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The Case for Working with Your Hands: Or Why Office Work is Bad for Us and Fixing Things Feels Good

The Case for Working with Your Hands: Or Why Office Work is Bad for Us and Fixing Things Feels Good [Kindle Edition]

Matthew Crawford
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)

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Product Description


The best book I have read for ages ... a profound exploration of modern education, work and capitalism ... I happen to know it is in [Education Secretary] Mr Gove's in-tray ... its analysis applies with horrible precision to our education system (Matthew D'ancona Telegraph )

A philosophy of how life should be lived, how children should be educated and how economies should be run ... Full of interesting stories and thought-provoking aperçus enlivened with humour ... Important, memorable and enjoyable (Louis De Bernières The Times )

A next-generation Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to rally the millions who feel emotionally disconnected from work (Financial Times )

Persuasive and timely (The Times )

A powerful new book (David Willetts, Universities And Science Minister Telegraph )

A deep exploration of craftsmanship by someone with real hands-on knowledge. Quirky, surprising and moving (Richard Sennett )

A stunning indictment of the modern workplace ... Crawford points in the direction of a richer, more fulfilling way of life. This is a book that will endure (Reihan Salam The Atlantic )

A beautiful little book about human excellence (New York Times )

A superb combination of testimony and reflection, and you can't put it down (Harvey Mansfield, Professor Of Government At Harvard )

A bestseller in the United States, but its critique of 'post-industrial' capitalism is equally pertinent here ... Will be enjoyed for its iconoclasm, swagger and dry humour (Telegraph )

No one who cares about the future of human work can afford to ignore this book (Jackson Lears, Editor Of Raritan )

A masterpiece filled with surprises (Dallas Morning News )

The best self-help book that I've ever read. Kind of like Heidegger and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Slate )

A breakout success ... touched a big nerve, quickly becoming a national best seller and generating widespread publicity (New York Times )

A surprise hit ... Americans, perhaps, have found their guide (Financial Times )

While the specifics come from American experience, almost everything in the book also holds true for Britain (Ian Jack Guardian )

May upend your preconceptions about labour and, just maybe, cause you to rethink your career (or how you spend your weekends) ... Impassioned and profound (Washington Post )

[A] tender, wise little volume ... Crawford is a kindred spirit (Lionel Shriver )

Elegant and humorous (The Times )

A short book that punches hard and deserves to spark off a wide debate (Herald Scotland )

The sleeper hit of the publishing season (Boston Globe )

Product Description

Why do some jobs offer fulfilment while others leave us frustrated? Why do we so often think of our working selves as separate from our 'true' selves?

Over the course of the twentieth century, we have separated mental work from manual labour, replacing the workshop with either the office cubicle or the factory line. In this inspiring and persuasive book, Matthew Crawford explores the dangers of this false distinction and presents instead the case for working with your hands. He brings to life the immense psychological and intellectual satisfactions of making and fixing things, explores the moral benefits of a technical education and, at a time when jobs are increasingly being outsourced over the internet, argues that the skilled manual trades may be one of the few sure paths to a good living. Drawing on the work of our greatest thinkers, from Aristotle to Heidegger, from Karl Marx to Iris Murdoch, as well as on his own experiences as an electrician and motorcycle mechanic, Crawford delivers a radical, timely and extremely enjoyable re-evaluation of our attitudes to work.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1561 KB
  • Print Length: 250 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0670918741
  • Publisher: Penguin (6 May 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #83,541 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever, thoughtful and intuitive 18 Jun 2010
There aren't enough really good books about work: most of us spend more of our lives working than doing anything else, but though we might think about a particular job, we rarely consider what it is to work, what makes some kinds of work more satisfying than others. I don't make my living with my hands, but this book gave me a deep and intuitive pleasure, the pleasure of having something articulated which I had felt but not shaped. It's clever, thoughtful and intuitive.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book made me want to go to work again 24 Aug 2010
As a tradesman who does not fit the typical "builder" mould, I have often felt I was in the wrong job. I would look at my office based friends in central london with envy. Trade work seemed to be second rate - something for those who failed at school. I found this book opened my eyes to elements of manual work that I had not previously appreciated. I now see that to work with your hands is holistic, cognatively challenging, rewarding and ultimately really useful! This book offers a highly intelligent reflection on what has previoulsy been considered un-intelligable work. Prepare to be challenged!
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Resonant and compelling 18 Jun 2010
This is a fantastic book - simply and elegantly written, and very powerful. Crawford's thoughts on the modern workplace really resonate. He gives a clear and articulate voice to what I'd experienced previously only as a bundle of vague dissatisfactions and yearnings. Reading it was a very rich experience indeed and I throughly recommend it to others.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You need hands! 9 Jun 2010
I enjoyed this book because it gives a personal account. It is written by a person who is living his passion, and it must be good to have the courage to do what makes you feel great. It's not an easy read as it is a most serious topic tackled in a non-trivial manner. The sequence of the chapters don't necessary roll coherently but the writing is full of passion and real life experience. This book should be put on the National Curriculum to initiate some thinking...
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good but flawed 2 Feb 2011
I'm still trawling through this book, it's good. I've taken to marking passages and wandering off in my own thoughts on the points Mr Crawford is making; which is a good thing. Mr Crawford is highly intelligent and is obviously used to writing dissertations, but here lies the problem. His language can be rather arcane and lacks clarification. If you truly understand your subject matter then it can be explained succinctly. This said it's worth filtering the meanderings for the genuinely astute observations.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Romanticised but stimulating 13 July 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This was published in the USA last year as "Shop Class as Soulcraft; an inquiry into the value of work". It's not very long, and highly readable.

