Should your job even exist?

May 10, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More

I’ve often wondered how most of us in the United State would fare if we were forced to stand up and justify our jobs, one by one. We can do without most of the stuff in high-priced malls. We can do without casinos and all of the thousands of people they employ. Wall Street banks “make” only about the amount that they take in from federal government welfare, year after year. We could do away with all of these, and many many more.

Should your job even exist? David Graeber explains that people with make-work jobs envy those with real jobs:

All my life, there’s people, you meet them at parties, you run into them, you ask them what they do, and they kind of look sheepish and don’t want to admit it, you know? They say, well, it’s not really very interesting. It’s like, well, I’m a human resource consultant; I work at a computer firm where I fill out forms of a certain kind to make it faster for somebody else to do this, or I’m a middle man among seven layers of middlemen in this sort of outsourcing… They’re always embarrassed; they don’t look like they do anything. All those people out there who have these jobs that you don’t think they’re really doing anything, they must be suffering, they must know that their jobs are essentially made up. Imagine going to work every day knowing you’re not really doing anything. What must that do to someone’s soul?
Why America’s favorite anarchist thinks most American workers are slaves

How could you have dignity in labor if you secretly believe your job shouldn’t exist? But, of course, you’re not going to tell your boss that. So I thought, you know, there must be enormous moral and spiritual damage done to our society. And then I thought, well, maybe that explains some other things, like why is it there’s this deep, popular resentment against people who have real jobs? They can get people so angry at auto-workers, just because they make 30 bucks an hour, which is like nowhere near what corporate lawyers make, but nobody seems to resent them. They get angry at the auto-workers; they get angry at teachers. They don’t get angry at school administrators, who actually make more money. Most of the problems people blame on teachers, and I think on some level, that’s resentment: all these people with meaningless jobs are saying, but, you guys get to teach kids, you get to make cars; that’s real work. We don’t get to do real work; you want benefits, too? That’s not reasonable. . . . It’s envy of people who get to have meaningful jobs that actually produce something.

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Category: Economy, Labor and Working Conditions

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Gabe Smith says:

    I work as a paralegal at a defense firm. I am very much a middle-man. I am often working to defend insurance companies that I despise. However, this is what I went to school for and if I quit, my family will go broke. I have done things from a work-product standpoint that have made me proud, but never have I been proud of my job. I feel like I am “working for the man.” I’ve never felt like I was helping a person or a cause; just the machine.

    My wife, who is a school teacher, is the complete opposite. Although my job actually pays more, when my kids talk about their futures, I point them to my wife as the direction to career happiness. Doing something to help others.

    I’m not trying to put down the entire legal profession, just those who have to constantly answer to an insurance company who sees people as claims.

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