Herald: The next talk is by David Graeber, and he’s an author, activist and anthro­pol­o­gist. And he will be speak­ing about his talk From Managerial Feudalism to the Revolt of the Caring Class”. Please give him a great round of applause and wel­come him to the stage. [applause]

David Graeber: Hello. Hi. It’s great to be here. I want­ed to talk—I’ve been in a very bad mood this last week, owing to the results of the elec­tion in the UK. And I’ve been think­ing very hard about what hap­pened, and how to main­tain hope. 

I don’t usu­al­ly use visu­al aids but I actu­al­ly assem­bled them. And the thing— What I want to talk about a lit­tle bit is what seems to be hap­pen­ing in the world polit­i­cal­ly that we have results like what just hap­pened in the UK. And why there is nonethe­less rea­son for hope. Which I real­ly think there is. In a way, this is very much a blip. Probably the most— But there’s a strate­gic les­son to be learned, I think, speak­ing as some­one who’s been involved in attempts to trans­form the world…at least for the last twen­ty years since I was involved with the glob­al jus­tice move­ment. I think that there’s a real…lack of strate­gic under­stand­ing. That there’s a—vast shifts that’re hap­pen­ing in the world in terms of cen­tral class dynam­ics that the pop­ulist right is tak­ing advan­tage of, and the left is real­ly being caught flat-footed on. So, I want to make a case of what seems to be going wrong and what we could do about it. 

First of all, in terms of despair­ing. I was very much at the point of despair­ing. So many peo­ple put so much work, that I know, into try­ing to turn around the sit­u­a­tion, there seemed to be a gen­uine pos­si­bil­i­ty of a broad social trans­for­ma­tion in England. And when we got the results, I mean…there was a kind of sense of shock. 

But actu­al­ly, if you look at the break­down of the vote, for exam­ple, it does­n’t look too great for the right in the long run. Basically, the younger you are, the more deter­mined you are to kick the Tories out. The core— Actually I’ve nev­er seen num­bers quite like this. The elec­toral base of the right wing is almost exclu­sive­ly old. And the old­er you are, the more like­ly you are to vote con­ser­v­a­tive. Which is real­ly kind of amaz­ing. Because it means that the elec­toral base of the right is lit­er­al­ly dying off. A process which they’re actu­al­ly expe­dit­ing by defund­ing health­care in every way pos­si­ble. [laughs]

And nor­mal­ly you’d say, Oh yes, so what. As peo­ple get old­er, they become more con­ser­v­a­tive.” But there’s every rea­son to think that that’s not actu­al­ly hap­pen­ing this time around. Especially because tra­di­tion­al­ly, peo­ple who either had been apa­thet­ic or had vot­ed for the left who even­tu­al­ly end up vot­ing for the right do so at the point when they get a mort­gage, or when they get a sort of secure job with room for pro­mo­tion and there­fore feel they have a stake in the system. 

Well, that’s pre­cise­ly what’s not hap­pen­ing to this new gen­er­a­tion. So if that’s the case, the right wing’s actu­al­ly in the long run in real trou­ble. And to show you just how remark­able the sit­u­a­tion is, some­one put togeth­er a elec­toral map of the UK, show­ing what it would look like if only peo­ple over sixty-five vot­ed, and what it would look like if only peo­ple under twenty-five vot­ed. Here’s the first one. 

Blue is Tory. If only peo­ple over sixty-five vot­ed, I believe there would be four or five Labor MPs, but oth­er­wise entire­ly con­ser­v­a­tive. Now here’s the map if only peo­ple under twenty-five voted. 

There would be no Tory MPs at all. There might be a few Liberal Dems and Welsh can­di­dates, and Scottish ones. 

And in fact this is a rel­a­tive­ly recent phe­nom­e­na. Here’s…if you look at the diver­gence, you know, it real­ly is just the last few years it start­ed to look like that. So some­thing has hap­pened that like almost all young peo­ple com­ing in are vot­ing not just for the left but for the rad­i­cal left. I mean, Corbyn ran on a plat­form that just two or three years before would’ve been con­sid­ered com­plete­ly insane and you know, just falling off the polit­i­cal spec­trum alto­geth­er. Yet the vast major­i­ty of young peo­ple vot­ed for it. 

The prob­lem is that in a sit­u­a­tion like this, the swing vot­ers are the sort of middle-aged peo­ple. And for some rea­son middle-aged peo­ple broke right. The ques­tion is why did that hap­pen? And I’ve been try­ing to fig­ure that out. 

Now, in order to do so I think we need to real­ly think hard about what has been hap­pen­ing to social class rela­tions. And the con­clu­sion that I came to is that essen­tial­ly the left is apply­ing an out­dat­ed par­a­digm. You know, they’re still think­ing in terms of boss­es and work­ers and a kind of old-fashioned indus­tri­al sense. Where what’s real­ly going on is that for most peo­ple the key class oppo­si­tion is care­givers ver­sus man­agers. And essen­tial­ly, left­ist par­ties are try­ing to rep­re­sent both sides at the same time, but they’re real­ly dom­i­nat­ed by the latter. 

Now I’m going to go through some basic polit­i­cal econ­o­my stuff in way of back­ground. And this is a key sort of sta­tis­tic, which is the kind of thing we were look­ing at when we first start­ed talk­ing about the 99% and the 1% at the begin­ning of Occupy Wall Street. Essentially, until the mid-70s, there was a sort of understanding—between 1945 and 1975, say. There was an under­stand­ing that as pro­duc­tiv­i­ty increas­es, wages will go up, too. And they large­ly went up togeth­er. This only takes it from 1960, but it goes back to the 40s. More pro­duc­tiv­i­ty goes up; a cut of that went to the work­ers. Around 1975 or so it real­ly splits. And since then, if you see what’s going on here, pro­duc­tiv­i­ty keeps going up and up and up and up, where­as wages remain flat. 

So the ques­tion is what hap­pens to all that mon­ey from the increased pro­duc­tiv­i­ty? Basically it goes to 1% of the pop­u­la­tion. And that’s what we were talk­ing about when we talked about the 1%. The oth­er point, which was key to the notion of the 99 and 1% when we devel­oped that, was that the 1% are also the peo­ple who make all the polit­i­cal cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions. These sta­tis­tics are from America, which has an unusu­al­ly cor­rupt sys­tem. But pret­ty much all of them— Bribery is basi­cal­ly legal in America. But essen­tial­ly it’s the same peo­ple who are mak­ing all the cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions who have col­lect­ed all of the prof­its from increased pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, all the increased wealth. And essen­tial­ly they’re the peo­ple who man­aged to turn their wealth into pow­er and their pow­er back into wealth. 

