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Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work [Kindle Edition]

Matthew B. Crawford
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (324 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $10.02
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

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.




Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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 oneÖs 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 todayÖs 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 donÖt, the toilet flushes or it doesnÖt, 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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

We note that Publishers Weekly named Shop Class as Soulcraft one of the top ten books of 2009. Reviewers were clearly intrigued by Crawford's argument, but only a couple of them seemed fully persuaded. (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 Times reviewer observed, many of the author's personal preferences and quirks, such as Crawford's defense of dirty jokes, seem to impede his argument. However, it's hard not to be interested in a philosopher who, in a nation that privileges intellectual attainment, can also successfully replace a carburetor.

Product Details


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
368 of 386 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Radical, Timely, Moving. May 28, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This could easily be the most important book a parent or young adult reads this year.

Matt Crawford's Shop Class as Soulcraft touched a chord with me. Both his life and his book are a rebuke to the assumptions which govern modern ideas about work, economics, self-worth, and happiness. Crawford would seem to have lived the American Dream right into his twenties. He finished his formal education (which, to judge by the breadth of references to literature and philosophy in the book, wasn't shabby) and was quickly hired by a Washington "think tank". Any young, aggressive climber would recognize this as a coveted place from which to launch of career. But where others would see a rapid ascent up the social pyramid, Crawford sensed emptiness. He left to work in a motorcycle repair shop, where he got his hands dirty, fixed bikes, and used his brain. Where others might see "mere" manual labor, he learned the value of a tangible skill. He now shares with readers his thoughts on this value, how it is vanishing from modern society, and the implications for us as a people.

Crawford traces the evolution of shop class, its intended and unintended consequences, and its subsequent rapid retreat from our schools. He lays out the historical transition from individual craftsman to interchangeable piece of a human assembly line during the industrial revolution. Much more frighteningly, he reviews how the same approach is well underway in the "white collar" information economy. Whether one has lived the absurdities of cubicle farms first hand or only through Dilbert, it is not hard to see how the modern, homogenized college prep education and liberal arts degree leaves a modern worker predisposed to try to fit as a cog in a modern information assembly line.
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803 of 868 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Half the Story June 1, 2009
Format:Hardcover
This is very nicely done. There is a dignity and elegance to hands-on work, and a pointlessness to much that's done in a cubicle these days, and the author does an impressive job of bringing both to the reader's understanding. Probably the expression in this book of what can be fulfilling about craftsmanship is unmatched. If you love working with your hands but have never put your finger (pun intended) on exactly what that magic is this book will make you smile. If you've never fixed something yourself it will have you tearing apart whatever you own that can still be serviced (probably not much) and chasing the feeling you got from reading about it. I've done a lot of mechanical work but never could have expressed its virtues the way Mr. Crawford has. Great job.

There are two problems. The first is the 'Malcolm Gladwell problem'. Remember when our founding fathers published pamphlets? Let's bring that back. This first appeared as an essay and probably should have stayed as one, it's just not full length book material.

The other problem is that he presents a simple truth which is only half the story. To the author, there is hand-work, in which feedback is absolute therefore the work stays meaningful, and office work, in which achievement is unnecessary and an accent on procedure over substance has ruined everything. What he's missing (and this is where some of the condescension toward craftsmanship Mr. Crawford bristles at so is actually based on a grain of truth) is that all these possibilities exist in both worlds, they're just more obvious in the hands-on. We have all gotten back a car that's still broken because a mechanic only followed the procedures in a shop manual he was ordered to follow by corporate hq.
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86 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book with so many useful lessons. June 27, 2009
By CR73
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It's hard to put into words the message I got from this book. As a college graduate with dual degrees in economics and engineering who spends most of his day in a cubicle, pushing paper and feeling my soul drain out of my body, this book put into words a lot of the feelings and internal conflicts I struggle with daily. About a year ago, I grew tired of not working with my hands and using my creativity so I enrolled in a machinist training program at a local community college to satisfy my needs. I got so much out of working with my hands, it was almost therapy for me. The author writes about how much we can gain from working with our hands, stimulating creativity, problem solving, and a real connection with a tangible result from our work. Think of how many days you've spent at the office, making conference calls, sending emails and filling out spreadsheets, only to go home and wonder "What did I really do today? What is the proof of my work today?" Reading this book puts a lot into perspective and extolls the virtue of skilled trades, and the author urges a well-deserved re-examination of the skilled trades as a rewarding career option.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Professional Perspective February 17, 2010
Format:Hardcover
I connected with this book in several ways. First, while in Junior High (remember when it was called that) in the 60s I was told by my guidance counselor I couldn't take Shop II because I was on a college prep track and Shop 2 was for those kids who would be blue collar workers. The bias of those comments stuck with me all these years. Second, there is an option pursued by myself and many of my close friends. While I was a white collar worker my entire professional career my hobby was restoring and maintaining cars. I needed the satisfaction of that work so took it on as a hobby and developed mechanical proficiency many mechanical skills including engine and gearbox rebuilding. After reading this book I realized many of my close friends have the same approach. A teacher who built his own house. A doctor who hand builds kayaks. A CPA who welds, restores and works on cars. Somehow we all value working with our hands and while we don't do it to pay the bills we all do it to satisfy our souls to great success. Crawford explains why we all feel this way. All of these friends have now read the book and enjoyed it. Crawford nailed it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating look at the value of doing.
There are a lot of great points in this book about the value of doing and of being part of a community that engages in work that can be evaluated objectively. Read more
Published 12 hours ago by Art Markman
1.0 out of 5 stars ... want to read about a man who's got nothing better to do than bitch
If you want to read about a man who's got nothing better to do than bitch, this is a book for you.
Published 10 days ago by walter de la cruz
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
a book everyone needs to read
Published 19 days ago by william d edwards
3.0 out of 5 stars Tough going, even for a fellow philosophy Ph.D.
A very mixed bag. There are some thought-provoking insights here. But the author's writing style is
torturously turgid (kind of like that phrase!). Read more
Published 24 days ago by Dennis Fried
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book!
Published 24 days ago by George Serrato
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
One of my favorite books of all time. Excellent read!
Published 1 month ago by Shayna
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This was a gift for my son . Thanks !
Published 1 month ago by J. Bolla
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I have ever read.
A great read - written by someone who truly gets it. There is meaning in Making Things - if you enjoy working with your hands, buy this book. Read more
Published 1 month ago by EmptySporran
4.0 out of 5 stars complex in parts
I certainly didn't buy it for the cover! It was recommended by a friend. I found it complex in parts bordering on an academic. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Penny A.
3.0 out of 5 stars Foggy bottom
While the subject of the book is right on the money, the author waffles on and on in academic, esoteric, and philosophical terms. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Bighat57
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More About the Author

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.

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A book to be read by all the states preparing everyone for a college...
There was a great article by the author in the NYTimes Magazine. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/24/magazine/24labor-t.html

It's refreshing to read an article like this...
May 24, 2009 by lulu |  See all 5 posts
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