Author(s): CRAWFORD MATTHEW B
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.
"It''s appropriate that ["Shop Class as Soulcraft"] arrives in May, the month when college seniors commence real life. Skip Dr. Seuss, or a tie from Vineyard Vines, and give them a copy for graduation.... It''s not an insult to say that "Shop Class" is the best self-help book that I''ve ever read. Almost all works in the genre skip the "self" part and jump straight to the "help." Crawford rightly asks whether today''s cubicle dweller even has a respectable self....It''s kind of like Heidegger and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance."
"Matt Crawford''s remarkable book on the morality and metaphysics of the repairman looks into the reality of practical activity. It is a superb combination of testimony and reflection, and you can''t put it down."
-Harvey Mansfield, Professor of Government, Harvard University
"Every once in a great while, a book will come along that''s brilliant and true and perfect for its time. Matthew B. Crawford''s "Shop Class as Soulcraft" is that kind of book, a prophetic and searching examination of what we''ve lost by ceasing to work with our hands-and how we can get it back. During this time of cultural anxiety and reckoning, when the conventional wisdom that has long driven our wealthy, sophisticated culture is foundering amid an economic and spiritual tempest, Crawford''s liberating volume appears like a lifeboat on the horizon."
-Rod Dreher, author of "Crunchy Cons: The New Conservative Counterculture and Its Return to Roots"
"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"
"Matt Crawford has written a brave and indispensable book. By making a powerful case for the enduring value of the manual trades, "Shop Class as Soulcraft" offers a bracing alternative to the techno-babble that passes for conventional wisdom, and points the way to a profoundly