So, who are these peo­ple, and how does this relate to changes in the work­force? Well, the inter­est­ing thing that I dis­cov­ered when I start­ed look­ing into this is that the rhetoric we used to describe the changes in class struc­ture since the 70s is real­ly decep­tive. Because you know, since…really since the 80s, every­body’s been talk­ing about the ser­vice econ­o­my. We’re shift­ing from an indus­tri­al to a ser­vice economy. 

And the image that peo­ple have is that you know, we’ve all gone from being fac­to­ry work­ers to serv­ing each oth­er lattes and press­ing each oth­er’s trousers and so forth. But actu­al­ly, if you look at the actu­al num­bers of peo­ple in retail, peo­ple who’re actu­al­ly serv­ing food… I don’t have a detailed break­down here. But they remain pret­ty much con­stant. And in fact I’ve seen fig­ures going back 150 years which show that it’s pret­ty much 15% of the pop­u­la­tion that does that sort of thing. It has been for you know, over a cen­tu­ry. It does­n’t real­ly change. It goes up and down a lit­tle bit. But basi­cal­ly, the amount of peo­ple who’re actu­al­ly pro­vid­ing services—haircuts, things like that—is pret­ty much the same as it’s always been. 

What’s actu­al­ly hap­pened is that you’ve had a growth of two areas. One is pro­vid­ing, what I would call care­giv­ing work. And I would include edu­ca­tion and health. But basi­cal­ly tak­ing care of oth­er peo­ple in one way or anoth­er. In the sta­tis­tics you have to look at edu­ca­tion and health because they don’t real­ly have a cat­e­go­ry of care­giv­ing in eco­nom­ic statistics. 

On the oth­er hand you have admin­is­tra­tion. And the num­ber of peo­ple who’re doing cler­i­cal, admin­is­tra­tive, and super­vi­so­ry work has gone up enor­mous­ly. To some degree…according to some accounts, it’s gone up from maybe 20% of the pop­u­la­tion in say, UK or America in 1900, to 40, 50, 60%. I mean even a major­i­ty of workers. 

Now, the inter­est­ing thing about that is that huge num­bers of those peo­ple seem to be con­vinced they real­ly aren’t doing any­thing. Essentially if their jobs did­n’t exist it would make no dif­fer­ence at all. It’s almost as if they were just mak­ing up jobs in offices to keep peo­ple busy. And this was the theme of my book I wrote on bull­shit jobs. 

And just to describe the gen­e­sis of that book, essen­tial­ly I don’t actu­al­ly myself come from a pro­fes­sion­al back­ground. So, as a pro­fes­sor I con­stant­ly meet peo­ple. Sort of…spouses of my col­leagues, the sort of peo­ple you meet when you’re social­iz­ing with peo­ple with pro­fes­sion­al back­grounds. I keep run­ning into peo­ple at par­ties who work in offices and say­ing, Well—” You know I’m an anthro­pol­o­gist, right. I keep ask­ing, Well what do you actu­al­ly do? I mean, what does a per­son who is a man­age­ment con­sul­tant, you know, actu­al­ly do all day?” 

And very often they will say, Well, not much.” 

Or you ask people—you’ll say, I am an anthro­pol­o­gist, what do you do?” and they’ll say, Well, noth­ing really.” 

And you know, you think they’re just being mod­est, you know. So, you kind of inter­ro­gate them…a few drinks lat­er they admit that actu­al­ly they meant that lit­er­al­ly. They actu­al­ly do noth­ing all day. You know, they sit around and they adjust their Facebook pro­files. They play com­put­er games. Sometimes they’ll take a cou­ple calls a day. Sometimes they’ll take a cou­ple calls a week. Sometimes they’re just there in case some­thing goes wrong. Sometimes they just don’t do any­thing at all. And you ask, Well, does your super­vi­sor know this?” And they say, You know, I often won­der. I think they do.”

So I began to won­der, how many peo­ple are there like this? Is this some weird coin­ci­dence that I just hap­pen to run into peo­ple like this all the time? What sec­tion of the work­force is actu­al­ly doing noth­ing all day? 

So I wrote a lit­tle arti­cle. I had a friend who was start­ing a rad­i­cal mag­a­zine, said, Can you write some­thing provoca­tive? You know, some­thing you’d nev­er be able to get pub­lished else­where?” So I wrote a lit­tle piece called On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs, where I sug­gest­ed that you know, back in the 30s, Keynes wrote this famous essay pre­dict­ing that by around now we would all be work­ing fifteen-hour weeks because automa­tion would like, get rid of most man­u­al labor. And if you look at the jobs that exist­ed in the 30s you know, that’s true. 

So I said well maybe what’s hap­pened is the rea­son we’re not work­ing fifteen-hour weeks is they just made up bull­shit jobs, just to keep us all work­ing. And I wrote this piece you know, as kind of a joke, right? 

Within a week, this thing had been trans­lat­ed into fif­teen dif­fer­ent lan­guages. It was cir­cu­lat­ing around the world. The serv­er kept crash­ing, it was get­ting mil­lions and mil­lions of hits. And I was like oh my god, you mean it’s true? And even­tu­al­ly some­one did a sur­vey. YouGov, I think. And they dis­cov­ered that of peo­ple in the UK, 37% agreed that if their job did­n’t exist, either it would make no dif­fer­ence what­so­ev­er or the world might be a slight­ly bet­ter place. 

And I thought about that. Like, what must that do to the human soul? Can you imag­ine that? You know, wak­ing up every morn­ing and going to work think­ing that you’re doing absolute­ly noth­ing if. No won­der peo­ple are angry and depressed. 

And I thought about it and you know, it explains a lot of social phe­nom­e­na that if peo­ple are just pre­tend­ing to work all day. And you know, it actu­al­ly real­ly touched me. And it’s strange because I come from a work­ing class back­ground myself, so you’d think that, you know, oh great, so lots of peo­ple are paid to do noth­ing all day and get good salaries. Like, my heart bleeds, you know? 

But actu­al­ly if you think about it, it’s actu­al­ly a hor­ri­ble sit­u­a­tion. Because as some­one who has had a real job knows, the very very worst part of any real job is when you fin­ish the job but you have to keep work­ing because your boss’ll get mad, you know. You have to pre­tend to work because it’s some­body else’s time. It’s a very strange meta­phys­i­cal notion we have in our soci­ety, that some­one else can own your time. So since you’re on the clock, you have to keep work­ing or pre­tend to be. Make up some­thing to look busy. 

