academic appearance, so much of the data supporting the theory is qualitative, which isn’t bad per se, but there isn’t enough quantitative support for the broad statements Graeber offers.

The book grows from an essay on the topic Graeber wrote a few years back for a labor magazine. The premise is that there are many jobs out there that don’t actually need to exist, but do, and at times even pay quite well. He’s interested in exploring not only what this does to the workers who hold these positions, but what it means for society that we all just allow these jobs to exist. Capitalism suggests that such positions will be eliminated as inefficient, but still they persist. Why is that?

Graeber takes us through a quick history of labor in exchange for money, spending a fair bit of time on the concept (relatively new, apparently) that our bosses / companies are paying us for our time as opposed to our work. The idea of not being able to do something personal when you finish your work but are still ‘on the clock’ would have been odd until fairly recently, according to the author. But now we see people having to create work that doesn’t exist to fill their time.

The author spends the first chapters of the book developing a definition of bullshit jobs, which I appreciate. These aren’t shitty jobs, as those ones so ofter serve a purpose. No, these are the jobs that perhaps are middle management, or ‘box tickers.’ He ultimately offers five different categories, and support for them using anecdotes from people who contacted him after his original essay was published.

I want to have gotten more out of this book. I definitely appreciated his argument, especially as it relates to the idea that we all could be working less but our values won’t allow it. But I didn’t finish it feeling as though I had much that I could do. I have to admit to skimming the last chapter where that information would be; at that point my eyes had started to glaze over. I don’t think the book is bad, but maybe it’d be better placed in a serious book club or a course on labor studies.

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April 2019



What I’m Reading – April 21, 2019

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

Impacts of the Trump Administration

““After the U.S. intelligence community publicly announced its assessment that Russia was behind the hacking operation, Assange continued to deny that the Clinton materials released by WikiLeaks had come from Russian hacking,” the report reads. “According to media reports, Assange told a U.S. congressman that the DNC hack was an ‘inside job,’ and purported to have ‘physical proof’ that Russians did not give materials to Assange.” Thursday’s long-anticipated release adds new details about Assange’s interactions with the officers in Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate. Still, it leaves one question unanswered: Why was Assange so determined to exonerate the Russian intelligence agents who gave him the material?” Mueller Report: Assange Smeared Seth Rich to Cover for Russians (by Kevin Poulsen for The Daily Beast)

“To ignore a president’s repeated efforts to obstruct an investigation into his own disloyal behavior would inflict great and lasting damage on this country, and it would suggest that both the current and future Presidents would be free to abuse their power in similar ways,” Ms. Warren wrote on Twitter. Elizabeth Warren Calls for Impeachment Process Against Trump (by Astead W. Hampton for The New York Times)

“The world’s five deadliest countries for journalists include three — India, Mexico and, for the first time, the United States — where journalists were killed in cold blood, even though those countries weren’t at war or in conflict, the group said. “The hatred of journalists that is voiced … by unscrupulous politicians, religious leaders and businessmen has tragic consequences on the ground, and has been reflected in this disturbing increase in violations against journalists,” Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in a statement.” United States added to list of most dangerous countries for journalists for first time (Reuters)

Religious Buildings on Fire

“But it has survived: While the damage to the interior of the historic building is still uncertain, the fire did not consume Notre-Dame, according to authorities in Paris. The blaze stopped short of the two belfry towers that house the cathedral’s immense bells, the site immortalized by Victor Hugo in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. “The worst has been avoided even though the battle is not completely won,” said French President Emmanuel Macron.” Amid Notre-Dame’s Destruction, There’s Hope for Restoration (by Kriston Capps and Feargus O’Sullivan for City Lab)

“Footage showing smoke and fire emerging from the roof of a structure known as the Marwani Prayer Room, or Solomon’s Stables, could be seen on social media. The Palestine News Agency, the official outlet of the Palestinian National Authority, cited a guard as saying Monday that “the fire broke out in the guard’s room outside the roof of the Marwani Prayer Room, and the fire brigade of the Islamic Waqf handled the matter successfully.” No injuries or damage was reported during the short blaze.” Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque Fire (by Tom O’Connor for Newsweek)

“Most of the victims were killed in three churches where worshippers were attending Easter Sunday services. Three other bombings struck luxury hotels – the Cinnamon Grand, the Kingsbury and the Shangri-La – located in the heart of the capital Colombo, killing at least 35 foreigners. Among the dead were Japanese, Dutch, Chinese, British, American and Portuguese tourists. No immediate claim of responsibility was made for the carnage in a country that was at war for decades with Tamil separatists until 2009, a time when bomb blasts in Colombo and elsewhere were common.” Sri Lanka Easter bombings: Mass casualties in churches and hotels (Al Jazeera)

World Politics

“Police statements have several times called the violence “orchestrated”. But PSNI Det Supt Jason Murphy, who is leading the investigation, said he did not think media presence affected events. An MTV spokesperson pointed to the PSNI’s statement and said there was “no evidence of any sort to show that the presence of the media on the ground contributed or impacted the situation on the Creggan estate.”” Dissidents accused of stoking Derry riot for Reggie Yates documentary (by Rory Carroll for The Guardian)

“The Liberal government, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, says it intends to change the law to make it harder for refugees to go “asylum shopping”. But legal experts and refugee advocates warn these changes could flout domestic and international law, and ruin Canada’s reputation as a defender of refugees. “I think that the Liberal government has really taken a sharp turn,” says law professor and refugee lawyer Warda Shazadi Meighen. “Canada was really an outlier in the last five years as a country upholding refugee rights in the face of populism… and this will really chip away at that.”” Trudeau takes ‘sharp turn’ away from ‘refugees welcome’ (BBC)

Something Good

Do you watch Game of Thrones? Then you should be reading these recaps on Pajiba.