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Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work [Paperback]

Matthew B. Crawford
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

27 April 2010
A philosopher/mechanic's wise (and sometimes funny) look at the challenges and pleasures of working with one's hands

Called "the sleeper hit of the publishing season" (The Boston Globe), Shop Class as Soulcraft became an instant bestseller, attracting readers with its radical (and timely) reappraisal of the merits of skilled manual labor. On both economic and psychological grounds, author Matthew B. Crawford questions the educational imperative of turning everyone into a "knowledge worker," based on a misguided separation of thinking from doing. Using his own experience as an electrician and mechanic, Crawford presents a wonderfully articulated call for self-reliance and a moving reflection on how we can live concretely in an ever more abstract world.

Product details

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (27 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143117467
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143117469
  • Product Dimensions: 19.5 x 13.5 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 30,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

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.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Academic Gearhead's Treatise 15 Sep 2009
Matthew B. Crawford's appeal for a society that engages more with its material world caught my attention some time back in a recommendation that I saw. My father retired from electrical engineering some time ago, and now does all kinds of DIY jobs for people. Because I spend most of my time uninvolved with such work, but intrigued by the idea of finding what so fascinates my father, I picked up Shop Class as Soulcraft thinking that Crawford might provide me with some insights. He did just that, and challenged my thinking with trenchant philosophy to boot.

A word of warning, as much as Crawford's book is the story of a how gearhead came to open his own shop, it is also, and probably more so, an academic philosopher's appeal to the academically-inclined and college-educated to give greater credit to those who are involved in manual labour, the trades, and the crafts. He explains his case as an academic would using academic language, references, end notes, and the other mainstays of academia. This book is not a memoir, neither is it just a story about the pleasures of construction. Instead, it is a philosophical attack on the motives for college education rather than 'vocational training', in which he argues that college education is turning people into cogs, and that 'vocational' training is more cognitively challenging than universities and politicians would have you believe. Consequently, you should not buy this book if you are looking for a comfortable or easy read about restoring and repairing motorcycles. Don't go in thinking it's a quick holiday read, or just a bit of fun - it'll require some serious work if you're unfamiliar with the debates, especially those in which the names of Marx, Smith, Heidegger, Polanyi, and others pop off of the workshop shelves.
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5.0 out of 5 stars As interesting as it is informative 23 Feb 2013
This book is a treasure trove of wisdom and sage word on the state of work and workers in the world today. Reading this will not only open your eyes to something you might well already know in the workplace but also teach you valuable lessons. This is kind of book that I recommend to anyone when a topic of conversation could even be loosely related to it and the lessons from which I use regularly and try to impart on others.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Crawford's book brings across a similar message to Pirsig's Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values - namely of the value of craft type work, and the intelligence required to go into it. In effect it is a renewed rallying call to devote more thought to one's career than the blind obeisance to college and office work that seems to be the prevalent mode today.

There is certainly a lot to be said for skilled craft work and the practitioners - the good ones, at least - can definitely boast of just as materially rich lives as white collar workers, and often have much more intrinsic satisfaction.

The author does an excellent job to bring the pleasures of skilled physical work across, based primarily on his own experience (with some literary refferences thrown in for good measure). Where he falls somewhat short is in his description of white collar, office work - it seems that his own experience prepared him poorly to adequately describe and judge it. In the main points he is of course right but you will get a much better examination of both Taylorist management methods, as well as problems of white collar jobs in something like Matthew's The Management Myth: Why the Experts Keep Getting it Wrong.

At the end of the day the message transmitted is similar to Pirsig's, and whether you prefer this book or the Zen original will probably depend on your age, and exposure to / liking of philosophy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Shop Class as Soulcraft 13 April 2011
Very readable and as many of the reviews already available indicate, funny at times. I haven't read the entire work yet so my comments may be addressed within the rest of the book. I think that an important reason why so many industries such as the US (and UK) motoring industry have declined is because the cars and motorcycles they built were just not very good. Yes it is nice to tinker around when it is a hobby, but not if it's a wet Monday morning and you want to get to work. I do think the book makes some very valuable points and that there is a strong case made for not only manual work of this nature but for how we as nations plan for our future prosperity. This book is well worth its place in my collection.
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