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The Craftsmanby Richard Sennett
"Sennett's work is not easy to pigeonhole. It roams with barely legal freedom between political philosophy, social psychology, art history, urbanism, and yesterday's news about downsizing....With The Craftsman, Sennett returns to one of the themes implied and sometimes sketched in his earlier work, now making it central. It involves returning to an old, familiar, and ultimately invidious distinction: the contrast between the human being as rational entity, on the one hand, and as laboring creature, on the other." Scott McLemee, Bookforum (read the entire Bookforum review)
Synopses & Reviews
Defining craftsmanship far more broadly than "skilled manual labor," Richard Sennett maintains that the computer programmer, the doctor, the artist, and even the parent and citizen engage in a craftsman's work. Craftsmanship names the basic human impulse to do a job well for its own sake, says the author, and good craftsmanship involves developing skills and focusing on the work rather than ourselves. In this thought-provoking book, one of our most distinguished public intellectuals explores the work of craftsmen past and present, identifies deep connections between material consciousness and ethical values, and challenges received ideas about what constitutes good work in today's world.
The Craftsman engages the many dimensions of skill: from the technical demands to the obsessive energy required to do good work. Craftsmanship leads Sennett across time and space, from ancient Roman brickmakers to Renaissance goldsmiths to the printing presses of Enlightenment Paris and the factories of industrial London; in the modern world he explores what experiences of good work are shared by computer programmers, nurses and doctors, musicians, glassblowers, and cooks. Unique in the scope of his thinking, Sennett expands previous notions of crafts and craftsmen and apprises us of the surprising extent to which we can learn about ourselves through the labor of making physical things.
"With this volume, author and sociologist Sennett (The Culture of the New Capitalism) launches a three-book examination of 'material culture,' asking 'what the process of making concrete things reveals to us about ourselves.' Taking in everything from Pandora and Hephaestus to Linux programmers, Sennett posits that the spirit of craftsmanship-an 'enduring, basic human impulse, the desire to do a job well for its own sake'-is tragically lacking in many areas of the industrialized world. Craftsmanship, by combining skill, commitment and judgment, establishes a close relationship between head and hand, man and machine, that Sennett asserts is vital to physical, mental and societal well-being; the symptoms of craftsmanship-deficiency can be found in worker demoralization, inefficiency and waning loyalty from both employees and employers, as well as other (largely institutional) effects. Sennett looks at the evolution of craftsmanship and the historical forces which have stultified it, how it's learned in the areas it still thrives (among scientists, artists, cooks, computer programmers and others), and issues of quality and ability (skill, not talent, makes a craftsman). Sennett's learned but inclusive prose proves entirely readable, and the breadth of his curiosity-delving into the minds behind the Manhattan project, touring Soviet suburbs, examining the methods of Julia Childs-take him in a number of fascinating directions." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"As Richard Sennett makes clear in this lucid and compelling book, craftsmanship once connected people to their work by conferring pride and meaning. The loss of craftsmanship — and of a society that values it — has impoverished us in ways we have long forgotten but Sennett helps us understand." Robert B. Reich, Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley, and author of Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life
"If a lot of what we consume is made without exacting care, it is affordable, something for which many of us are understandably willing to forgo a bit of craftsmanship in our lives. It is to Mr. Sennett's credit that he reminds us of what has been lost thereby." Wall Street Journal
"There is much to learn here." New York Times
In his most ambitious book to date, Richard Sennett offers an original perspective on craftsmanship and its close connections to work and ethical values
About the Author
Richard Sennett is professor of sociology at New York University and at The London School of Economics. Before becoming a sociologist, he studied music professionally. He has received many awards and honors, most recently the 2006 Hegel Prize for lifetime achievement in the humanities and social sciences. His previous books include The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism, The Fall of Public Man, Respect in a World of Inequality, and The Culture of New Capitalism, the last published by Yale University Press. He lives in New York and London.
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