Top positive review
9 people found this helpful
In Praise of Plumbing, or, Heidegger and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
on July 30, 2014
I've read "Shop Class as Soulcraft" twice and have urged friends to read it, too. It's a super-interesting book, which draws on autobiography, phenomenology, and labor studies to make the argument that the manual trades are cognitively and morally superior to most white-collar "knowledge" work. Ironically, the argument is rather cerebral: the basic idea (or one of them anyway) is that manual workers are in touch with objective reality and must satisfy objective standards of excellence, whereas office workers spend much of their professional time managing perceptions of themselves. As someone who hated every hour I spent in an office drafting strategies, "talking points," and press guidance -- ephemeral performance art, at best -- the book spoke to me. (It also helped that I grew up in the SF Bay Area, like the author.)
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.