Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work

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Penguin, May 28, 2009 - Philosophy - 256 pages
23 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.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - klburnside - LibraryThing

I heard an interview with this author on the Diane Rehm show sometime last fall or summer and was so impressed that I immediately put the book on hold at the library. I anxiously anticipated its ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - heradas - LibraryThing

It was at times a bit idealistic, but the points that Crawford makes are more often than not valid and worthy of contemplation. He does seem prone to sweeping statements rather than simple conclusions ... Read full review


The Psychic Satisfactions of Manual Work
The Cognitive Demands of Manual Work
Art Crafts and the Assembly Line
Back to the Past?
The Degradation of BlueCollar Work
The Degradation of WhiteCollar Work
Everyone an Einstein
The Tradesman as Stoic
The Motorcycle Antiquarian
Shockoe Moto
Writing Service Tickets
Of Madness a Magna and Metaphysics
Indexing and Abstracting
Learned Irresponsibility
What College Is For

The Motorcycle as Mule
From the Hand Pump to the Idiot Light and Beyond
Agency versus Autonomy
The Betty Crocker Cruiser
Displaced Agency
The Wouldbe Apprentice
String Theory
The Mentor
Forensic Wrenching
Personal Knowledge
Seeing Clearly or Unselfishly
Idiocy as an Ideal
The Crew versus the Team
Of Ohms Law and Muddy Boots
The Tacit Knowledge of the Firefighter and the Chess Master
Personal Knowledge versus Intellectual Technology
The Service Manual as Social Technology
The Groove of the Speed Shop
Wholehearted Activity
Solidarity and the Aristocratic Ethos
The Importance of Failure
Individual Agency in a Shared World

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About the author (2009)

Matthew B. Crawford is a philosopher and mechanic. He has a Ph.D. in political philosophy from the University of Chicago and served as a postdoctoral fellow on its Committee on Social Thought. Currently a fellow at the University of Virginia's Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, he owns and operates Shockoe Moto, an independent motorcycle repair shop in Richmond, Virginia.

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