Roland Karl Oscar Ericsson Paulsen

Roland Karl Oscar Ericsson Paulsen (born 17 December 1981) is a Swedish author and sociologist. His thesis Empty Labor: Idleness And Workplace Resistance is about people who devote more than half of their work time to private activities, so-called "empty work".[1] The dissertation was published at Cambridge University Press and received international attention from among others The Atlantic, The Economist and The Wall Street Journal.[2][3][4]


Paulsen was born in Hägersten, Stockholm on 17 December 1981. He received his Ph.D from Uppsala universitet and is a docent in sociology; he is now active at the institution of business administration at Lund university.[5][6] He researches individuals relationship to waged work, and especially questions regarding why waged work takes up such a major role in peoples lives.[7]

Research and engagement in public debate

Paulsen claims that the people who have the highest income generally contributes the least.[8] His dissertation Empty labor is about people who spend more than half of their time at work doing private activities.[1] Roland Paulsen writes columns for Dagens Nyheter, Sweden's biggest newspaper. In these he has among other things explained his view on inequality and his critique of the theories of Hans Rosling.[9] He has also co-authored Return to Meaning: A Social Science with Something to say (with Mats Alvesson) in which the authors address how the "publish or perish" game produces meaningless social science research that cannot address social problems and just serve to further academic tenure and promotion.[10] Paulsen has also put forward the concept of functional stupidity [which according to paulsen is defined as] "[...] the modus operandi of ego-dystonic compliance we enter in order to endure long hours of imposed work assignments we would rather not perform.".[11][12][13]

Criticism of the work-society

In 2010 Paulsen published his book Arbetssamhället – Hur arbetet överlevde teknologin (Roughly translated: The work society - how work survived the technology.) which was critical of work.

Paulsen said that he wanted to achieve a change in how we perceive work, in relationship to that the need for work itself has decreased due to the technological development.[14][15]

Paulsens considers it to be a waste of resources that peoples working hours hasn't decreased as technology has moved forward. As well as claimed that work is increasingly losing its ability to create value.[16] Instead, Paulsen claims, that work takes on a religious function in contemporary society, and acts like a mechanism of distributing resources.

When asked why he thinks it is an important question for people who vote in political elections to create more work. Paulsen responded:

"It's an absurd idea, all politicians today want to create jobs. The only thing that is being discussed is technical aspects of how that is going to be achieved. But it is also obvious that one does not win ellections by promising that there are going to be more people without any work, but the question of shortening working time has been swept under the rug completely. In the past, we worked to create growth, now we want growth to create jobs."[17]




  1. ^ a b Mazzarella, Merete (14 June 2013) [13 June 2013]. "Tomt arbete är ett opium för folket" [Empty work is an opium for the people]. (in Swedish). Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  2. ^ Paulsen, Roland (3 November 2014). "The Art of Not Working at Work". The Atlantic. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  3. ^ "A guide to skiving". The Economist. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  4. ^ Weber, Lauren (18 November 2014). "The Science of Slacking at Work". WSJ. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  5. ^ "Roland Paulsen | Lund University". Retrieved 1 May 2022.
  6. ^ "Roland Paulsen - Uppsala University, Sweden". 3 November 2013. Archived from the original on 3 November 2013. Retrieved 1 May 2022.
  7. ^ "Han vill se sex timmars arbetsdag". (in Swedish). 16 February 2016. Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  8. ^ Torbjörn Tenfält. "'Att inte arbeta kan vara mer moraliskt'", Dagens Nyheter, 4 August 2010. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  9. ^ Articles by Roland Paulsen in Dagens Nyheter
  10. ^ Aslan, Alper (September 2018). "Book review: Return to meaning: A social science with something to say". Management Learning. 49 (4): 507–509. doi:10.1177/1350507617738642. ISSN 1350-5076. S2CID 148876859.
  11. ^ Fagerberg, Johan; McKee, Kevin; Paulsen, Roland (1 November 2020). "The unreflective practitioner: a pilot study on functional stupidity and social work". European Journal of Social Work. 23 (6): 992–1004. doi:10.1080/13691457.2020.1818058. ISSN 1369-1457. S2CID 225205091.
  12. ^ Paulsen, Roland (February 2017). "Slipping into functional stupidity: The bifocality of organizational compliance". Human Relations. 70 (2): 185–210. doi:10.1177/0018726716649246. ISSN 0018-7267. S2CID 148416386.
  13. ^[bare URL PDF]
  14. ^ Johannes Nesser. "Det meningslösa arbetet", Upsala Nya Tidning, 27 July 2010. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  15. ^ Martina Lindvall. "Undersysslesatta surfar på jobbet", Upsala Nya Tidning, 29 March 2010. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  16. ^ Roland Paulsen. "Är arbetet alltid meningsfullt?", Upsala Nya Tidning, 30 July 2010. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  17. ^ Karin Thurfjell. "Jobbar vi i onödan?", Svenska Dagbladet, 22 July 2010. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  18. ^ a b "Best Doctoral Paper". Lund University. Retrieved 1 May 2022.
  19. ^ "Winner of The Nordic Sociological Association Competition for Junior Sociologists". Lund University. Retrieved 1 May 2022.
  20. ^ Paulsen, Roland (2014). Empty labor : idleness and workplace resistance. Cambridge. pp. i. ISBN 978-1-316-00489-0. OCLC 897844907.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  21. ^ "Natur & Kulturs debattbokspris". Lund University. Retrieved 1 May 2022.
  22. ^ "NYHETER". malmodockteater (in Swedish). Retrieved 1 May 2022.
  23. ^ "VI BARA LYDER". malmodockteater (in Swedish). Retrieved 1 May 2022.