[ Book ] ♽ Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work ☣ MOBI eBook or Kindle ePUB free

I m always wondering why I work aside from that whole food and shelter thing , so books that try to answer that question draw my attention While said attention was utterly wasted on Alain de Botton s The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, it reaped rich rewards from Crawford s Shop Class as Soulcraft, a thoughtful, synthetic, opinionated exploration of manual labor.Crawford argues that society undervalues working with your hands, and that physically manipulating the world demands as much intellectual rigor and is as fulfilling as any other profession, if not so He could have ended there, with some polemic about the irrelevance of higher education and he certainly touches on that , but luckily Crawford isn t so provincial, and explores the implications of this assertion quite a bit.There s a whole lot going on in this book, but here are the three ideas that I found most compelling 1 Tacit knowledge is as important as explicit encodable knowledge.Tacit knowledge is what you know but can t communicate, succinctly summed up by the phrase, you had to be there I learned about this in grad school while reading an excellent essay on the destruction of knowledge related to nuclear weapons in Knowing Machines Essays on Technical Change Crawford argues repeatedly that such knowledge is ignored or misunderstood as something that can be replicated by procedure or machines, and I absolutely agree I see this kind of knowledge in a coworker s uncanny ability to debug something I ve struggled with for hours given only a handful of symptoms I also see it in an experienced naturalist s ability to identify a weird bug by gestalt, or see things in nature that I can t, even when we re looking at exactly the same scene It s also the kind of thing that s difficult to ascertain in a job interview, but is potentially important than the explicit forms of knowledge that are easily discernible.2 Some forms of cognition are only possible through physical manipulation.Actually, I think Crawford goes further and claims cognition that isn t directly related to the physical world is misguided He rags on theory quite a bit I sympathize with his tirade against a society that aspires to be a bunch of disembodied heads in jars, but I think he goes too far in equating all theorists to the absent minded professors he derides However, I totally agree with the underlying notion that doing is a form of thinking When I m on the squash court let s imagine I still play squash , my mind is alive with angles, velocities, and probabilities that are categorically different than their mathematical equivalents it is also filled with rage Don t get me started I imagine the same is true of musical performance Thought is far than simply getting lost in your own mind.3 Work demonstrates the existence of reality by forcing us to engage objects and forces outside our control i.e real things It also demonstrates our own reality when we alter this external world in ways that can be verified by others.Crawford rails against corporate cultures that enshrine relativistic values like being a team player, positive thinking, or creativity Manual labor, by contrast, provides a nuanced understanding of your own capabilities and ultimately self respect, because it forces you to engage with things outside of your control, like the physical world, or the idiosyncrasies of Japanese motorcycle engineers Good to a motorcycle repairman means the bike is running There s no way to redefine that value, and its truth can be proven by anyone.I disagree that this kind of engagement is exclusive to working with your hands, but I think the point is excellent work that touches the world is the cure for solipsism It provides an invaluable sense of reality that the self conscious mind needs well, mine does If you re evaluated based on subjective traits, you never know where you stand, and what you ve accomplished can always be taken away from you by redefinition Further, your work demonstrates your reality even when you re connected to the people who it affects A customer waiting for his bike to be fixed generates far poignancy than some distant consumer who may or may not drink the soda produced by the machines your underling s underling s underling s underling oversaw.So, given all that, what would Crawford think of my job, or my life I generally am not the master of my own stuff, and predominantly live in my own head My primary engagements with the physical world are through cooking, which I assiduously avoid doing in objective i.e social contexts where my food could attain maximum reality, and nature study, which is occasionally tactile, but largely mitigated by a camera lens and somewhat motivated by a Web based attention market.However, though he might not recognize it as such, my profession of software engineering is far akin to motorcycle repair than the kind of subjective perception management he sees in most white collar work I do make things that real people use, and I am connected to those people It s just that the things I make and the connections to the people I make them for are not physical Howard Rheingold made an important point that virtual communities are not virtual in that they aren t real, they re just not physical, though I can t remember if I read that or if he said it in a class I don t have the advantage of tactile experience with my subject matter, but I am constantly struggling against systems I did not design and over which I have no control like Internet Explorer I operate within constraints, and my work is never perfect, but improves iteratively, and experience grants me both tacit and explicit understanding of successful practices and patterns Our company culture is a lot like the shop crew Crawford lauds than the corporate team he despises, perhaps due to the same ability to point to objective reality as the ultimate proof of value My coworker might, say, have a disturbing obsession with cats, but man, that comment plugin he wrote is seamless, and we never have to fix it.The book isn t perfect by any means Crawford occasionally resorts to some distasteful rhetorical techniques, like pushing conservative buttons With its reverence for neutral process, liberalism is, by design, a politics of irresponsibility p 45 , or choosing a single example of his opposition then spending pages lambasting it I m thinking particularly of his critique of Richard Florida s The Rise of the Creative Class a few pages later on p 47 maybe it was a bad day Most of his historical segments also seem to rely heavily on a few, secondary sources Harry Braverman, T.J Jackson Lears, Robert Jackall , a practice that doesn t fill me with confidence.Overall, though, this was exactly the kind of considered, informed analysis I wanted, and while I didn t always agree