How the Social Divide in Education Is Fueled by Jobs

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Bullshit Jobs" by David Graeber. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here.

What’s fueling the social divide in education in the U.S.? How does education inequality affect society?

David Graeber’s book Bullshit Jobs describes how jobs that serve no purpose in society create deep social divides. According to him, pointless jobs foster resentment between college-educated “white-collar” workers and non-college-educated “blue-collar” workers.

Read on to learn about the social divide in education and its connection to pointless jobs, according to Graeber.

A Social Divide in Education & Work

In Bullshit Jobs, David Graeber argues that pointless jobs create deep social divisions by fostering resentment between classes of workers. According to Graeber, purposeful jobs tend to offer lower pay compared with pointless jobs. Graeber explains that this situation also feeds into the social divide in education. Throughout the U.S. and Europe, the bases of political parties are realigning by their level of education, in which college-educated “white-collar” workers tend to be aligned against non-college-educated “blue-collar” workers.

The workers making very little but doing something useful are angry and resentful toward those who get paid more to do less. However, Graeber claims that pointless jobs make workers miserable. In addition to the social divide in education, this creates a second form of class resentment: Those with purposeless work envy and resent those with purposeful work, despite the former group being paid more. These cross-currents of resentment lead to mutual hostility and antagonism. 

What’s Driving the Education Divide Between American Voters?

Graeber describes a process of voters realigning behind political parties by level of education and type of work. Many analysts consider this a major factor driving politics in the U.S., the country where Graeber focuses much of his discussion regarding this trend. Political commentators have put forward several theories as to why this realignment is taking place.

Some argue that education is a liberalizing force. Educated people tend to be more skeptical of religion, more likely to consider morality relative, and more likely to prioritize environmental concerns. Research has found that college professors in the U.S. are far more likely to be registered as Democrats than Republicans, which has led conservative critics to argue that higher education is taught with a liberal bias.

However, others have argued that the social divide in education among workers may have more to do with racial politics. They highlight the fact that college-educated voters are more likely to favor social justice for historically marginalized groups. They also point out that the social divide in education is much larger among white voters than among any other bloc.

Lastly, some argue that globalization has led to a realignment of economic interests between classes of workers. College-educated workers tend to have benefited from global free trade, while many non-college-educated workers have seen their jobs outsourced overseas. Proponents of this explanation maintain that now these classes of workers have very different interests in a way they hadn’t before.

Why Are There So Many Pointless Jobs?

Graeber contends that many pointless jobs are created because the most well-resourced industries aren’t actually producing anything. He argues that in wealthy, capitalist societies, the investors who control most of the capital are more interested in extracting wealth than producing it. 

Producing wealth would include things like manufacturing goods or harvesting raw materials that would increase the number of useful goods for people. On the other hand, extracting wealth involves siphoning off value that others have created. For example, a company that researches and develops a new medicine would be creating wealth, whereas a company that buys up patents on existing medicines just to collect fees from manufacturers would be extracting wealth.

Graeber argues that those who control the supply of investment capital are investing heavily in wealth extraction because they’re the ones who benefit. Therefore, the companies they own invest their labor power in sprawling bureaucratic administrations designed to support this siphoning of wealth. This creates a sprawling, managerial workforce that adds little value to society—a breeding ground for pointless jobs.

How the Social Divide in Education Is Fueled by Jobs

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of David Graeber's "Bullshit Jobs" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Bullshit Jobs summary:

  • Why many jobs in contemporary industrial societies provide no value to society
  • How to tell if a job is pointless and the types and characteristics of pointless jobs
  • How universal basic income would eliminate the need for pointless jobs

Emily Kitazawa

Emily found her love of reading and writing at a young age, learning to enjoy these activities thanks to being taught them by her mom—Goodnight Moon will forever be a favorite. As a young adult, Emily graduated with her English degree, specializing in Creative Writing and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), from the University of Central Florida. She later earned her master’s degree in Higher Education from Pennsylvania State University. Emily loves reading fiction, especially modern Japanese, historical, crime, and philosophical fiction. Her personal writing is inspired by observations of people and nature.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *