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Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work Paperback – April 27, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143117467
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143117469
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (302 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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.

Customer Reviews

This book should be required reading for High School and College students.
William J. Getty
Matthew Crawford, the author, is blessed to be educated and skilled in experiencing both corporate and blue collar work.
L. Lemon
I felt a little bit removed from the book by some of the words and writing style used by the author.
Ruben

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

361 of 379 people found the following review helpful By David McCune VINE VOICE on 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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793 of 858 people found the following review helpful By D B Cooper on 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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83 of 88 people found the following review helpful By CR73 on June 27, 2009
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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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Alan Kendall on 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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