Well appar­ent­ly, at least a third of peo­ple in our soci­ety, that’s all they do. Their entire job con­sists of just look­ing busy to make some­body else hap­py. That must be hor­ri­ble. That must… 

And it made a lot of polit­i­cal sense. Why is it that peo­ple seem to resent teach­ers or auto work­ers? After the 2008 crash, the peo­ple who real­ly had to take a hit were teach­ers and auto work­ers. And there was a lot of peo­ple say­ing, Well, these guys are mak­ing twenty-five dol­lars an hour, you know?” Well yeah. That’s…they’re pro­vid­ing a use­ful service—they’re mak­ing cars. You’re American, you’re sup­posed to like cars. You know, cars is what makes you what you are if you’re American. How would they resent auto workers? 

And I real­ized that it only makes sense if there’s huge pro­por­tions of the pop­u­la­tion who aren’t doing any­thing, and were total­ly mis­er­able, and are basi­cal­ly say­ing like, Yeah, but…you get to teach kids. You get to make stuff. You get to [make] cars. And then you want vaca­tions, too? That’s not fair,” you know? It’s almost as if the suf­fer­ing that you expe­ri­ence doing noth­ing all day is itself a sort of val­i­da­tion of…it’s like this kind of hair shirt that makes you—justifies your salary. And I tru­ly hear peo­ple say­ing this log­ic all the time, that well teach­ers you know, I mean, they get to teach kids. You don’t want peo­ple to pay em too much. You don’t want peo­ple who’re just inter­est­ed in mon­ey tak­ing care of our kids, do we? 

Which is odd because you nev­er hear peo­ple say…you nev­er want greedy peo­ple, peo­ple who are just inter­est­ed in mon­ey tak­ing care of our mon­ey so there­fore you should­n’t pay bankers so much. Though you’d think that would be a more seri­ous prob­lem, right? Yeah, so there is this idea that if you’re doing some­thing that actu­al­ly serves a pur­pose, somehow…that should be enough. You should­n’t get a lot of mon­ey for it. 

Alright. So, as a result of this, there is actu­al­ly an inverse relationship—that I don’t have actu­al num­bers for this—but there’s actu­al­ly an inverse rela­tion­ship, and I have seen eco­nom­ic con­fir­ma­tion of this, between how social­ly ben­e­fi­cial your work is—how obvi­ous­ly your work ben­e­fits oth­er people—and how much you get paid. And there’s a few excep­tions, like doc­tors, which every­body talks about. But gen­er­al­ly speak­ing the more use­ful your work the less they’ll pay you for it. 

Now, this is obvi­ous­ly a big prob­lem already. But there’s every rea­son to believe that the prob­lem is actu­al­ly get­ting worse. And one of the fas­ci­nat­ing things I dis­cov­ered when I start­ed look­ing at the eco­nom­ic sta­tis­tics is that if you look at jobs that actu­al­ly are use­ful, and let’s again look at care­giv­ing. Remember the big growth in jobs over the last thir­ty years has been in two areas, which are sort of col­lapsed in the term ser­vice” but are real­ly actu­al­ly total­ly dif­fer­ent. One is the sort of admin­is­tra­tive, cler­i­cal, and super­vi­so­ry work. And the oth­er is the actu­al care­giv­ing labor, the work where you’re actu­al­ly help­ing peo­ple in some way. So, edu­ca­tion and health are the two areas which show up on the statistics. 

Okay, if you look at these sta­tis­tics you dis­cov­er that pro­duc­tiv­i­ty in man­u­fac­tur­ing as we all know is going way up. Productivity in cer­tain oth­er areas—wholesale, busi­ness services—are going up. However pro­duc­tiv­i­ty in edu­ca­tion, health, and oth­er services—basically care­giv­ing in gen­er­al, inso­far as it shows up on the charts, pro­duc­tiv­i­ty’s actu­al­ly going down.

Well why is that? That’s real­ly inter­est­ing. We’ll talk in a moment about what pro­duc­tiv­i­ty actu­al­ly even means in this con­text. But here’s a sug­ges­tion as to why. 

This is the growth of physi­cians on the bot­tom, ver­sus the growth of actu­al med­ical admin­is­tra­tors in the United States since 1970. It’s a fair­ly impressive-looking graph there. Basically, that sort of giant moun­tain there is what I called the bull­shit sec­tor. There’s absolute­ly no rea­son why you’d actu­al­ly need that many peo­ple to admin­is­ter doctors. 

And actu­al­ly, the real effect of hav­ing all those peo­ple is to make the doc­tors and the nurs­es less effi­cient rather than more. Because—I know this per­fect­ly well from edu­ca­tion, because I’m a pro­fes­sor; that’s what I do for a liv­ing. The amount of actu­al admin­is­tra­tive paper­work you have to do actu­al­ly increas­es with the num­ber of admin­is­tra­tors. Over the last thir­ty to forty years…you know, some­thing sim­i­lar has happened—it isn’t quite as bad as this. But some­thing very sim­i­lar has hap­pened in America in uni­ver­si­ties, that the num­ber of pro­fes­sors has dou­bled but the num­ber of actu­al admin­is­tra­tors has gone up by 240, 300%. So…hold on, more than that, actu­al­ly. So, sud­den­ly you have like twice as many admin­is­tra­tors for pro­fes­sors as you had before.

Now, you would think that that would mean that pro­fes­sors have to do less admin­is­tra­tion because you have more admin­is­tra­tors. Exactly the oppo­site is the case. More and more of your time is tak­en up by administration. 

Well, why is that? The major rea­son is because the way it works is, if you are hired as you know, exec­u­tive vice provost or assis­tant dean or some­thing like that, some big shot admin­is­tra­tive posi­tion at a British or American uni­ver­si­ty, well you want to feel like an exec­u­tive. And they give these guys these giant six-figure salaries. They treat them like they’re an exec­u­tive. So if you’re an exec­u­tive of course you have to have a minor army of flunkies, of assis­tants, to make your­self feel important. 

The prob­lem is they give these guys five or six assis­tants, but then they fig­ure out what those five or six assis­tants are actu­al­ly going to do. Which usu­al­ly turns out to be…make up work for me, right. The pro­fes­sor. So sud­den­ly I have to do time allo­ca­tion stud­ies. Suddenly I have to do…you know, learn­ing out­come assess­ments, where I describe what the dif­fer­ence between the under­grad­u­ate and grad­u­ate sec­tion of the same course is going to be. Basically com­plete­ly point­less stuff that nobody had to do thir­ty years ago and made no dif­fer­ence at all, to jus­ti­fy the exis­tence of this kind of moun­tain of admin­is­tra­tors and just give them some­thing to do all day. 

