In a 2013 survey of 12,000 professionals by the Harvard Business Review, half said they felt their job had no “meaning and significance,” and an equal number were unable to relate to their company’s mission, while another poll among 230,000 employees in 142 countries showed that only 13% of workers actually like their job. A recent poll among Brits revealed that as many as 37% think they have a job that is utterly useless.
They have, what anthropologist David Graeber refers to as, “bullshit jobs”. On paper, these jobs sound fantastic. And yet there are scores of successful professionals with imposing LinkedIn profiles and impressive salaries who nevertheless go home every evening grumbling that their work serves no purpose.
Let’s get one thing clear though: I’m not talking about the sanitation workers, the teachers, and the nurses of the world. If these people were to go on strike, we’d have an instant state of emergency on our hands. No, I’m talking about the growing armies of consultants, bankers, tax advisors, managers, and others who earn their money in strategic trans-sector peer-to-peer meetings to brainstorm the value-add on co-creation in the network society. Or something to that effect.
So, will there still be enough jobs for everyone a few decades from now? Anybody who fears mass unemployment underestimates capitalism’s extraordinary ability to generate new bullshit jobs.
Our definition of work, however, is incredibly narrow. Only the work that generates money is allowed to count toward GDP. Little wonder, then, that we have organized education around feeding as many people as possible in bite-size flexible parcels into the employment establishment. Yet what happens when a growing proportion of people deemed successful by the measure of our knowledge economy say their work is pointless?
That’s one of the biggest taboos of our times. Our whole system of finding meaning could dissolve like a puff of smoke.
I believe in a future where the value of your work is not determined by the size of your paycheck, but by the amount of happiness you spread and the amount of meaning you give. I believe in a future where the point of education is not to prepare you for another useless job, but for a life well lived.
Jerry Useem, “Power Causes Brain Damage”:
Lord David Owen—a British neurologist turned parliamentarian who served as the foreign secretary before becoming a baron—recounts both Howe’s story and Clementine Churchill’s in his 2008 book, In Sickness and in Power, an inquiry into the various maladies that had affected the performance of British prime ministers and American presidents since 1900. While some suffered from strokes (Woodrow Wilson), substance abuse (Anthony Eden), or possibly bipolar disorder (Lyndon B. Johnson, Theodore Roosevelt), at least four others acquired a disorder that the medical literature doesn’t recognize but, Owen argues, should.
“Hubris syndrome,” as he and a co-author, Jonathan Davidson, defined it in a 2009 article published in Brain, “is a disorder of the possession of power, particularly power which has been associated with overwhelming success, held for a period of years and with minimal constraint on the leader.” Its 14 clinical features include: manifest contempt for others, loss of contact with reality, restless or reckless actions, and displays of incompetence. In May, the Royal Society of Medicine co-hosted a conference of the Daedalus Trust—an organization that Owen founded for the study and prevention of hubris.
I asked Owen, who admits to a healthy predisposition to hubris himself, whether anything helps keep him tethered to reality, something that other truly powerful figures might emulate. He shared a few strategies: thinking back on hubris-dispelling episodes from his past; watching documentaries about ordinary people; making a habit of reading constituents’ letters.
But I surmised that the greatest check on Owen’s hubris today might stem from his recent research endeavors. Businesses, he complained to me, had shown next to no appetite for research on hubris. Business schools were not much better. The undercurrent of frustration in his voice attested to a certain powerlessness. Whatever the salutary effect on Owen, it suggests that a malady seen too commonly in boardrooms and executive suites is unlikely to soon find a cure.
Carlos Lopes, “Africa’s Stake in Brexit”:
By far the most significant impact of a “hard Brexit” for Africa would be felt in the financial services sector. In negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU, Prime Minister Theresa May’s government will be seeking to ensure that the City of London retains its place as Europe’s premier financial center. But even if May fails, London-based financial institutions could simply pull up stakes and decamp to continental Europe. Africa, however, could suffer as a result.
For example, the strengthening of the African banking sector in recent years – including the expansion of cross-border banking activities – has been made possible in part by innovative fintech (financial technology) products developed in London. Cutting-edge finance solutions used to modernize institutions like Standard Bank, Africa’s largest bank, depend on the expertise housed at UK-based institutions. If Brexit weakens London’s role as a financial center, the collateral damage for Africa would be measured in diminished investor confidence, gaps in banking services, and interrupted networks and processes. The financial innovation engine, in other words, could grind to a halt.
A weaker UK financial-services sector could also lead to a dearth of talent with knowledge of African markets. That could hurt UK-African trade more broadly. Unfortunately, Britain may be more important for Africa’s future in this regard than vice versa. With less than 5% of Britain’s trade deficit tied to Africa, the continent is not likely to be near the top of the UK government’s current preoccupations.
Diplomatic ties could be damaged, too, if a more inward-looking UK closes its doors to African travelers and students seeking to enroll in British universities. In short, the historical, political, and economic ties strengthened over decades could fray as UK-EU negotiations move forward.
But the risk Brexit poses to Africa should not be overstated. For one thing, trade isn’t the backbone it once was in the relationship. Only a small number of African countries are vying for access to the UK market, whereas many are looking to conduct more trade with one another.
