OFFICE SPACE: The Philosophy of Doing Nothing – Wisecrack Edition

OFFICE SPACE: The Philosophy of Doing Nothing – Wisecrack Edition


This video is brought to you by Manscaped,
the brand dedicated to men’s below the belt grooming and hygene. Go to manscaped.com and use the promo code
wisecrack20 to get 20% off, free shipping, and a free gift. What’s up guys, Jared here to talk about
pop culture’s greatest call-to-arms for slackers, Office Space. The beloved 1999 film about hating your job,
your boss and your early morning commute has inspired and comforted the souls of many a
bored administrative assistant. At first glance, Office Space seems to be
a hilarious ode to white collar laziness and Michael Bolton. “Micheal…Bolton?” “That’s me” “Wow, is that your real name?” “Yeah” But we think there’s something else going
on that may explain why the film has remained relevant for over 20 years. It’s because Office Space embodies what
some believe to be the most radical form of revolution-and we don’t mean arson. Let’s find out what all of this has to do
with a Dan Harmon lookalike in this week’s Wisecrack Edition on The Philosophy of Office
Space. And Spoilers ahead for Office Space and a
19th-century short story by Herman Melville. But before we get into it I wanna give a shout-out
to Manscaped. Manscaped is, well, it’s exactly what it sounds
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free gifts when you use the code wisecrack20 at mascaped.com. Once again that’s manscaped.com, promo code
wisecrack20. And now, back to the show. Alright guys, let’s go in to a little recap. Peter Gibbons is a dissatisfied programmer
at an oppressively generic tech firm, where he spends his days getting nagged by his boss. At his girlfriend’s request, he agrees to
see an “occupational hypnotherapist” who puts Peter in a trance and then promptly dies
of a heart attack. Peter’s left in a state of blissful non-give-a-fuckery,
which he then pairs with flip-flops and heads into the office. When the firm’s new consultants meet a suddenly-chillaxed
Peter, they’re so impressed by his boss-like attitude that they literally make him one. “So you’re gonna fire Micheal and Samir and
you’re gonna give me more money?” “Wow” Once Peter’s promoted, he and his buddies
plot to rob their company and things go a little nuts. Now, for the purposes of this video we’re
not going to be talking much about the scam that fuels the second half of the film. Rather, we’re focusing on the film’s legacy
as a cultural artifact that speaks to employee disaffection and general workplace ambivalence. People don’t proudly display an Office Space
poster to express their desire to steal millions from their corporate overlords- well maybe
that-but mostly to encapsulate their fantasy of showing their boss how little they care. To understand why Office Space is so intoxicating,
we need to take a super-brief look at the history of the office as a social construct. But not the physical office, but say, “The
Office of the Mayor.” As philosopher Giorgio Agamben recounts in
his book Opus Dei: An Archaeology of Duty, the idea of the office really began with the
institutionalization of the Catholic church. If a priest tells you to do 100 Hail Marys,
well that could be just some rando arbitrarily making up a number. But coming from a guy holding an official
office with ties to the official church, it gives his order more legitimacy. Which is all well and good, but this construct
of the office has had rippling effects. Scholar Benjamin Lewis Robinson builds off
Agamben by suggesting that, from the beginning, this imbued the culture of work with a spiritual
and transcendent element. By early modern history, Robinson writes,
“the notion of the efficacy of the office was generalized into a moral concept that
defined the very agency of human beings.” Doing your work wasn’t just about a paycheck,
it was about duty and purpose. In other words, your very “you-ness” is
defined by what you do for work, and how effectively you do it. Now, This may seem like a given, but that
just shows how thoroughly our society buys into the idea. In this way, our very conception of ourselves
is defined by our obligations as employees, which sucks. The phenomenon of a person’s work subsuming
their identity is pretty clearly illustrated in Office Space when Peter is casually asked
by his boss to work not just one, but both days of the weekend. “I’m gonna need you to go ahead and come in
tomorrow, so if you could be here around 9 that would be great, m’kay? Oh-oh and I almost forgot ah- I’m also gonna
need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday too, kay?” Because why would he have a life outside of
his job? Similarly, for his soon-to-be-boo Joanna,
every part of her identity is regulated by her waitressing job. Her “flair,” or assortment of buttons
and patches might seem to be showcasing her personality. But, we soon learn that such displays of individuality
are actually mandated by her boss. “We need to talk about your flair” “Really? I have 15 pieces on” “Well 15 is the minuimum,
okay?” Here, her very performance of selfhood is
tightly controlled by her job. So we have this monolithic definition of the
office as a place where we not only accomplish our life’s work, but our lives as such. Is it any wonder we might come to resent the
very institution? Indeed, the slacker lifestyle didn’t begin
with your cool incense-burning aunt. In fact, we see a distinctly-Office-Spacian-brand
of slacktivism fermenting in author Herman Melville’s iconic 1848 short story, “Bartleby
the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street,” which we have opted to illustrate vis-a-vis
a delightfully corny 1969 short film adaptation because, those eyebrows… Melville’s story chronicles, through the
eyes of a bewildered lawyer, the exploits of his newest employee, a scribe named Bartleby,
who, after working industriously for several weeks copying lengthy law documents, suddenly
decides that he doesn’t feel like it anymore. His vernacular choice has become immortalized
in literature and pop culture. When asked to do anything he doesn’t want
to do, Bartleby simply says “I’d prefer not to.” This starts with not wanting to proofread
his copy, then escalates to refusing to copy at all, and eventually culminates in him refusing
to leave the law office, where he just plain prefers to hang out all night while quietly
staring out the window. The similarities between Bartleby and Peter’s
initial narratives are not insignificant. Both are low-level employees working for passive-aggressive
bosses. Both labor in claustrophobic solitude doing
work they don’t care about. Both appear to have a distaste for bureaucracy
And both will eventually seek solace in the great outdoors, to varying degrees of happiness,
but we’ll get to that later. Most importantly, both turn their offices
