Shop Class as Soulcraft

Shop Class as Soulcraft

An Inquiry Into the Value of Work

Book - 2009
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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.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, c2009
ISBN: 9781594202230
Branch Call Number: 331 CRA 2009
Characteristics: 246 p. : ill. ; 22 cm


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JCLKinsleyR Apr 02, 2014

I waited through the entire book for him to get on with it. I felt like he spent most of the book defending blue collar workers and his chosen profession.

Mar 31, 2012

This book is nothing short of calumny, and suffers from one main problem. The author does not know the why of college/university. Its more a condemnation of the student than the study. Never, ever, was a liberal arts education designed to qualify one for a career, job or profession.
The idealistic version of trades does not mesh, and there are severe problems therein. The cubical driven 'educated' person is not the norm. I would suggest the author get a real life and try to understand himself and his intellectual weakness therein.
Trades are ideal if one cannot stomach reading, but the ideal of independence flies in the face of reality. This is an ideal book if one is torn between options, a college education should not be undertaken without the realization one may never meet ones own expectations. While a trade can provide the financial benefits, and satisfaction, to most, it does not do so for all.

Dec 19, 2011

This guy is hilarious. I could just read it for the anecdotes. I'm no mechanic but his story-telling is fabulous!

jlazcan Oct 20, 2011

This book made me want to go out and open a garage in my neighborhood. I have many things in common with the author. I grew up on a farm fixing machinery, car, plumbing, electrical etc. on my own. My mindset has always been that I wanted more out of life and went to college then graduate school. Well the question is am I happier? Am I more secure in my profession? The author argues that we are not paying attention to how important technical skills and trade careers are. He has great personal stories that are the best part of the book. I related to them and they made me laugh. Anyone who has spent five hours removing one bolt will understand, but the author spends most of the book talking about and citing theory and philosophy which was a bit boring. His argument(s) rings true, but I would have loved more of the anecdotes.

LYCrazy8 Oct 19, 2011

a bit too much philosophizing for my taste, but his key points are important. they changed the way i view "education" and the state of the american workforce.

Feb 11, 2011

I did not request this.
Please delete from my file.
Kindest regards,
Cynthia Stucker

Jan 27, 2011

This book really calls into question what some of us actually do on a day to day basis. How involved are we with producing, creating, or providing? Are you the "spread sheet guy" at work, another part of the assembly line that some corporate work has turned into? Shop Class As Soulcraft champions the idea that we are happier when we can see the fruits of our labor and lay a finger on what we do with our work. Matthew B. Crawford brings the human element back to labor, and ventures to question the value of faceless industry.

Jan 26, 2011

It would be liberating to see the ideas presented here permeating the various levels of education in our communities. This is an important book.

Dec 23, 2010

An exceptionally impressive work from an academic who has been witness to the tedium of knowledge-based industries. The author proposes that trade-based employment can offer the individual as much or more cognitive challenges and self fulfillment than they might find in any career as a symbolic analyst (high tech worker).
Through personal examples (eg: a $23,000/yr job writing 250 word abstracts of journal articles which he finds soul deadening) and a diverse use of philosophers and sociologists, Mr Crawford gives the reader truly illuminating insights into how far our society has tipped in pursuit of abstraction over physicality and artfully critiques the corporate culture permeating the former.
I can not recommend this book highly enough and suggest it belongs right next to Curtis White's brilliant "The Spirit of Disobedience".
With all due respect to other comments here, I did not find the author "wandering off" at all.
This is a tightly argued, persuasive and extremely good book.

Jun 22, 2010

Agree with crazycurlr

Author has quite a solid start but then his mind wonders elsewhere.

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Dec 23, 2010

Mastery of a stochastic art is compatible with failure to achieve its end. As Aristotle writes, "It does not belong to medicine to produce health, but only promote it as much as possible..."
Fixing things, whether cars or human bodies, is very different from building things from scratch. The mechanic and the doctor deal with failure every day, even if they are expert, whereas the builder does not. This is because they fix things that are *not of their own making* and are therefore never known in a comprehensive or absolute way. This experience of failure tempers the conceit of mastery; the doctor and mechanic have daily intercourse with the world as something independent and a vivid awareness of the difference between self and non-self.
Fixing things may be a cure for narcissism.

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