Bullshit Jobs and Donkey Droppings
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Does your job, or the one you're considering applying for, contribute meaningfully to the world? Or is it one that society could do without? According to the late anthropologist David Graeber, over half of jobs in modern economies are pointless or even harmful to society. He introduced the term ‘bullshit job’ in his 2013 essay titled On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs. But what can we do against the emergence of such jobs? Are there ways to create more meaningful work instead? To what extent does work bring us a sense of purpose?
Anthropologist Jelle Wiering embarked on a study focused on finding the opposite of a meaningless job, choosing a setting where individuals are more physically engaged and not primarily driven by financial incentives—a donkey shelter. Why do donkey caretakers spend so much of their working time cleaning stables and caring for animals? How do they feel about their work? Through discussing examples from his research, Jelle Wiering will share his take on finding meaning in work. How are questions of meaning expressed in the workplace and how do parties respond to them? And how can we integrate that knowledge in the struggle against bullshitjobs?
Jelle Wiering is a cultural anthropologist focusing on the entanglements of meaningful work, dirty work, and sensemaking. He works at the Faculty of Culture, Religion, and Society in Groningen. Previously he researched pilgrims traveling to Santiago de Compostela, Buddhists meditating in Utrecht, and the role of religion in sex education.