Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford
An Inquiry into the Value of Work

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Synopsis

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.
 

About Matthew B. Crawford

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MATTHEW B. CRAWFORD is a philosopher and mechanic. 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.
 
Published April 21, 2009 by Penguin Books. 268 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, Political & Social Sciences, Law & Philosophy, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Shop Class as Soulcraft

The New York Times

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“Wood was for hippies,” he writes in “Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work.” “The wood whisperer with his hand planes, his curly maple, and his workshop on Walden Pond is a stock alter ego of gentlefolk everywhere, and I wanted none of it.” Mr. Crawford needed to hear thin...

May 28 2009 | Read Full Review of Shop Class as Soulcraft: An I...

The New York Times

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But he has a clear preference for a “progressive republican” order in which the moral ties binding workers to their work or entrepreneurs to their customers are not so readily sacrificed at the altar of efficiency and growth.

Jun 05 2009 | Read Full Review of Shop Class as Soulcraft: An I...

Entertainment Weekly

Like David Owen's home-improvement memoir Sheetrock & Shellac, Crawford's slim volume is a call to arms — or at least a call to The Home Depot — for the mechanically uninclined, arguing that only when we find out how things are made (and repaired) will we learn to appreciate them.

May 29 2009 | Read Full Review of Shop Class as Soulcraft: An I...

Christian Science Monitor

In his debut book, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work, Matthew Crawford examines for us his (mostly) joyful transition from philosopher and think tank director to self-employed mender of motorbikes.

Jun 16 2009 | Read Full Review of Shop Class as Soulcraft: An I...

Review (Barnes & Noble)

The instructions required are probably available online.) There are skilled approaches to knowledge work, household work, and teaching work as well as to machine work;

Jun 26 2009 | Read Full Review of Shop Class as Soulcraft: An I...

Bookmarks Magazine

(The New York Times Book Review critic, for example, admitted to enjoying Crawford's manual work alongside his academic career.) But most critics, while praising the book's overall premise, seemed a little hesitant about fully embracing Shop Class as Soulcraft, perhaps because, as the New York Ti...

May 31 2009 | Read Full Review of Shop Class as Soulcraft: An I...

BookRack

I did anyway :) Well I think its a lot to do with dignity of labor too, I've worked on Vocational education in my work and I know that a lot of it is because what is perceived by society as good or low level work.

Sep 09 2010 | Read Full Review of Shop Class as Soulcraft: An I...

Project MUSE

Professor Matthew Crawford begins his well-written and thoughtful book by saying he "would like to speak up for an ideal that is timeless but finds little accommodation today: manual competence and the stance it entails toward the built, material world" (p.

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