📆 November 27, 2022 | ⏱️ 5 minute read

Bullshit Jobs Really Are Bullshit

Ever since writing “Automation, Bullshit Jobs, And Work”, I’ve heard some push back which wasn’t addressed in the original entry and I’d like to respond to it.

Bullshit Jobs Aren’t Bullshit Because Money

So the first criticism is that bullshit jobs aren’t bullshit because people need money. People who say this are missing the point. With the way the economy currently works where you need a job for money to live, even if it’s a pointless job, having a bullshit job does serve some purpose. No one denies that. I’m not telling people to quit their desperately needed bullshit jobs. By all means, do what you have to do.

But my point is that if the way the economy works were to be changed, a lot of jobs could be eliminated and society would actually be better off. By “society would be better off”, I mean that people would have more free time to do the things they enjoy and spend time with loved ones rather than taking orders from a boss all day. If you don’t think people not having to work boring pointless jobs is a Good Thing, then I don’t know what more to say to you.

Perhaps this is a disagreement over the concept of bullshit. Those who say these jobs shouldn’t be defined as bullshit are basically arguing that millions of people doing thousands of hours of labor per year, time that they will never get back, time that could otherwise spend with family or enjoying the richness of the experience doing things that matter to them, that does not constitute bullshit because people in power have decided that those who refuse to do it should starve.

By any reasonable definition of bullshit, these jobs are. Imagine a gas station attendant who stands there all day pumping others’ gas. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say the vast majority of gas station attendants would be better off doing something else. If we fired all gas station attendants, but made the gas stations continue paying the former employees the same salary, nothing bad would happen. Everything would stay the same, except millions of people wouldn’t be wasting their precious time pumping people’s gas who can do it themselves.

Those in power would like very much for people like me not to call out these jobs for what they really are: bullshit that could be eliminated through policy change. To whatever degree the rich and powerful realize it, it’s in their economic interests for poorer people not to have free time. We might use that time to organize for our fair share of the economic pie. It’s in their interests for us to be so preoccupied with survival that we’re too exhausted to resist their greed. When you say these jobs aren’t bullshit, you are making their case for them. Exactly whose side are you on?

Isn’t Life Itself Bullshit?

The second criticism is that bullshit jobs aren’t bullshit because life itself is also a bullshit job. To my eyes, this is a total non-sequitur. The analogy falls apart completely upon closer inspection from any angle. I have a hard time wrapping my head around what is even being claimed, or restating it in a coherent way.

For one, spending time doing things one wants to do is generally preferable to working a bullshit job. Not living, or being dead, is, as far as anybody knows, not an experience that can be had. While there are alternatives to bullshit jobs, as a matter of conscious experience, there is no alternative to being alive.

Since “life” is the collection of all experiences, I don’t think it can be said to have a purpose the same way a bullshit job has a purpose. I don’t understand what motivates all these philosophers rack their brains trying to figure out the “point of life” as if that question really needed an answer. It’s simple. When I wake up in the morning and enjoy the taste of eggs and toast for breakfast, when I write on this journal, when I exercise, the experience is the point. I don’t need an answer to an invented philosophical non-problem before I can enjoy the toast.

Working a bullshit job is just the opposite. One works a bullshit job not for its own sake, but to enable the possibility of other, more preferable experiences. A bullshit job is a means to an end while life is its own end. The idea that life itself, the sum total of all experiences, is comparable to working a pointless job and to use that comparison to justify the existence of bullshit jobs is totally incoherent.


In closing, bullshit jobs really are bullshit. Perhaps they offer a sense of purpose in that you don’t have to figure out what to do with your time because there’s someone else telling you what to do. But that’s a sad state of affairs. As a society, we can find better ways to give people a sense of purpose.

I really don’t understand what motivates non-rich people to defend bullshit jobs. It might be intellectual laziness, protecting one’s own sense of importance, or just a bias towards blindly defending the status quo.

I’ve met a lot of people that just defend The Way Things Currently Are no matter what. And, when The Way Things Currently Are changes, they defend the new state of affairs. It both puzzles and fascinates me. Maybe I’ll talk about that in another entry though. Anyways, thanks for reading! See you next time.