Now, the inter­est­ing result of that is that…and this is where this sort of stuff comes in. It’s actually…the num­bers are there, but it’s very, very dif­fi­cult to inter­pret. So I had to actu­al­ly get an econ­o­mist friend to sort of go through all this with me and con­firm that what I thought was hap­pen­ing was actu­al­ly hap­pen­ing. Essentially what’s going on is just as man­u­fac­tur­ing, dig­i­ti­za­tion is being employed to make it much more effi­cient. Productivity goes up, the num­ber of work­ers go down. The num­ber of pay­ment that they…you know, the wages are actu­al­ly going way up in man­u­fac­tur­ing. But it does­n’t real­ly make a dent in prof­its because there are so few workers. 

So okay. That we kind of all know about. On the oth­er hand, in the car­ing sec­tor the exact oppo­site has hap­pened. Digitization is being used as an excuse to make low­er pro­duc­tiv­i­ty so as to jus­ti­fy the exis­tence of this army of administrators. 

And if you think about it, you know, basi­cal­ly in order to trans­late a qual­i­ta­tive out­come into a form that a com­put­er can even under­stand, that requires a large amount of human labor. That’s why I have to do the learn­ing out­come stud­ies and the time allo­ca­tion stuff, right. But real­ly, ulti­mate­ly that’s to jus­ti­fy the exis­tence of this giant army of administrators. 

 Photo of a large group of men at a construction site labeled with various management job titles who seem to be mostly talking to each other, clustered around a single man actually doing work in some excavated earth labeled "bloke from Poland."

Now, as a result of that, you need to have actu­al­ly more peo­ple work­ing in those sec­tors to pro­duce the same out­come, because they’re becom­ing less and less pro­duc­tive. More and more of your time has to be spent… Oh, yes. This is what the aver­age com­pa­ny now looks like. More and more of your time ends up being spent sort of mak­ing the admin­is­tra­tors hap­py and giv­ing them an excuse for their existence.

This is a break­down I saw in a report about American office work­ers, where they com­pared 2015 and 2016 and said you know, in 2015 only 46% of their time was spent actu­al­ly doing their job. That declined by 7% in one year, to 39%. That’s got to be some kind of sta­tis­ti­cal anom­aly. Because if that were actu­al­ly true, in about a decade and a half, nobody will be doing any work at all. But it gives you an idea of what’s hap­pen­ing. So, if pro­duc­tiv­i­ty is going down these peo­ple are just sort of work­ing all the time to sat­is­fy the admin­is­tra­tors. So the cre­ation of bull­shit jobs essen­tial­ly cre­ates the bull­shi­ti­za­tion of real jobs. There’s both a squeeze on prof­its and wages. Because more and more mon­ey is going to pay the admin­is­tra­tors. And you need to hire more and more people. 

So what do you get? Well, if you look around the world, where is labor action hap­pen­ing? Basically, you have teach­ers strikes all over America. You have pro­fes­sor strikes in the UK. You have care home work­ers, I believe, in France. They had nurs­ing home work­ers, first time ever on strike. Nurse’s strikes all over the world. Basically care­givers are at the sort of cut­ting edge of indus­tri­al action. 

The prob­lem, of course, and this is the prob­lem for the left, is that the admin­is­tra­tors who are the basic class ene­my of the nurses—and I believe in New Zealand, the nurs­es wrote a very clear man­i­festo stat­ing this. They said you know, the prob­lem we have is that there’s all of these hos­pi­tal admin­is­tra­tors, these guys. Not only are they tak­ing all the mon­ey so we haven’t got a raise in twen­ty years. They give us so much paper­work we can’t take care of our patients. So that is the sort of class ene­my of what I call the car­ing classes. 

The prob­lem for the left is that often those guys are in the same union. And they’re cer­tain­ly in the same polit­i­cal par­ty. Tom Frank wrote a book called Listen, Liberal, where he doc­u­ment­ed what a lot of us had kind of had a sense of intu­itive­ly for some time. That what used to be left wing par­ties… Essentially the Clintonite Democrats, the Blairite Labor Party… You could talk about peo­ple like Macron, Trudeau. All of these guys, at essen­tial­ly the head of par­ties that used to be par­ties based in labor unions and the work­ing class­es, and by exten­sion the car­ing class­es as I call them. But have shift­ed to essen­tial­ly be the par­ties of the pro­fes­sion­al man­age­r­i­al class­es. So essen­tial­ly, they are the the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of that giant moun­tain of admin­is­tra­tors. That is their core base. 

I even caught a quote from Obama where he pret­ty much admit­ted it, where he said you know, While peo­ple ask me why we don’t have a sin­gle pay­er health plan in America. Wouldn’t that be sim­pler? Wouldn’t that be more effi­cient?” And he said, You know, well…yeah, I guess it would. But that’s kind of the prob­lem. We have at the moment what is it two, three mil­lion peo­ple work­ing for Kaiser, Blue Cross, Blue Shield, all these insur­ance com­pa­nies. What are we going to do with those guys if we have an effi­cient system?” 

So essen­tial­ly he admit­ted that it is inten­tion­al pol­i­cy to main­tain the mar­ke­ti­za­tion of health in America because it’s less effi­cient and allows them to main­tain a bunch of paper-pushers in offices doing com­plete­ly unnec­es­sary work, who are essen­tial­ly the core base of the Democratic Party. I mean those guys. They don’t real­ly care if they shut down auto plants, do they? In fact, they seem to take this glee. They say, Well you know, econ­o­my’s chang­ing, you just got­ta deal with it.” But the moment those guys in the offi­cers who’re doing noth­ing are threat­ened, the polit­i­cal par­ties leap into action and get all excited. 

Alright. So, if you look at what hap­pened in England, well it’s pret­ty clear that the con­ser­v­a­tives won because they maneu­vered the left into iden­ti­fy­ing itself with the pro­fes­sion­al man­age­r­i­al class­es. There is a split between the sort of labor union base—which is increas­ing­ly unions rep­re­sent­ing very mil­i­tant car­ers of one kind or anoth­er, and the pro­fes­sion­als, man­age­ri­als and the admin­is­tra­tors, both of whom are sup­pos­ed­ly rep­re­sent­ed by the same party. 

Now, Brexit was a per­fect issue to sort of make the bureau­crats and the admin­is­tra­tors and the pro­fes­sion­als into the class ene­my. Now, it’s very iron­ic. Because of course, in the long run the peo­ple who’re real­ly going to ben­e­fit from Brexit are pre­cise­ly lawyers, right. Because they got to rewrite every­thing in England. 