Africa is learning to stand on its own in other ways, too. Since 2000, total annual aid to Africa has averaged $50 billion, while tax revenue during the same period grew from $163 billion to an astonishing $550 billion. The increase in FDI inflows, access to sovereign debt, and sharp expansion of migrant remittances have all contributed to a shift in the revenue base away from commodities. And African leaders are today busy establishing new alliances with their neighbors, improving business environments, and collaborating on industrialization projects.
David Heinemeier Hansson, “Trickle-down workaholism“:
It’s not hard to understand why such a mythology serves the interest of money men who spread their bets wide and only succeed when unicorns emerge. Of course they’re going to desire fairytale sacrifices. There’s little to no consequence to them if the many fall by the wayside, spent to completion trying to hit that home run. Make me rich or die tryin’.
The sly entrepreneur seeks to cajole their employees with carrots. Organic, locally-sourced ones, delightfully prepared by a master chef, of course. In the office. Along with all the other pampering and indulgent spoils AT THE OFFICE. The game is to make it appear as though employees choose this life for themselves, that they just love spending all their waking (and in some cases, even sleeping) hours at that damn office.
Not only are these sacrifices statistically overwhelmingly likely to be in vain, they’re also completely disproportionate. The programmer or designer or writer or even manager that gives up their life for a 80+ hour moonshot will comparably-speaking be compensated in bananas, even if their lottery coupon should line up. The lion’s share will go to the Scar and his hyenas, not the monkeys.
So don’t tell me that there’s something uniquely demanding about building yet another fucking startup that dwarfs the accomplishments of The Origin of Species or winning five championship rings. It’s bullshit. Extractive, counterproductive bullshit peddled by people who either need a narrative to explain their personal sacrifices and regrets or who are in a position to treat the lives and wellbeing of others like cannon fodder.
Jeffry Frieden a explicar coisas fáceis de entender sobre a crise do euro e o futuro da União Europeia. Não vi esta entrevista muito divulgada por cá e compreende-se porquê: à esquerda é mais fácil continuar a acreditar na narrativa sobre o malvado ultra-neo-liberalismo, ao passo que à direita é mais fácil continuar a acreditar na narrativa dos trabalhadores do norte contra os preguiçosos do sul, dos responsáveis contra os irresponsáveis que só gastam dinheiro em copos e mulheres, que serve os interesses alemães.
Para lá da deselegância óbvia geradora da indignação fácil, o verdadeiro problema é aquilo que subjaz às declarações do holandês: uma narrativa dominante entre as elites europeias, inclusive entre muitos políticos de países do sul da Europa, que só vê virtudes nos países do norte da Europa e defeitos nos países do sul, no que concerne à sua gestão política e económica, ignorando, propositadamente ou não, que a crise do euro se deve à deficiente arquitectura deste. Permitam-me recuperar o que escrevi em 2014 a este respeito:
Começando no estabelecimento da União Económica e Monetária – em que prevaleceu a visão do Bundesbank de um BCE inspirado no seu modelo, centrado quase exclusivamente na estabilidade de preços -, que não era e continua a não ser uma Zona Monetária Óptima, circunstância agravada pela inexistência de uma união orçamental que permitisse uma gestão macroeconómica conjunta, o que a torna propensa a choques assimétricos; passando por uma fragilidade estrutural essencial para a compreensão da crise, segundo Paul De Grauwe, que é a perda da capacidade de os países emitirem dívida numa moeda própria, emitindo-a numa moeda que não controlam, pelo que estão, assim, mais facilmente à mercê dos mercados financeiros e podem ser rapidamente precipitados por estes para um default; e chegando aos anos da crise do euro, em que o diagnóstico da crise da dívida soberana grega foi erradamente generalizado a outros países, conforme Jay Shambaugh sublinha, servindo como justificação para prescrever pacotes de austeridade e reformas estruturais que, per se, não são suficientes para superar os constrangimentos resultantes das fragilidades estruturais da UEM, conclui-se que estas fragilidades não só resultam da perspectiva alemã aquando das negociações que levaram ao seu estabelecimento, como aproveitam actualmente à Alemanha. Hans Kundnani assinala que a actual situação, com um euro fraco (segundo Andrew Moravcsik, a taxa de câmbio real da Alemanha, actualmente, está 40% abaixo do que estaria se o país ainda tivesse o marco alemão), é a ideal para a economia alemã baseada nas exportações e avisa que o narcisismo económico da Alemanha coloca toda a Zona Euro em causa. Assim, a Alemanha está actualmente numa posição muito confortável, com um euro fraco que favorece as suas exportações, tornando-a a economia mais competitiva da Zona Euro, e, em parte em resultado disto, encontra-se de forma indisputada na liderança política da UE, tendo a cooperação entre países soberanos sido relegada em favor de uma dominação de facto por parte de Berlim. Ulrich Beck resume de forma lapidar esta situação em A Europa Alemã: “Como a Alemanha é o país mais rico, agora é ela que manda no centro da Europa.” A austeridade imposta erradamente aos países sob resgate financeiro permite à Alemanha manter este status quo em que, nas palavras de Moravcsik, ao “utilizar uma moeda subvalorizada para acumular excedentes comerciais, a Alemanha actua como a China da Europa.”
A edição mais recente da Monocle inclui um relatório de 64 páginas dedicado a Portugal que aborda temas como o ambiente de negócios, o sector do turismo, a gastronomia, as livrarias, a indústria do vinho, entre outros. Não digam nada é aos ultra-pessimistas crónicos cá do burgo que julgam viver num país subdesenvolvido.