upside down when they decide to stop working. But let’s start by looking at their defining
characteristic: The choice not to work. According to Robinson, Bartleby’s refusal
to act is not a “mere inaction.” Rather, by “preferring” not to act, Bartleby
ventures from sheer passivity into what he calls a “second-order passivity” which
is “performed in its ineffectiveness.” He, and Peter as well, choose to be useless,
in the very place where effectiveness is the highest calling. So inexplicable is Peter’s behavior, and
his apparent unwillingness to do his damn job, that the uncomprehending, chummy consultants
decide it must be evidence of superiority: He is, indeed, too good for his work, and
thus should be promoted. Peter’s inaction becomes even more radical
when considered with the culture of office politics. As Robinson puts it, “The modern office
is the space that ensures that it is easy to do one’s duty” free from the burden
of your conscience or the consequences of your actions. When your work is inherently disengaging,
he adds, “petty conflicts and trivial confrontations seem to take on epic proportions.” This, he notes would eventually manifest delightfully
as “office politics,” or the cultural science of why the HELL Cassidy chews her
Greek salad so damn loud. Office politics are on full display in Office
Space, whether in the form of Peter’s boss claiming the best parking spot, or poor Milton
being separated from his beloved stapler and relegated to increasingly worse desk assignments. By refusing to engage in or even recognize
office politics – as when Peter steals his boss’s precious parking spot, stops dressing
up, and comes in when he feels like it – a newly-zen Peter acts like an anarchist agitating
against the very institution of the office. Bartleby and Peter bring something else profound
to the office, as identified in the famous last line of Melville’s story. After Bartleby inevitably starves to death
in prison after preferring not to eat, his former boss exclaims: “Ah Bartleby. Ah humanity.” Robinson argues that this line can be read
as a recognition of the fact that Bartleby, in all his perverse peculiarity, is “what
humanity would look like in an office, were it ever to make such an appearance.” In other words, for an office to function,
it must strip us of said humanity. In Bartleby’s refusal to do boring grunt
work, his desire to do nothing and his complete rejection of the mundanities of office life,
he displays an unwillingness to suppress his human desires for the sake of official duties. Similarly, tranced-out Peter seems to embody
the selfish, pleasure-seeking impulses that unite us in humanity – he acts on base human
desires in a world where everyone else simply ignores or represses them beneath a veneer
of earnest good will and productivity. A human version of Peter looks like a guy
who actually dates someone he likes, a guy who watches kung fu movies, a guy who smashes
a faulty printer just for the heck of it. It’s worth noting that these two slackers
are backed by one influential philosopher – Slavoj Zizek. Zizek is a major proponent of Bartleby’s
style of Political Action, and is one of modernity’s biggest advocates for saying “I would prefer
not to” to… well, everything. Indeed, inaction, he argues, can be incredibly
active. Zizek wrote in his book Violence that, “Sometimes
doing nothing is the most violent thing to do.” If this sounds ridiculous, you’ve clearly
never been ghosted. But why is Zizek wearing the jersey of literature’s
greatest slacker? To understand that, we first need to contextualize
Zizek’s perspective on contemporary society. His argument goes like this: We live in a
world of economic and political deadlock where multinational corporations have all the power
and change feels low key impossible. This is the net result of the 20th century,
which was a time of intense action – various countries experimented with socialism, facism,
communism, hippie-ism, bad-hair-ism [80s], every ism they could think of. It brought change, much of it not great, and
resulted in our present day world. In Zizek’s mind, all that action may have
been misguided, or as he puts it “maybe we tried to change the world too quickly.” And so we’re stuck with status quo capitalism,
rampant inequality, the Amazon on fire, and Cassidy not shutting up about essential oils. Along those lines, Zizek tends to think that,
despite capitalism’s numerous flaws, we don’t yet have an alternative worth actualizing. As a result, any activity that we do take
is not only doomed to fail, but actually risks aiding the powers that be. Zizek warns against engaging in “localised
acts whose ultimate function is to make the system run more smoothly.” He cautions that, rather than fearing passivity,
we should strenuously work to avoid “pseudo-activity” that is “the urge to ‘be active’ to
“participate,” simply as a way “to mask” the pointlessness of your actions.” That right there describes the office work
both Bartleby and Peter rail against. In refusing to copy legal documents or print
out cover letters for boring reports, they are boldly asserting a truth that only doing
nothing can communicate: that the office work which once dominated their lives is actually
totally meaningless. While it may be tempting to tell your boss
off, that may only lead to new new HR rules, you may complain of overwork, but they’ll
just add a pool table and call themselves heros, or you may want to burn the place down,
but that will only put a fat insurance check in your boss’s pocket. All these things only make the system stronger. The most radical form of rebellion may be
to do nothing. Lastly, it’s important to look at the ending
of both Office Space and Bartleby. What is the net result of each main character’s
defiance? In Office Space, the office is burnt down
and Peter takes a job cleaning up the refuge with his next door neighbor. “This isn’t so bad, huh? Making bucks, getting exercise, working outside.” In retreating from office life entirely, he’s
sought a return to blue collar labor, getting as close to a pastoral paradise of sweat,
calluses, hard work, and tangible results as modern city life might allow. For Bartleby, his refusal to leave the office
eventually lands him in prison, where he spends all his time hanging out in the courtyard. Fittingly enough, he too has escaped the grind
and fled to the outdoors. Sure, he starves himself to death, but at
least he didn’t die at his desk, right? So, what do you guys think? Does your effectiveness at work or school
define you, and how do you feel about that? Do you fantasize about doing nothing like
Zizek, Peter and Bartleby, or is preferring not to just a cop out? Let us know what you think in the comments. Thanks to all our awesome patrons for supporting
our channel and our podcasts. Go ahead and hit that “Subscribe” button,
and as always, thanks for watching guys. Peace!

100 thoughts on “OFFICE SPACE: The Philosophy of Doing Nothing – Wisecrack Edition

  1. Get 20% OFF + Free Shipping + FREE GIFT with code
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  2. If you are doing a job that you like good for you. If you are doing a job that you don't like it is ether pointless or you will be replaced by a machine anyway.

  3. Fantasize about doing nothing? I'm at work now, listening to this in the background while I do my 2 hours of work I that is actually mandatory. I've been stripped of so much of responsibility and ambition (due to a boss who puts up barriers from doing any actual real work) that I got to the point that I'm doing my own personal projects (and sometimes outside work) on a daily basis just to keep from going crazy. The thing is there actually is a lot to do, but every time I used to bring stuff up it kept going into the bucket known as "phase 2". So now, I bring it up, it goes to phase 2, I proceed on working on outside projects or watch more youtube.

  4. really good analysis but would like to recommend Jared to read Wrong Man in Workers' Paradise by Rabindranath Tagore. It's a really good satire on slacking.

  5. I'm a truck driver and if all us truckers were to decide to do nothing (not deliver loads) this country would crumble. You can express your unhappiness with a company by doing nothing and not buying its products. A tax revolt wouldn't work because the first person to goto jail would cause everyone else to break out their checkbook. Unless everyone stopped working, you don't pay income tax if you don't have a job…..

  6. I had a job were I worked in an office and nothing I did was important or noticeable. I quit and now work in an office that I actually have responsibilities. The responsibility is what I needed.

  7. Well I'm a janitor in a facility for higher learning so my efforts tend to be both acknowledged & valued by many of the people who benefit from them. Plus I have some sweet hobbies making pretty jewelry & sculptures.

  8. I am definitely burned out on monotony and empathy. I eat alone, i won't go to the office birthday parties, i don't care about your baby shower, I won't hold a conversation with you or the customer. I'll do the bare minimum slowly. Because doing it all quickly and correctly only makes them give you someone else's work. I've taken steps to building my own business in something I'm passionate about. I'm almost done with my degree, I've been in contact with art exhibits, opened a business account, and opened an LLC. I hope everyone finds what they love

  9. Social evolution has a cancer and it’s called the monetary system. Our entire economical paradigm is a threat to the ecological and social stability. Ditching the cruel system in favor of something new is no longer a matter of mere ideological preference but rather one of species wide existential necessity. THEZEITGEISTMOVEMENT.COM
    THEVENUSPROJECT.COM
    http://youtu.be/W2FPZrbYWK0
    Today we have access to highly advanced technologies. But our social and economic system has not kept up with our technological capabilities that could easily create a world of abundance, free of servitude and debt.

  10. For sure have used "I prefer not to". Actually used it in my review at work when my boss asked me to start coming in at 6:30 instead of 7 last week. Eventually agreed on 6:45 on monday and 7 the rest of the week.

  11. Jared you look really worn out. Take care of yourself and your mental health. Take a break if you need to. We'll still be here when you get back.

  12. My work At Wal~Mart Defines my life.
    I Work from 1pm-10pm. When I go home I eat , Masturebate to PORN to sleep, Wake up, Try to have Breakfast, Go to Work, While Working pretend Not to Ogle the Cute girls in tight Jeans, Finish work , Repeat.

    I'm. So. Frustrated. #IPreferNotTo #wal~martsucks #workissexualyfrustrating

  13. I am a lawyer. I tell my self that upholding justice is honorable. But deep down I know that I don't want to do anything except enjoy life by playing videogames.

  14. I think that people love working if the work is meaningful. I think that the birth of a lot of these philosophies is that people are doing grunt work, but they also live in a society that grants them the freedom and opportunity to recognize that they're doing grunt work. Not to mention that they can see their bosses who don't appreciate the work they do and they can also see how much harder they work but for so much less compensation.

  15. I watched this movie for the first time when I was 18 and it did not make much sense to me. Now, 6 years later and this movie is not only relatable but it is basically my life.

  16. >> How euro-centrist can one be on this Wisecrack channel? If capitalism (the west) is throwing holy water on their population's work "duties", then communism, through the new Chinese Social Credit programs, are blessing theirs with high octane gasoline. Work right comrade, or your family will burn in Maoist hell! Did we mention the Japanese, and their pre-western ideals of kata (form)? Kata moved from the spiritual martial arts to ALL manners of their society, including business, were today, business men still commit suicide because of a high pressure, stressful job, which demands ever higher performances.

    So, are the writers of Wisecrack blind to the world and its history (outside their own bubble), or is there an ulterior motive behind their shaming of capitalism and the west–by contaminating an awesome film like Office Space. Shame on you Manscaped too. I've unsubscribed! I don't need a bent propaganda channel on my list that throws the politique du jour into my film escapism nor a genitalia razor company supporting the same.

  17. The best solution to capitalist institutions is to attack their leaders, ala the French Revolution, American Revolution, etc. War, war never changes.

  18. During my most soul-sucking job, I spent nearly all of my time working on grad school apps instead of the “important” work I was supposed to be doing. Once I was accepted to grad school and was moving halfway across the country in a matter of weeks, I just stopped doing anything. I showed up but actively did nothing. My bosses HATED me for it, but at that point they couldn’t really do much. I think they refused to fire me as a way of saving face, since they knew I was leaving soon anyway and didn’t want to give me the satisfaction of personal vindication.

  19. This video was great, up until Zizek was introduced to argument and was used as a scapegoat to illogically link capitalism to the burning and destruction of the Amazon rainforest. If Jared bothered to do a level-four research analysis on the topic he would see that pro-socialist governments in South America have caused the most damage to the Amazon rainforest's ecological integrity. For example, Venezuela the most pro-socialist government in South America, has promoted the illegal gold mining in the Amazon rainforest and has sent in their military to assist with the development of said mines. These mines have wrecked catastrophic and irreparable damage to parts of the Amazon rainforest that lie within Venezuela's borders. But of course, a socialist government using their military to permanently destroy the environment doesn't fit the narrative of "capitalism is to blame for everything" therefore is not reported and touched upon by Jared. The truth of the matter is that ANY systems of human organization, weather it be socialism, capitalism, communism, individualism, or whateverism, creates unintended consequences such as world wars, hyperinflation, over-consumption, artificial famines (resulting in tens of millions dead), or what have you name it.

