- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; 1 edition (May 28, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594202230
- ISBN-13: 978-1594202230
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 454 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #345,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work Hardcover – Bargain Price, May 28, 2009
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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)
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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.
Top customer reviews
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So much of the book is lost in the meandering of poor research, academics, wistful nostalgia for a past he never experienced and poorly formed arguments that it was hard to buy what he's selling, even though I'm a returning customer. I found very little substance related to "soulcraft" throughout the text and frankly wished he'd spent more time sharing what he learned from the shop teachers and mentors he mentions but never fully explores. The constant switch from the dedication to craft and work in the trades as sometimes related but separate and at others equal in all ways is simply wrong and confusing. I hate to be the one to break the news but not everyone in the trades has any interest in mastery of craft or is a richer or more enlightened human from their work. The author posits that white collar work is devoid of all meaning and lacks the ability to measure self against product - which in itself is worth a whole discussion - but there many in the fields of labor that rise to excellence and personal mastery in the white collar ranks as well.
In the end, craftsmanship reflects the individual commitment to mastery and excellence and that isn't recognized in this volume. Soul enriching craftsmanship isn't found in the majority of workers regardless of profession and I was disappointed to find so little in this book that resonated with me - an already convinced believer that time in my shop is healing for my soul.
This book deepened my appreciation for my dads decision to support my engineering education on the condition that I also develop myself as a tradesman.
I'd buy it again and I know I'll read it again.