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Bullshit Jobs? with Erik Dean
Episode 16419th March 2022 • Macro N Cheese • Steve D Grumbine MS, MBA, PMP, PSM1, ITIL
00:00:00 00:52:55

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It's hard to imagine ever having been unaware of the concept of bullshit jobs, but David Graeber made it official and helped us understand their role in our economy. Bullshit jobs are not necessarily shit jobs, nor are they low wage jobs, or dirty jobs. Bullshit jobs are those that are meaningless. The person doing the bullshit job doesn’t believe the work actually needs to get done.

This week’s guest, Erik Dean, has studied the nature of modern jobs within money manager capitalism. He points out that bullshit jobs aren’t just a product of neoliberalism:

“Speculative business and these labor hierarchies of the people with secure jobs versus the precariat … those things have been around. and it's not even necessarily part of capitalism. This is one reason it's good to read Thorstein Veblen, because in an anthropological sense, he takes it back to prior to capitalism. It's not like we didn't have hierarchies before capitalism. It's not like we didn't have power and it's not like we didn't have bullshit jobs. What the hell is a court jester? It's a bullshit job to entertain the king or whatever.”

Dean talks with Steve about financialized capitalism – money market capitalism – and his disagreements with many on its basic characteristics. Just as bullshit jobs existed prior to our contemporary world, so did some of its other qualities, including its speculative nature and “short termism.”

It was once thought that technology would relieve us of onerous jobs, allowing a shorter, lighter workweek, exchanging bullshit jobs for socially useful work. Steve confesses skepticism about the possibility of such a revolution. Dean responds:

“If we were capable individually and collectively to reimagine what work is, what your time is best spent doing, and to break free of that encroaching neoliberal finance capitalist ideology that is, again, just gradually soaking into how we think about everything. To some extent, that is a revolution. If you can change the way you think and break free of the wider education of this neoliberalist ideology, that itself is a revolution.”

**Don’t forget to check out the transcript for this and every episode of Macro N Cheese as well as the Extras page with additional resources. Find them at

Erik Dean is an Instructor of Economics at Portland Community College and researcher at the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity. His core expertise is in heterodox production theory, institutionalist methodology, and pedagogy in economics. His recent research covers a range of topics, including the nature of the modern occupational structure and the place of the corporation in money manager capitalism and the ramifications thereof.