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Fabians Reading Group: "On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs", an essay by David Graeber

  • The Wheatsheaf 25 Rathbone Place London, England, W1T 1JB United Kingdom (map)

"Once, when contemplating the apparently endless growth of administrative responsibilities in British academic departments, I came up with one possible vision of hell. Hell is a collection of individuals who are spending the bulk of their time working on a task they don't like and are not especially good at."

In the first meeting of the London Fabians Reading Group, we'll be reading "On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs", by Goldsmiths' based anthropologist David Graeber. In this essay, Graeber argues that the promises made by early socialists that technology would progressively liberate human beings from drudgery have not been realised, due to the proliferation of what he calls "bullshit jobs".

This viral article from several years ago inspired a great deal of commentary and ongoing research by Graeber, whose expanded analysis, "Bullshit Jobs: A Theory" will soon be published.

In light of the anticipation about his next book, we'll unpack this essay to see if what he has to say about consumerism, industrialism, and Fordism really justifies the excitement which it and his subsequent work have generated. We'll attempt to examine whether or not political actors such as the Fabian Society have anything to gain from taking criticism of post-Fordist, "post-industrial" society seriously - particularly with regards to the ongoing question of who exactly puts the word "labour" in the Labour Party after a half-century of de-industrialisation in high-GDP countries like Great Britain.

As this is our first meeting, picking this essay(or any essay, as opposed to a book) is an experiment, as is the use of this venue and the timeslot, so I'll be keen to hear feedback about how people find it! Suggestions for readings, venues, other times to meet, and everything else will be very welcome. And feel free to bring guests!

Find the article here: