David Graeber is a Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics. There’s so many interesting ideas in this essay. Here are a few of my favorites.
“What would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear?”
I stopped for a few seconds to think of the jobs I had (DJ, postal inspector, middle manager, web monkey) and confess nothing very bad would have happened if they disappeared.
“Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. … It’s as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working.”
“The ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger (think of what started to happen when this even began to be approximated in the ‘60s). And, on the other hand, the feeling that work is a moral value in itself, and that anyone not willing to submit themselves to some kind of intense work discipline for most of their waking hours deserves nothing, is extraordinarily convenient for them.”
“Technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. … Given the choice between less hours and more toys and pleasures, we’ve collectively chosen the latter.”