However, this is not how it was rep­re­sent­ed. It was rep­re­sent­ed your ene­mies— Well I mean, there was an appeal to racism, obvi­ous­ly. But there was also an appeal, your ene­mies are these dis­tant bureau­crats who know noth­ing of your lives. 

The key moment in terms—where essen­tial­ly the Tories man­aged to out­ma­neu­ver Labor and guar­an­teed their vic­to­ry was pre­cise­ly by forc­ing Labor into an alliance with all the peo­ple like the Liberal Democrats and the oth­er Remainers, who then used this incred­i­bly com­pli­cat­ed con­sti­tu­tion­al means to try to block Brexit from hap­pen­ing. And it was fun to watch at the time on TV. We were all trans­fixed. There were all these guys in wigs and strange peo­ple called Black Rod and you know…in odd cos­tumes, appeal­ing to all sorts of arcane rules from the 16th cen­tu­ry. And it was great dra­ma. You know, it was like cos­tume dra­ma come to life on television. 

But in effect… And you know, it seemed like Boris Johnson was just being con­stant­ly humil­i­at­ed. Everything he did did­n’t work. His plans col­lapsed. He lost every vote he tried. But in fact, what it end­ed up doing was it forced what was actu­al­ly a rad­i­cal par­ty which rep­re­sent­ed sort of angry youth in the UK into alliance with the pro­fes­sion­al man­age­ri­als who live by rules, and whose entire idea of democ­ra­cy is of a set of rules. 

This is very clear in America. And again, you could see this in the bat­tle of Trump ver­sus Hillary Clinton. Clinton was essen­tial­ly accused of being cor­rupt because she would do things like you know, get hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars for speech­es from invest­ment firms like Goldman Sachs, who obvi­ous­ly aren’t pay­ing politi­cians that kind of mon­ey unless they expect to get some kind of influ­ence out of it. And con­stant­ly Clinton’s defend­ers would say, Yes, but that was per­fect­ly legal. Everything she did was legal. Why are peo­ple get­ting so upset? She did­n’t break the law.”

And I think that if you want to under­stand class dynam­ics in a coun­try like England or America today, that phrase almost kind of gives the game away. Because peo­ple of the pro­fes­sion­al man­age­r­i­al class­es are prob­a­bly the only peo­ple alive who think that if you make bribery legal, that makes it okay. It’s all about form against con­tent. Democracy isn’t the pop­u­lar will, democ­ra­cy is a set of rules and reg­u­la­tions and if you fol­low the rules and reg­u­la­tions, well, you know, yeah that’s fine no mat­ter… And these guys, that kind of moun­tain of admin­is­tra­tors are the peo­ple who think that way. And they’ve become the base of par­ties— They are the elec­toral base of peo­ple like Clinton, peo­ple like Macron, peo­ple like Tony Blair had­n’t been. People like Obama. 

And Corbyn was not at all like that. He’s this per­son who had been a com­plete rebel against his own par­ty for his entire life. But what they did, was they maneu­vered him into a posi­tion where there had been a Brexit vote which rep­re­sent­ed sub­stance, the pop­u­lar will. And he was forced into a sit­u­a­tion where he had to like ally with the peo­ple who were try­ing to block it through legal­is­tic reg­u­la­tion, essen­tial­ly by appeal to end­less arcane laws, thus iden­ti­fy­ing his class with the pro­fes­sion­al managerials. 

And a lot of my friends who actu­al­ly were out on doorsteps you know, they actu­al­ly seem to think of Boris Johnson as a reg­u­lar guy. I mean this guy, his actu­al name is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. He is an aris­to­crat going back like 500 years. But they seemed to think he was a reg­u­lar guy, and Corbyn, who had­n’t even been to col­lege was sort of a mem­ber of the elite, based almost entire­ly on that. 

And if you look at peo­ple like Trump, and peo­ple like Johnson, how do they man­age to pull off being pop­ulist in any sense? You know, they’re born to every con­ceiv­able type of priv­i­lege. Basically they do it by act­ing like the exact oppo­site of the annoy­ing bureau­crat­ic admin­is­tra­tor who is your kind of ene­my at work. That’s the game of images they’re play­ing. Johnson’s clear­ly total­ly fake. He fakes disorganization—he’s actu­al­ly a very orga­nized per­son accord­ing to peo­ple who actu­al­ly know him. But he’s devel­oped this per­sona of this guy’s all about con­tent over form. And he’s just sort of chaot­ic and dis­or­ga­nized. So they basi­cal­ly play the role of being anti-bureaucrats and they maneu­ver the oth­er side into being iden­ti­fied with admin­is­tra­tion, rules, and reg­u­la­tions, and those guys who basi­cal­ly dri­ve you crazy. 

The ques­tion for the left then is how to break with that. So I have what is it, fif­teen min­utes in order to pro­pose how we can break with that? It strikes me that we need to kind of rip up the game and start over. We’re in anoth­er world eco­nom­i­cal­ly than we used to be. And per­haps the best way to do it is to think about…well when peo­ple say their jobs are bull­shit. You know, when that 37% of peo­ple who say, If my job did­n’t exist, prob­a­bly the world would be bet­ter off. I’m not actu­al­ly doing any­thing.” What do they actu­al­ly mean by that? 

In almost every case what they say is, Well it does­n’t real­ly ben­e­fit any­one.” There is a prin­ci­ple that ulti­mate­ly work is mean­ing­ful if it helps peo­ple and improves oth­er peo­ple’s lives. Thus, car­ing labor in a sense has become the par­a­digm for all forms of labor. And this is very very inter­est­ing because I think that to a large degree, the left is real­ly stuck on a notion of pro­duc­tion rather than car­ing. And and the rea­son we have been out­ma­neu­vered in the past has been pre­cise­ly because of that. 

I could talk about how this hap­pened. I think real­ly a lot of eco­nom­ics is real­ly the­o­log­i­cal; it’s the trans­po­si­tion of old reli­gious ideas about cre­ation, where human beings are sort of forced to… If you look at the sto­ry of Prometheus, the sto­ry of the Bible…you know, the human con­di­tion, our fall­en state, is one where God is a cre­ator, we tried to usurp his posi­tion, so God pun­ish­es us by say­ing, Okay, you can cre­ate your own lives but it’s going to be mis­er­able and painful.” So work is both is both pro­duc­tive, it’s cre­ative. But at the same time, it’s also sup­posed to be suffering. 

So we have an idea of work as pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. So I was actu­al­ly look­ing at these charts. They’re talk­ing about the dif­fer­ent pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of dif­fer­ent types of work. Now, I can see where the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of con­struc­tion comes in. But accord­ing to this, you could even mea­sure the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of real estate. The pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of agri­cul­ture, okay. Productivity of… I mean, every­thing is pro­duc­tion. What’s pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of real estate, that does­n’t make any sense. You’re not pro­duc­ing anything—it’s land, it sits there. 

Our par­a­digm for val­ue is pro­duc­tion. But if you think about it, most work is not pro­duc­tive. Most work is actu­al­ly about main­tain­ing things, it’s about care. Whenever I talk to a Marxist the­o­rist, and they try to explain val­ue, which is…what they always like to do, they always take the exam­ple of a teacup. They’ll say like…usually they’re sit­ting there with a glass, a bot­tle, a cup. They say, Well, look at this bot­tle. You know, it takes a cer­tain amount of socially-necessary labor time to pro­duce this. Say it takes you know, this much time, this much resources.” They’re always talk­ing about pro­duc­tion of stuff. 

But a teacup or a bot­tle, well you know, you pro­duce a cup once. You wash it like ten thou­sand times. Most work isn’t actu­al­ly about pro­duc­ing new things, it’s about main­tain­ing things. We have a warped notion—which really…it’s a very gen­dered, right? Real work is like male crafts­man bang­ing away, or some fac­to­ry work­er mak­ing a car or some­thing like that. It’s almost a par­a­digm for child­birth, right? Because labor is sup­posed to be…the word labor” is very inter­est­ing, right? Because in the Bible they curse Adam to work and they curse Eve to have pain in child­birth. But that’s called labor.” So there’s the idea that fac­to­ries are like these black box­es where you’re kind of push­ing stuff out like babies through a painful process that we don’t real­ly under­stand. And that’s what work main­ly con­sists of. 

But actu­al­ly that’s not what work main­ly con­sists of. Most work actu­al­ly con­sists of tak­ing care of oth­er peo­ple. So I think that what we need to do is we need to start over. We need to first of all think about the work­ing class­es not as pro­duc­ers, but as car­ers. The work­ing class­es are basi­cal­ly peo­ple who take care of oth­er peo­ple. And always have been. Actually, psy­cho­log­i­cal stud­ies show this real­ly well. That the poor­er you are, the bet­ter you are at read­ing oth­er peo­ple’s emo­tions and under­stand­ing what they’re feel­ing? That’s because, you know, it’s actu­al­ly the job of peo­ple to take care of oth­ers. Rich peo­ple just don’t have to think about what oth­er peo­ple are think­ing or car—they don’t care, literally. 

And so I think we need to A, rede­fine the work­ing class­es as car­ing class­es. But sec­ond of all, we need to move away from a par­a­digm of pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion as being what an econ­o­my is about. Because if we’re going to save the plan­et, we real­ly need to move away from productivism. 

So I would pro­pose that we just rip up the dis­ci­pline of eco­nom­ics as it exists and start over. [applause] So this is my pro­pos­al in this regard. I think that we should take the ideas of pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion, throw them away, and sub­sti­tute for them the idea of care and free­dom. Think about it, you know. [applause] Thank you, yeah. 

I mean, even if you’re mak­ing a bridge, right. You make a bridge becau—as fem­i­nists con­stant­ly point out—you know, you’re mak­ing a bridge because you care that peo­ple can get across the riv­er. You make a car because you care that peo­ple can get around. So even like pro­duc­tion is one sub­or­di­nate type of care. What we do is, you know, as human beings, is we take care of each other. 

But care is actually—and this is, I think, some­thing that we don’t often rec­og­nize, close­ly relat­ed to the notion of free­dom. Because nor­mal­ly care is defined as answer­ing to oth­er peo­ple’s needs. And cer­tain­ly that is an impor­tant ele­ment in it. But you know, it’s not just that. Like if you’re in a prison, right. They take care of the needs of the pris­on­ers. Usually, at least. To the point of giv­ing them basic food, cloth­ing, and med­ical care. But you can’t real­ly think of a prison as car­ing for pris­on­ers, right. Care is more than that. So why isn’t a prison a care­giv­ing insti­tu­tion, where­as some­thing else might be? 

Well, if you think about care, what is the—kind of par­a­digm for a car­ing rela­tion’s a moth­er and a child, right. A moth­er takes care of a child, or a par­ent takes care of a child, so that that child can grow and be healthy and flour­ish. That’s true. But in an imme­di­ate lev­el, you take care of a child so the child can go and play. That’s what chil­dren actu­al­ly do when you’re tak­ing care of them. What is play? Play is like action done for its own sake. It’s in a way the very par­a­digm of free­dom. Because action done for its own sake is what free­dom real­ly con­sists of. Play and free­dom are ulti­mate­ly the same thing. 

So, a production/consumption par­a­digm for what an econ­o­my is is a guar­an­tee for ulti­mate­ly destroy­ing the plan­et and each oth­er. I mean, even when you talk about degrowth you know, if you’re work­ing with­in that par­a­digm, you’re essen­tial­ly doomed. We need to break away from that par­a­digm entire­ly. Care and free­dom on the oth­er hand are things you can increase as much as you like with­out dam­ag­ing any­thing. So we need to think what are ways that we need to care for each oth­er that will make each oth­er more free? And who’re the peo­ple who are pro­vid­ing that care? And how can they be com­pen­sat­ed them­selves with greater free­dom? And to do that we need to like, actu­al­ly scrap almost all of the dis­ci­pline of eco­nom­ics as it cur­rent­ly exists. 

We’re actu­al­ly just start­ing to think about this. Because eco­nom­ics as it cur­rent­ly exists is based on assump­tions of human nature that we now know to be wrong. There have been actu­al empir­i­cal tests of the basic sort of fun­da­men­tal assump­tions of the max­i­miz­ing indi­vid­ual that eco­nom­ic the­o­ry’s based on, and it turns out…you know, they’re not true. It tells you some­thing about the role of eco­nom­ics that this has had almost no effect on eco­nom­ic teach­ing what­so­ev­er. They don’t real­ly care that it’s not true. 

But one of the things that we have dis­cov­ered, which is quite inter­est­ing, is that human beings have actu­al­ly a psy­cho­log­i­cal need to be cared for, but they have an even greater psy­cho­log­i­cal need to care for oth­ers, or to care for some­thing. If you don’t have that you basi­cal­ly fall apart. It’s why old peo­ple get dogs. We don’t just care for each oth­er because we need to main­tain each oth­er’s lives and free­doms, but our own very psy­cho­log­i­cal hap­pi­ness is based on being able to care for some­thing or someone. 

So, what would hap­pen to micro­eco­nom­ics if we start­ed from that? We’re doing actu­al­ly a work­shop tomor­row on the Museum of Care, which we’re going to imag­ine in Rojava, which is in north­east­ern Syria where there is a wom­en’s rev­o­lu­tion going on, as you might have heard. But it’s in places like that where they’re try­ing to com­plete­ly reimag­ine eco­nom­ics, the rela­tion of free­dom, aes­thet­ics, and val­ue. Because at the moment, the sys­tem of val­ue that we have is set up in such a way that this kind of trap that I’ve described, and the grad­ual bull­shi­ti­za­tion of employment…where essen­tial­ly pro­duc­tion work has become a val­ue unto itself in such a way that we’re lit­er­al­ly destroy­ing the plan­et. And in order to actu­al­ly reimag­ine a type of eco­nom­ics that would­n’t destroy the plan­et, we have to start all over again. So I’m going to end on that note. [applause]

Herald: David, thank you so much. I think it’s very inter­est­ing to also have some polit­i­cal views now that we mix in all sorts of tech­nol­o­gy, and it goes very good in the theme of Congress. 

Please, if any­one has any ques­tions line up by the micro­phones and we’ll go for that. Unfortunately in the begin­ning I for­got to men­tion that you can ask ques­tions over the Internet through IRC, Mastodon, or Twitter. And remem­ber to use the chan­nel #borg, and we’ll make sure that they get answered. So please, micro­phone num­ber one.

Audience 1: When you observe the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty in health­care going down, do you have an expla­na­tion accord­ing to neolib­er­al think­ing why hospitals—one with more admin­is­tra­tors, one with less administrators—don’t have a com­pe­ti­tion out­come that the hos­pi­tal with less admin­is­tra­tors wins? 

David Graeber: [laughs] Yeah… Well, one of the fas­ci­nat­ing things about the whole phe­nom­e­na of bull­shi­ti­za­tion and bull­shit jobs is that it’s exact­ly what’s not sup­posed to hap­pen under a com­pet­i­tive sys­tem. But it’s hap­pened across the board, equal­ly in pri­vate sec­tor and pub­lic sector. 

Audience 1: Why? 

Graeber Um…that’s a long sto­ry. But one rea­son seems to be that…and this is why I actu­al­ly had man­age­r­i­al feu­dal­ism in the title, is that the sys­tem we have…alright—is essen­tial­ly not cap­i­tal­ism as it is ordi­nar­i­ly described. The idea that you have a series of small com­pet­ing firms is basi­cal­ly a fan­ta­sy. I mean you know, it’s true of restau­rants or some­thing like that. But it’s not true of these large insti­tu­tions. And it’s not clear that it real­ly could be true of those large insti­tu­tions. They just don’t oper­ate on that basis. 

Essentially, increas­ing­ly prof­its aren’t com­ing from either man­u­fac­tur­ing or from com­merce, but rather from redis­tri­b­u­tion of resources and rent; rent extrac­tion. And when you have a rent extrac­tion sys­tem, it much more resem­bles feu­dal­ism than cap­i­tal­ism as nor­mal­ly described. You want to dis­trib­ute— You know, if you’re tak­ing a large amount of mon­ey and redis­trib­ut­ing it, well you want to soak up as much of that as pos­si­ble in the course of doing so. And that seems to be the way the econ­o­my increas­ing­ly works. I mean, if you look at any­thing from Hollywood to the health­care indus­try, you know, what you’ve seen over the last thir­ty years is a cre­ation of end­less inter­me­di­ary roles which sort of grab a piece of the pie as it’s being dis­trib­uted downwards. 

I mean I could go into the whole mech­a­nisms, but essen­tial­ly, the polit­i­cal and the eco­nom­ic have become so inter­twined that you can no longer make a dis­tinc­tion between the two. So you have a prob— And this is where you go back to that whole thing about the 1% and using polit­i­cal pow­er to accu­mu­late more wealth, using your wealth to cre­ate more polit­i­cal pow­er. You have an engine of extrac­tion where­by the spoils are increas­ing­ly dis­trib­uted. We get these very very large bureau­crat­ic orga­ni­za­tions, and that’s essen­tial­ly how our econ­o­my works. 

Herald: Great. thank you— 

Graeber: I mean I could talk for an hour about the dynam­ics, but that’s basi­cal­ly it. You know, you could call it cap­i­tal­ism if you like, but it does­n’t in any way resem­ble cap­i­tal­ism the way that peo­ple like to imag­ine cap­i­tal­ism would work. 

Herald: Great. Awesome. Questions from the Internet, please. 

Audience 2 [Angel?]: How to best address this care­giv­er class, when the con­text of the pro­le­tari­at is no longer giv­en to awake their class consciousness? 

Graeber How to address the care­giv­er when the pro­le­tari­at is no longer what?

Herald: Please repeat the question. 

Audience 2: How to best address the care­giv­er class when the con­text of the pro­le­tari­at is no longer giv­en to awake their class consciousness? 

Graeber Given to awake? 

Audience 2: I’m not sure what they’re ask­ing about. 

Graeber: Yeah. I mean the ques­tion is how do you cre­ate a class con­scious­ness for that class? Yeah, yeah. Well, that is the ques­tion. I mean, first of all you need to actu­al­ly think about who your actu­al class ene­my is. And I mean, I don’t mean to be too blunt about it, but I mean the prob­lem we have, why is it peo­ple are sus­pi­cious of the left? And peo­ple like Michael Albert were point­ing this out years ago, that one rea­son that actu­al pro­le­tar­i­ans were very sus­pi­cious of tra­di­tion­al social­ists in many cas­es is because their imme­di­ate ene­my isn’t actu­al­ly you know, the cap­i­tal­ist who he rarely meets, but the annoy­ing admin­is­tra­tor upstairs. And you know, to a large extent, tra­di­tion­al social­ism means giv­ing that guy more pow­er rather than less.

So I think we need to actu­al­ly look at what’s real­ly going on in a hos­pi­tal, in a school. And you know, I use hos­pi­tals and schools as exam­ples, but they’re actu­al­ly very impor­tant ones, because peo­ple have shown that in most cities in America now, hos­pi­tals and schools are the two largest employ­ers. Universities and hos­pi­tals. Essentially work has been reor­ga­nized around work­ing on the bod­ies and minds of oth­er peo­ple rather than pro­duc­ing objects. And the class rela­tions in those insti­tu­tions are not…you can’t use tra­di­tion­al Marxist analy­sis. You need to actu­al­ly reimag­ine what it would mean. Are we talk­ing about the pro­duc­tion of peo­ple? If so, what are the class dynam­ics involved in that? Is pro­duc­tion the term at all? Probably not. Why not? 