  20. I always have said, "I could out lazy anyone, but I am too lazy to try" Now I realize I have just been a philosopher this whole time

  21. damn i thought i was a worthless piece of shit for living off my parents and smoking weed all day but now i realize im actually an activist.

  22. that makes sense especially if you think of limburg pushing milton so hard to cause over-insurrection… everyone else aren't exactly faking a veneer they simply prefer not to over-insurrect while they also prefer not to starve to death… melville seems to be speaking to welfare while mike judge seems like he's commenting on white collar welfare relying on the blase obtuseness of middle management… milton seems like the modern expectation of what would happen to someone like bartleby, that peter gets his happy ending makes a lot of sense as what the twentieth century could have been without aggressive capitalists but to an extent a significant amount of blame belongs on the materialism of the various decades…….. solid video, didn't have me convinced at first

  23. I may actually be in a state that's approaching the apathy this video analyzes. Case in point, I'm typing this instead of working. Whenever my boss tells me to do something I shouldn't do, I tell her I will, then never do it. I stopped going to office functions for people I couldn't care less about. I'm leaving work early on Friday to go to a wrestling show. As long as I finished my work (which I've already done}, why the fuck not? I told the office thief to fuck off, then ate their lunch at the table they were sitting at.

  24. I STRONGLY disagree with the philosophy of Office space. I feel that most people's dissatisfaction with the job is the result of inaction. I feel that it is not that people simply hate doing things at their job, but rather that they are not fulfilled => they don't like the result of the work they do. They don't feel they contributing to something real. I feel that a career is an undertaking that must be actively tended to. The workplace is a competition, and those who do nothing will be left doing work that no one else wants to do. Furthermore, the things that people most frequently hate about their corporate jobs, office politics, busy work, are not actually positive outcomes for corporations or the capitalist economy at all. In fact, they are inefficient. Processes can only be made more efficient through active participation in planning. As a result, much of the problems in the world are the result of inaction, not action.

  25. Wrong it wasn't the Catholic church that created social hierarchy, it was crabs according to professor/dr/and infinity glove snapper of SJWs Jordan Peterson

  26. Can you please make one on Godless, the Netflix limited series. There are many different conflicts and subjects connected to faith, religion, good vs. evil and many more themes.

  27. Your south park podcast needs a new female cast member. Good god lol. It's like listening to a fucking 6 year old. Trying to convince people she knows shit to. You guys found the real PC principal lol. Makes for terrible entertainment.

  28. Melville is the best. Don't forget about Curtis White on Office Space: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caV9p4GhSyk

  29. Awesome video!

    I dont think Zij / Office Space / Melville actually believes in doing _nothing_, they just believe in not doing pointless things. If you have the ability, tell your boss you think your work is actually pointless. Some might listen.

  30. I tried doing nothing once when I was young. I became cold, hungry and homeless… I am not sure I am willing to recommend that to anyone else.

  31. Right around 1999 I too worked as a Y2K programmer and worked alongside another programmer named Michael Bolton. He was from England, and was seriously NOT a fan of that faux Motown singer with his whiny "musical stylings". Hah hah….. unbelievable, but true.

  32. Doing nothing, as a radical subversive "action"…. I would say, "wearing nothing" is an awesome adjunct to it.
    Joserian (in the movie Catch 22), answering the question "Soldier? Why are NOT in uniform?" answers: "Don't feel like it."

  33. @12:00 How's Steve Jobs doing today? DEAD A Wasted life of no fun, food water sex fun die with nothing!Things u own, really own u.

  34. For a long time I have objected to the idea that people are defined by their job and done my best to rid people of that diseased concept. Office Space does it better than I ever could.

  35. When you do nothing, who pays for your meals?

    Oh, that's right…me…and all of the other intellectual low brows who go out and work every day.

    If you don't like working in an office, I understand that. Go out and create something of value without the help of a larger firm. If, on the other hand, your chosen rebellion is to do absolutely nothing, well, Bartleby got what he deserved.

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