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Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work Audio CD – Audiobook, 19 Apr 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Audiobook, 19 Apr 2011
£11.70 £30.87
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Brilliance Corporation; Unabridged edition (19 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1455805718
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455805716
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 1.6 x 14 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,172,170 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

"It's appropriate that ["Shop Class as Soulcraft"] arrives in May, the month when college seniors commence real life. Skip Dr. Seuss, or a tie from Vineyard Vines, and give them a copy for graduation.... It's not an insult to say that "Shop Class" is the best self-help book that I've ever read. Almost all works in the genre skip the "self" part and jump straight to the "help." Crawford rightly asks whether today's cubicle dweller even has a respectable self....It's kind of like Heidegger and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance."
-"Slate"
"Matt Crawford's remarkable book on the morality and metaphysics of the repairman looks into the reality of practical activity. It is a superb combination of testimony and reflection, and you can't put it down."
-Harvey Mansfield, Professor of Government, Harvard University
"Every once in a great while, a book will come along that's brilliant and true and perfect for its time. Matthew B. Crawford's "Shop Class as Soulcraft" is that kind of book, a prophetic and searching examination of what we've lost by ceasing to work with our hands-and how we can get it back. During this time of cultural anxiety and reckoning, when the conventional wisdom that has long driven our wealthy, sophisticated culture is foundering amid an economic and spiritual tempest, Crawford's liberating volume appears like a lifeboat on the horizon."
-Rod Dreher, author of "Crunchy Cons: The New Conservative Counterculture and Its Return to Roots"
"This is a deep exploration of craftsmanship by someone with real, hands-on knowledge. The book is also quirky, surprising, and sometimes quite moving."
-Richard Sennett, author of "The Craftsman"
"Matt Crawford has written a brave and indispensable book. By making a powerful case for the enduring value of the manual trades, "Shop Class as Soulcraft" offers a bracing alternative to the techno-babble that passes for conventional wisdom, and points the way to a profoundly necessary reconnection with the material world. No one who cares about the future of human work can afford to ignore this book."
-Jackson Lears, Editor in Chief, "Raritan"
"We are on the verge of a national renewal. It will have more depth and grace if we read Crawford's book carefully and take it to heart. He is a sharp theorist, a practicing mechanic, and a captivating writer."
-Albert Borgmann, author of "Real American Ethics"
""Shop Class as Soulcraft" is easily the most compelling polemic since "The Closing of the American Mind." Crawford offers a stunning indictment of the modern workplace, detailing the many ways it deadens our senses and saps our vitality. And he describes how our educational system has done violence to our true nature as 'homo faber'. Better still, Crawford points in the direction of a richer, more fulfilling way of life. This is a book that will endure."
-Reihan Salam, associate editor at "The Atlantic," co-author of "Grand New Party"
"Crawford reveals the satisfactions of the active craftsman who cultivates his own judgment, rather than being a passive consumer subject to manipulated fantasies of individuality and creativity."
- Nathan Tarcov, Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago
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 one's 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 today's "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 don't, the toilet flushes or it doesn't, 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.
- "Publishers Weekly," Starred review
Philosopher and motorcycle mechanic Crawford presents a fascinating, important analysis of the value of hard work and manufacturing. He reminds readers that in the 1990s vocational education (shop class) started to become a thing of the past as U.S. educators prepared students for the "knowledge revolution." Thus, an entire generation of American "thinkers" cannot, he says, "do" anything, and this is a threat to manufacturing, the fundamental backbone of economic development. Crawford makes real the experience of working with one's hands to make and fix things and the importance of skilled labor. His philosophical background is evident as he muses on how to live a pragmatic, concrete life in today's ever more abstract world and issues a clarion call for reviving trade and skill development classes in American preparatory schools. The result is inspired social criticism and deep personal exploration. Crawford's work will appeal to fans of Robert Pirsig's classic "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" and should be required reading for all educational leaders. Highly recommended; Crawford's appreciation for various trades may intrigue readers with white collar jobs who wonder at the end of each day what they really accomplished.
- "Library Journal"

"It's appropriate that [Shop Class as Soulcraft] arrives in May, the month when college seniors commence real life. Skip Dr. Seuss, or a tie from Vineyard Vines, and give them a copy for graduation.... It's not an insult to say that Shop Class is the best self-help book that I've ever read. Almost all works in the genre skip the "self" part and jump straight to the "help." Crawford rightly asks whether today's cubicle dweller even has a respectable self....It's kind of like Heidegger and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance."
-Slate
"Matt Crawford's remarkable book on the morality and metaphysics of the repairman looks into the reality of practical activity. It is a superb combination of testimony and reflection, and you can't put it down."
-Harvey Mansfield, Professor of Government, Harvard University
"Every once in a great while, a book will come along that's brilliant and true and perfect for its time. Matthew B. Crawford's Shop Class as Soulcraft is that kind of book, a prophetic and searching examination of what we've lost by ceasing to work with our hands-and how we can get it back. During this time of cultural anxiety and reckoning, when the conventional wisdom that has long driven our wealthy, sophisticated culture is foundering amid an economic and spiritual tempest, Crawford's liberating volume appears like a lifeboat on the horizon."
-Rod Dreher, author of Crunchy Cons: The New Conservative Counterculture and Its Return to Roots
"This is a deep exploration of craftsmanship by someone with real, hands-on knowledge. The book is also quirky, surprising, and sometimes quite moving."
-Richard Sennett, author of The Craftsman
"Matt Crawford has written a brave and indispensable book. By making a powerful case for the enduring value of the manual trades, Shop Class as Soulcraft offers a bracing alternative to the techno-babble that passes for conventional wisdom, and points the way to a profoundly necessary reconnection with the material world. No one who cares about the future of human work can afford to ignore this book."
-Jackson Lears, Editor in Chief, Raritan
"We are on the verge of a national renewal. It will have more depth and grace if we read Crawford's book carefully and take it to heart. He is a sharp theorist, a practicing mechanic, and a captivating writer."
-Albert Borgmann, author of Real American Ethics
"Shop Class as Soulcraft is easily the most compelling polemic since The Closing of the American Mind. Crawford offers a stunning indictment of the modern workplace, detailing the many ways it deadens our senses and saps our vitality. And he describes how our educational system has done violence to our true nature as 'homo faber'. Better still, Crawford points in the direction of a richer, more fulfilling way of life. This is a book that will endure."
-Reihan Salam, associate editor at The Atlantic, co-author of Grand New Party
"Crawford reveals the satisfactions of the active craftsman who cultivates his own judgment, rather than being a passive consumer subject to manipulated fantasies of individuality and creativity."
-Nathan Tarcov, Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago
"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 one's 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 today's "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 don't, the toilet flushes or it doesn't, 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."
-Publishers Weekly, Starred review
"Philosopher and motorcycle mechanic Crawford presents a fascinating, important analysis of the value of hard work and manufacturing. He reminds readers that in the 1990s vocational education (shop class) started to become a thing of the past as U.S. educators prepared students for the "knowledge revolution." Thus, an entire generation of American "thinkers" cannot, he says, do anything, and this is a threat to manufacturing, the fundamental backbone of economic development. Crawford makes real the experience of working with one's hands to make and fix things and the importance of skilled labor. His philosophical background is evident as he muses on how to live a pragmatic, concrete life in today's ever more abstract world and issues a clarion call for reviving trade and skill development classes in American preparatory schools. The result is inspired social criticism and deep personal exploration. Crawford's work will appeal to fans of Robert Pirsig's classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and should be required reading for all educational leaders. Highly recommended; Crawford's appreciation for various trades may intrigue readers with white collar jobs who wonder at the end of each day what they really accomplished."
-Library Journal" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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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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This book is well worth the effort needed to read it. It is not a lightweight holiday read... Early on the book is a little heavy but develops well and puts into perspective our industrial development. It shows how Henry Ford destroyed craftsmanship by separating thinking from doing; how his engineering of the production process was balanced by the engineering of consumption and easy credit to enslave workers to a life of unsatisfying work. Wind forward in time and see how the same creeping separation of thinking from doing is undermining the professional occupations, where graduates find themselves doing unsatisfying work in modern production-line offices. Individual flair, decisiveness and accountability is undermined by endless meetings where everyone is responsible and no one is responsible. Crawford points out the disconnects between modern life and the real world and shows how and why people can regain some meaning in their lives by working with their hands. If you want to read something that will make you think and re-evaluate how you spend your working life... Do yourself a favour, get yourself a copy, read it and think about the messages it contains. Who was it that said "The unexamined life is not worth living"?
Incidentally, the book has nudged me into making a decision to change my job... by pursuing an aspect of my of my profession as a mechanical engineer which I have in the past enjoyed for its creativity. Need I say more..?
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Crawford has two basic points in this book and he excels when he sticks to them:

1) The manual work ("the trades") is both physically and intellectually satisfying;
2) Any work that is process led (the thinking is done elsewhere) is soul destroying - white collar work is as susceptible to this as blue collar.

He does sometimes drift off from these points, and sometimes shows his ignorance when he pontificates about office life which he doesn't have much experience of.
He does correctly characterise the anomie and vagueness of modern office life.

However when he sticks to his main point he's superb - the book that this most strongly resembles (deliberately) is Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: 25th Anniversary Edition: An Inquiry into Values, this is more of an enquiry into work than values but they share a similar feel. The book is primarily interested in the Philosophy of work and quotes Heidegger and Aristotle to back up his case, so it's not light reading.

So an interesting read, but given that most blue and white collar work has been lobotomised and there probably isn't enough trade work to go around, I'm not sure where this leaves us. I'm pretty lousy with at shop class (or metal working as they called it at my school) and I don't think it's practical to expect everyone to fix motorcycles.
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