That’s why I say we need to recon­sti­tute the lan­guage in which we’re using to describe this, because we’re essen­tial­ly using 19th cen­tu­ry ter­mi­nol­o­gy to dis­cuss 21st cen­tu­ry prob­lems. And both sides are doing that. The right wing is using like, neo­clas­si­cal eco­nom­ics, which is basi­cal­ly Victorian. It’s try­ing to solve prob­lems that no longer exist. But the left is using a 19th cen­tu­ry Marxist cri­tique of that, which also does­n’t apply. We just need new terms. 

Herald: Thank you, I hope that answered the ques­tion from the Internet. Microphone num­ber two, please. 

Audience 3: So, the ques­tion is basi­cal­ly to what extent can tech­nol­o­gy help? And the sub­text here is there’s actu­al­ly real­ly lots of projects now whose func­tion at some lev­el is to auto­mate management.And to the extent to which that can be mold­ed into remov­ing this class that you’re talk­ing about, or some­how mak­ing it too painful for them to exist. Some of these projects are com­pa­nies but some of them are very inde­pen­dent things that have very sopho­moric ideas but with tens of mil­lions in funding. 

Graeber: Yeah. Well that’s the inter­est­ing thing, that peo­ple talk about it all the time. But this is where pow­er comes in, right? I mean why is it that automa­tion means that if I’m work­ing for UPS, the deliv­ery guy gets like Taylorized, and down­sized, and super-efficient to the point where our life becomes a liv­ing hell, basi­cal­ly. But some­how the prof­its that come from that end up hir­ing like, dozens of flunkies who sit around in offices doing noth­ing all day. 

One of the guys when I start­ed gath­er­ing testimonies—I gath­ered sev­er­al hun­dred tes­ti­monies of peo­ple with bull­shit jobs or peo­ple who thought of them­selves as hav­ing bull­shit jobs. And one of the most telling was a guy who was an effi­cien­cy expert in a bank. And he esti­mat­ed that 80% of peo­ple who worked in banks are unnec­es­sary; either they do noth­ing or they could eas­i­ly be auto­mat­ed away. And what he said was that it was his job to fig­ure that out. But then he grad­u­al­ly real­ized that he had a bull­shit job because every sin­gle time he pro­posed a plan to get rid of them…they’d be shot down. He’d nev­er got a sin­gle one through. And the rea­son why is because if you’re an exec­u­tive in a large cor­po­ra­tion, your pres­tige and pow­er is direct­ly pro­por­tion­al to how many peo­ple you have work­ing under you. So no way are they going to get rid of flunkies. I mean, that’s just gonna mean the bet­ter they are at it, the less impor­tant they’ll become in the oper­a­tion. So some­body always blocked it. 

So this is a basic pow­er ques­tion. You can come up with great tech­no­log­i­cal ideas for elim­i­nat­ing peo­ple; peo­ple do all the time. But you know, who actu­al­ly gets elim­i­nat­ed and who does­n’t has every­thing to do with power. 

Herald: Great. Thank you. And last ques­tion, please, from micro­phone num­ber five.

Audience 4: Can we maybe have one ques­tion from a non-male person? 

Graeber: Yeah. That’d be nice. 

Herald: Non-male person. 

Audience 4: Oh no, now that per­son­’s just left. Do you want to—

Herald: Sorry, I am not choos­ing ques­tions based on stuff. We’re kin­da choos­ing all around the hall. 

Audience 4: Okay, have [fun?].

Herald: Please, micro­phone num­ber five. 

Audience 5: Thank you for the oppor­tu­ni­ty to speak. I heard that you… I real­ly like your descrip­tion of a par­a­digm, or that peo­ple are stuck on pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion, and that you would like to change the par­a­digm to a par­a­digm towards more care and free­dom, etc. And for me it kind of sounds a lit­tle vague. And that’s why I myself think of basic income as a human right, as the actu­al mean to break with the cur­rent hege­mon­ic, macro­eco­nom­ic par­a­digm, so to speak. And I was inter­est­ed in your… [crosstalk] …point of view on that, basic income.

Graeber: My view of that. Ah. Yeah. Well I actu­al­ly total­ly sup­port that. I think that one of the major objec­tions that peo­ple have to uni­ver­sal basic income is essen­tial­ly peo­ple don’t trust peo­ple to come up with use­ful things to do with them­selves. Either they think they’ll be lazy, right, and won’t do any­thing. Or they think if they do do some­thing it’ll be stu­pid. So we’re going to have mil­lions of peo­ple who’re try­ing to cre­ate per­pet­u­al motion devices or becom­ing annoy­ing street mimes or bad musi­cians or bad poets, or so forth and so on. 

And I think it actu­al­ly masks an incred­i­ble con­de­scend­ing elit­ism that a lot of peo­ple have, which is real­ly the mind­set of the pro­fes­sion­al man­age­r­i­al class­es who think that they should be con­trol­ling peo­ple. Because okay, if you think about the fact that huge per­cent­ages, per­haps a third of peo­ple, already think that they’re doing noth­ing all day and they’re real­ly mis­er­able about it, I think that demon­strates quite clear­ly why that isn’t true. 

First of all, the idea that peo­ple if giv­en a basic income won’t work. Actually, there are lots of peo­ple who are paid basi­cal­ly to sit there all day and do noth­ing, and they’re real­ly unhap­py. They’d much rather be working. 

Second of all, if 30 to 40% of peo­ple already think that their jobs are com­plete­ly point­less and use­less, I mean, how bad could it be? It’s like you know, even if every­body goes off and becomes bad poets, well at least they’ll be a lot hap­pi­er than they are now. And sec­ond of all, one or two of them might real­ly be good poets. If just .001% of all the peo­ple on basic income who decide to become poets or musi­cians or invent crazy devices actu­al­ly do become Miles Davis or Shakespeare, or actu­al­ly do invent a per­pet­u­al motion device, well you know, you’ve got your mon­ey back right there, right? 

Herald: Great. Thank you so much. Unfortunately that was all the ques­tions that we had time to. If you have any more ques­tions, please, I’m sure that David will just take a few min­utes to answer them if you come up here. 

Graeber: Oh yeah. I could spend the rest of my life doing this.

Herald: Thank you so much David Graeber for your talk. And please give him a great round of applause.

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