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Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work Hardcover – 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.
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Top Customer Reviews
Admittedly, the book has a few problems. As other Amazon reviewers have noted, the author makes sweeping generalizations on the basis of his two brief jobs in the "knowledge" sector and his readings of Jackall and Braverman. The book also has an underbaked, incomplete feel to it, as if the author had trouble working his ideas into a full-blown argument. And here and there there's a hint of reverse snobbery, as when the author writes knowingly of race tracks and grimy machinery while never letting his audience (made up overwhelmingly of white-collar book readers) forget that he has a PhD from the University of Chicago. Perhaps this makes him the last Renaissance Man. (Perhaps he drinks Dos Equis, too.)
However, the book is definitely on to something. It will stir up reflection and self-recognition in anyone who reads it seriously. I'm looking forward to the author's next work.
Robots will not be able to invent new products nor make the first prototypes. People will. Robots did not build the hydroelectric dams or the other power sources that enable the robots to even work. People did. Where would our civilization be without Edison or Tesla, Westinghouse or Ted Decot?
I understand the value of mentored technical skills from my family. It was really brought home to me when my nephew, in engineering college, and had been a talented electrician at the age of 16, proclaimed that the electrical engineers at the college knew less about the practical aspects of the electricians trade than he did.
And there is the main difference between technical and college education, where you start learning practical things right off in the technical world and maybe, if you are lucky, you will learn something practical in college. I have a broad college education but so many classes can spoil the magic of so many subjects.
Why shouldn't young adults be allowed to find their own occupations? Not everyone should go to college. Technical/ community schools are just as good for those who have interests there. Though I do strongly suggest that at sometime in one's life, it would do no harm to explore the experience. No learning is ever wasted, even if you find out what you 'don't want to be'.
Past generations learned from masters of their craft and possibly have more insight into their jobs than is available now.
My brother learned his occupation from people who had known Mr. Westinghouse and other greats, whose genius, not schooling, brought so much to our lives. He was introduced to other occupations so he can work with people with other skills in a knowledgeable way.