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Big_Beard

Shop Class As Soulcraft

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Shop Class as Soulcraft – An Inquiry into the value of work by Matthew Crawford

 

If any of you have questioned your sanity when it comes to performing your own maintenance on your vehicle, the book - ‘Shop Class’ may help affirm your actions and provide a mechanism to defend such in the face opposition from others.

 

Quite simply the book is about: the value of performing work, manual labour, learning how things work, learning how things break, knowing and having the ability (agency) to set things right.

 

I’ve actually not yet finished the book – while it is in some senses an easy read, I find myself taking my time with it, as it is also very deep and causes me to reflect often on my own life and on the state of our society.

 

Since I have not yet finished it I will hold off on any grand conclusions and simply state that I think this is a worth while read – it challenges the dominant cultural practices of paying others to fix our problems, disposing of things which don’t work, belittling ‘blue collar’ work and manual labour.

 

From the publisher:

A philosopher / mechanic destroys the pretensions of the high- prestige workplace and makes an irresistible case for working with one's hands

"Shop Class as Soulcraft" brings alive an experience that was once quite common, but now seems to be receding from society-the experience of making and fixing things with our hands. Those of us who sit in an office often feel a lack of connection to the material world, a sense of loss, and find it difficult to say exactly what we do all day. For anyone who felt hustled off to college, then to the cubicle, against their own inclinations and natural bents, "Shop Class as Soulcraft" seeks to restore the honor of the manual trades as a life worth choosing.

On both economic and psychological grounds, Crawford questions the educational imperative of turning everyone into a "knowledge worker," based on a misguided separation of thinking from doing, the work of the hand from that of the mind. Crawford shows us how such a partition, which began a century ago with the assembly line, degrades work for those on both sides of the divide.

But Crawford offers good news as well: the manual trades are very different from the assembly line, and from dumbed-down white collar work as well. They require careful thinking and are punctuated by moments of genuine pleasure. Based on his own experience as an electrician and mechanic, Crawford makes a case for the intrinsic satisfactions and cognitive challenges of manual work. The work of builders and mechanics is secure; it cannot be outsourced, and it cannot be made obsolete. Such work ties us to the local communities in which we live, and instills the pride that comes from doing work that is genuinely useful. A wholly original debut, "Shop Class as Soulcraft" offers a passionate call for self-reliance and a moving reflection on how we can live concretely in an ever more abstract world.

 

http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/Shop-Class-As-Soulcraft-Matthew-Crawford/9781594202230-item.html?ref=Search+Books%3a+%2527shop+class%2527

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trap

I think he could have chosen a better title, for one thing. Not too compelling.

 

I think any belittlement of blue-collar work is simply because that's work all the ne'er-do-wells and intellectually challenged types who could never hack it academically gravitate toward. A sanctuary for those with only a high-school education.

 

Self-reliance is nice and all, but if each was totally self-reliant, no one could make any money by selling services. It's ok to pay people to fix your stuff. Really. The economy thanks you.

 

I'm basically on the author's side though.

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I think you would find his thesis far more nuanced than what I have managed to convey in my post. I don’t think he would disagree with what you are saying – at least in the sense that he is not advocating that we always do everything for ourselves – only that we have become far too reliant upon others to do for us what we could do on our own.

 

He is, himself, of course from 'both worlds' – he is a mechanic and an academic (he holds a PhD in Political Philosophy.

Edited by Big_Beard

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I think you would find his thesis far more nuanced than what I have managed to convey in my post. I don’t think he would disagree with what you are saying – at least in the sense that he is not advocating that we always do everything for ourselves – only that we have become far too reliant upon others to do for us what we could do on our own.

 

He is, himself, of course from 'both worlds' – he is a mechanic and an academic (he holds a PhD in Political Philosophy.

 

There is also the complementary problem of "average" workers looking at the educated with suspicion. Having a PhD in a tight academic job market might mean you are forced try to look for a job in the service or blue collar sectors; good luck convincing someone with a high school education (or even a BA) that you'll be a good underling. Would Jiffy Lube hire a PhD with no management experience as an assistant manager? Probably not. In many ways having an education "prices" you out of the regular job market, contrary to conventional wisdom.

 

The book seems right on target. I'd say 90+% of my current academic colleagues get hosed by mechanics, when it doesn't take the knowledge of a rocket scientist to complete any automotive repair, much less the basic ones.

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