The Forcing Freedom to Stay at the Office

Maria Leeson Andersen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Over the last two decades the awareness of empty labor and pseudo work has increased in Western society. The Swedish sociologist Roland Paulsen has discovered that many people in Sweden across different industries are struggling to fulfil a whole workday with meaningful work tasks and that they, in worst case, are so bored at their jobs that they get depression or stress because of the fact that there is not enough meaningful work to keep them occupied 8 hours a day. Empty labor has many names and many characteristics. In 2018 David Graeber wrote a study in anthropology about ‘bullshit jobs’ in North America, and two Danish philosophers Christian Nørmark and Anders Fogh Jensen wrote ‘Pseudo work’, criticizing and making awareness about the rise of fake work disguised as real meaningful work. Pseudo work, bullshit jobs or empty labor have not yet reached the awareness of Danish politicians and many Danes are still not even familiar with its existence in the Danish working society. Therefore, I found it relevant and important to contribute to the examination of this field by studying the rise and maintenance of pseudo work, bullshit jobs and empty labor in Danish society. This paper seeks to investigate and answer the following question: “How is pseudo work made possible and how is it preserved in a neoliberal western society governed by a performancedispositif? How does pseudo work enable a certain subjectivization and power and how does pseudo work reflect the Western psychological pathology?” In seeking to answer these questions, I will use theoretical concepts by Foucault, namely his analysis of dispositif, power and subjectivization. I will additionally apply Byung-Chul Han’s critical investigation of today's performance society. I will use these theories primarily on statements from interviews, either from persons who have first hand experience with pseudo work, but also on statements that reflects other parts of the society, the Danish school system, technology, the Danish political discourse on occupation policy, infrastructure etc., in order to show how pseudo work is maintained and reproduced by a performance-dispositif. This paper also contributes to the reflection and discussion of the urgent question of what needs to be done in order to eliminate the rise of meaningless jobs today.

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Managment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages86