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Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Workby Matthew B. Crawford
Synopses & Reviews
A philosopher / mechanic destroys the pretensions of the high- prestige workplace and makes an irresistible case for working with one's hands Shop Class as Soulcraft brings alive an experience that was once quite common, but now seems to be receding from society — the experience of making and fixing things with our hands. Those of us who sit in an office often feel a lack of connection to the material world, a sense of loss, and find it difficult to say exactly what we do all day. For anyone who felt hustled off to college, then to the cubicle, against their own inclinations and natural bents, Shop Class as Soulcraft seeks to restore the honor of the manual trades as a life worth choosing.
On both economic and psychological grounds, Crawford questions the educational imperative of turning everyone into a knowledge worker, based on a misguided separation of thinking from doing, the work of the hand from that of the mind. Crawford shows us how such a partition, which began a century ago with the assembly line, degrades work for those on both sides of the divide.
But Crawford offers good news as well: the manual trades are very different from the assembly line, and from dumbed-down white collar work as well. They require careful thinking and are punctuated by moments of genuine pleasure. Based on his own experience as an electrician and mechanic, Crawford makes a case for the intrinsic satisfactions and cognitive challenges of manual work. The work of builders and mechanics is secure; it cannot be outsourced, and it cannot be made obsolete. Such work ties us to the local communities in which we live, and instills the pride that comes from doing work that is genuinely useful. A wholly original debut, Shop Class as Soulcraft offers a passionate call for self-reliance and a moving reflection on how we can live concretely in an ever more abstract world.
"Philosopher and motorcycle repair-shop owner Crawford extols the value of making and fixing things in this masterful paean to what he calls 'manual competence,' the ability to work with one's hands. According to the author, our alienation from how our possessions are made and how they work takes many forms: the decline of shop class, the design of goods whose workings cannot be accessed by users (such as recent Mercedes models built without oil dipsticks) and the general disdain with which we regard the trades in our emerging 'information economy.' Unlike today's 'knowledge worker,' whose work is often so abstract that standards of excellence cannot exist in many fields (consider corporate executives awarded bonuses as their companies sink into bankruptcy), the person who works with his or her hands submits to standards inherent in the work itself: the lights either turn on or they don't, the toilet flushes or it doesn't, the motorcycle roars or sputters. With wit and humor, the author deftly mixes the details of his own experience as a tradesman and then proprietor of a motorcycle repair shop with more philosophical considerations. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"This is a deep exploration of craftsmanship by someone with real, hands-on knowledge. The book is also quirky, surprising, and sometimes quite moving." Richard Sennett, author of The Craftsman
"It's not an insult to say that Shop Class is the best self-help book that I've ever read....It's kind of like Heidegger and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance." Slate
"We are on the verge of a national renewal. It will have more depth and grace if we read Crawford's book carefully and take it to heart. He is a sharp theorist, a practicing mechanic, and a captivating writer." Albert Borgmann, author of Real American Ethics
"A beautiful little book about human excellence and the way it is undervalued in contemporary America." Francis Fukuyama, New York Times Book Review
"Inspired social criticism and deep personal exploration. Crawford's work... should be required reading for all educational leaders. Highly recommended; Crawford's appreciation for various trades may intrigue readers with white collar jobs who wonder at the end of each day what they really accomplished." Library Journal
"A masterpiece filled with surprises." Steve Weinberg, Dallas Morning News
In this wise and often funny book, a philosopher/mechanic systematically destroys the pretensions of the high-prestige workplace and makes an irresistible case for working with one's hands.
A philosopher/mechanic's wise (and sometimes funny) look at the challenges and pleasures of working with one's hands
Called "the sleeper hit of the publishing season" (The Boston Globe), Shop Class as Soulcraft became an instant bestseller, attracting readers with its radical (and timely) reappraisal of the merits of skilled manual labor. On both economic and psychological grounds, author Matthew B. Crawford questions the educational imperative of turning everyone into a "knowledge worker," based on a misguided separation of thinking from doing. Using his own experience as an electrician and mechanic, Crawford presents a wonderfully articulated call for self-reliance and a moving reflection on how we can live concretely in an ever more abstract world.
About the Author
Matthew B. Crawford is a philosopher and mechanic. He has a Ph.D. in political philosophy from the University of Chicago and served as postdoctoral fellow on its Committee on Social Thought. Currently a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia, he owns and operates Shockoe Moto, an independent motorcycle repair shop in Richmond, Virginia.
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