To a certain extent, Crawford is in the same territory as The Craftsman in lauding craftsmanship and painstaking skill, but whereas Sennett rambles self-indulgently around the workshops of violin-makers in Cremona, and discusses literary approaches to cooking a chicken, Crawford is more grounded. He does not use the effete term "craft", but concentrates on the manual "trade". And his paradigmatic trade is repairing motorbikes.

He has an impressive academic background, including a degree in physics and a doctorate in political philosophy, and enough form as an office worker to reject it on an informed basis. He can also appeal to having practised as an electrician on small-scale construction sites.

He runs a motorbike repair shop as his main business. He knows what he is talking about, as some fascinating stories testify, even if readers may not really understand them.

There's much too much for a blog post here, and of course if I go into it too much you may not read the book. But...

* He celebrates work which gives direct and unmediated feedback; do it right and the machine works again. Do it wrong and it doesn't.

* He bemoans current systems which don't do that--but he talks about them as if they were deliberately constructed as if to obscure feedback. They aren't.
Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Matthew Crawford - thinking outside the box 21 April 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a hugely intelligent book that I bought after reading an issue of Resurgence.Matthew Crawford has a PHd and became disillusioned with his work as director of a think tank and went back to repairing motor bikes, his first love. He is American.
He writes of losing skills and disconnection between work life and leisure life and questions the value of so much that goes on in 'white collar' work and the satisfaction that can come from being self employed, in charge of your own future and working with your hands at something you enjoy. He also questions people's evaluation of manual work and 'champions manual competence, the experience it provides and its intellectual and social rewards'.
I think this is a very worthwhile book because it challenges so much current thinking.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I have not finished this book but the sections I have read talk of the same satisfaction I have from my own trade, a working jeweller, when often the satisfaction far out weighs the price achieved in the process. The book is fairly well written although I found the philosophy rather muddling at times.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Would like to shake the authors hand
This book should be given to everyone in university, and anyone wondering what to do for a career. Ive reread it a few times now and look forward to reading it on a commute to... Read more
Published 2 months ago by sd71
4.0 out of 5 stars From a spoon making automotive guy
Recommended this by a work colleague after a discussion we were having on the fulfilment you get from actually making things - in his case bread, in mine wooden spoons. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mr J A Fossey
5.0 out of 5 stars An inspiring read
This is a book that ranks with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as a call for a new 'realism' and common sense. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Movements - Keith Buckley
3.0 out of 5 stars Too academic for the subject matter
I'm all for the message behind this book, but why was it written in such dense, academic language? I'm a reasonably educated person and I found it incredibly hard-going. Read more
Published 5 months ago by kp
4.0 out of 5 stars Work ethics
This is a book of two intertwined parts. The author has a background as an academic, but now prefers to work as a motorcycle mechanic. This book reflects this. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Jeff Van Campen
1.0 out of 5 stars Hard-going, with occasional good bits!
Again, as with the few negative reviews I've already read, I was sold this book alone on the book title, good reviews, and the back cover synopsis. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Richard Herbert
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, wacky and thought provoking. What more do you need?
This is an easy book to misunderstand, from its wacky three part title, to its folksy language. It also talks about elements of US culture that mean little to a UK audience, like... Read more
Published 13 months ago by M C Adams
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
i thoroughly recommend this bok, a lovely read for anyone ready to get off their office chair and walk fourth into a new future
Published 13 months ago by mr o j adams
5.0 out of 5 stars Re-balancing the 'value' equation
I read this book in 2011 having received it as a gift. I had occasion recently to recommend it to a colleague and arrived at the Amazon page in order to send him the link to the... Read more
Published 16 months ago by PD Langton
4.0 out of 5 stars A great read!
A very readable and humorous reminder that there are more satisfying things in life that are not purely cerebral. Read more
Published 16 months ago by D. C. Williams
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Popular Highlights

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“Indebtedness could discipline workers, keeping them at routinized jobs in factories and offices, graying but in harness, meeting payments regularly.” &quote;
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Many people are trying to recover a field of vision that is basically human in scale, and extricate themselves from dependence on the obscure forces of a global economy. &quote;
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Craftsmanship entails learning to do one thing really well, while the ideal of the new economy is to be able to learn new things, celebrating potential rather than achievement. &quote;
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