Welcome to LSE’s award-winning podcast, LSE IQ, where we ask leading social scientists – and other experts – to answer an intelligent question about economics, politics or society.
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This episode is dedicated to David Graeber, LSE professor of Anthropology, who died unexpectedly in September this year. David was a public intellectual, a best-selling author, an influential activist and anarchist.
He took aim at the pointless bureaucracy of modern life, memorably coining the term ‘bullshit jobs’. And his book ‘Debt: The First 5000 years’ was turned into a radio series by the BBC.
But David started his academic career studying Madagascar. Anthropology interested him, he said, because he was interested in human possibilities – including the potential of societies to organise themselves without the need for a state – as he had seen in his own research.
He was also a well-known anti-globalisation activist and a leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street Movement.
David was generous enough to do an interview for us in 2016 when LSE iQ was in its infancy. That episode asked, ‘What’s the future of work?’ and in his interview he reflected on the disappointments of technology, pointless jobs and caring labour.
David was such an interesting speaker that we would have liked to use more of it at the time, but we didn’t have the space. Now, it feels right to bring you a lightly edited version of the interview.
The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy, published by Melville House.
‘On the Phenomenon of Bullshit jobs: A work rant’, STRIKE! Magazine
Bullshit Jobs: A theory, published by Allen Lane