with Crawford on every point, those points were excellent provocation to further consideration, and I admire him for stating his opinions openly. Finished It failed to redeem itself.In general terms, any book which can be summarized as A treatise on the moral an intellectual virtues of this practice, which I happen to participate is worthy of some skepticism, but when the subtext might further read Justifying my life decisions then you know you re in trouble This book jumps into this category with both feet.I won t say there are no good ideas in here the thesis that there is much value to be found in real work is one I wholeheartedly support but this book is mostly wasted space There is material for a REALLY good essay in here that has been spun out and unnecessarily padded to make an entire book It is the very quality of this thesis which renders the book so maddening Every time he comes within sight of a topic that might take the book outside the narrow sphere of justifying his own choices, the matter is touched on briefly, then discarded in favor of the author s experiences, which are interesting, but offer little in the way of real insight As the author presented his thesis I was full of excitement this could spill into discussion of the resurgence of maker culture, the growth of open source, the hacker ethos and so many other vibrant modern movements that celebrate this idea of making and working with real things Sadly, it was not to be, and these experiences are apparently limited solely to the author and those whose work he understands and participates in.In places, they even work against him One of the brighter points of the text is a dissection of corporate team building, which is promptly undercut by his tales of his own white collar experience, presented as typical If you had a college degree and were making 23k a year in Silicon Valley in the 90 s, you were not a white collar worker, you were a rube you could have made working at Taco Bell The kind of place that treated workers that way would naturally be exactly the worst kind of environment, and while I m sorry the author ended up in that situation, he s extrapolated a lot from it.All this might be forgivable if this was a primarily biographical text, but it s not It s a polemic, and not a very good one Elements of biography are used well, but then they are used as launching points for rants supporting the author s pet political, social and philosophical ideals The best thing I can say about this book is that it very successfully refactors a lot of The Communist Manifesto into modern terminology That sounds facetious, I know comparing the author s works with Marx seems like an idea out of left field but it s an almost inescapable conclusion in parts The author s own citations of Marx and his supporters suggest this may be intentional it would be troubling if it was not but the disdain for intellectuals coupled with the strong emphasis of the strong moral virtues of the worker a specific sort of worker, in fact make the comparison inescapable.A number of reviews also left me with the impression that there would be some treatment of the role and value of vocational education This is simply not the case, which is intensely disappointing This seems to be one of those books that makes a great summary and is frequently reviewed on the strength of that summary, rather than the far weaker book it represents. With each word of this book, I want to jump up and yell, Huzzah I found myself frequently laying the book down and staring out the window, contemplating how wonderful it is to work with one s hands, and importantly, to learn from another human being, to learn things that cannot be manualized or codified I am reminded of CS Lewis essay Good Work and Good Works in which he says that the only jobs that are worth doing are the things that people would do for themselves if they didn t have a professional to do it for them Most of today s office jobs are essentially just like the factory jobs of yesteryear what matters is not your skill set or particular talents, but how well you fit as a cog in the machine of the company Work should be engaging, productive, satisfying, and lifelong This is the type of book that s capable of changing enough minds to really make this happen Read it I really liked the idea behind this book or at least what I thought the idea would be from the book cover which defended jobs that require real, measurable work over the information or knowledge work that is so common today My initial impression was that this could even be targeted towards the high school student deciding what career to pursue and after reading a number of technical books, I was looking forward to some lighter reading for a vacation.However, this book started and ended highly philosophically with plenty in the middle not the easy read that I was looking for At other times, the author would speak plainly about some of his work as an electrician or mechanic which was both interesting and written very well.In the end, I think that the information on the cover misrepresented the book and in general I find myself very frustrated with authors that write things in very complicated ways that could very easily be written in straightforward language, so I was not a big fan of this one. [ Book ] ♞ Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work ♍ 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 Abstract World I really wanted to like this book I read an excerpt and really enjoyed it The first half was pretty good, and had some interesting things to say about the nature of work and the value of satisfaction But by the end of the book, the author just comes across as a giant douchebag who needs to justify to himself why he wasted years getting a PhD in philosophy when what he really wanted to do was fix motorcycles I think he has a great point that there is a great deal of value in hands on work labor, trades, craftwork , and that it s under appreciated right now, and a lot of people might be happier working in a trade than an office But, the second half was desperately boring I skimmed whole chapters and still felt like it was a waste of my time and basically came down to GRR I m A Man I Am Such A Manly Man Because I Fix Motorcycles And Get My Hands Dirty and Make Dirty Jokes oh and just ignore my philosophy degree because that s not masculine enough Oh Did I Mention I m A ManYeah, you have a dick, I get it This already thin book would have been much improved with some serious editing I m also leaving aside most of my substantive criticism since I don t have the book in front of me to quote But briefly, he just comes across as naive and ignorant about anyone else s experience besides his own For all his talk about class and status, he comes across as awfully ignorant about the realities of life for many people in the US Finally, any discussion of work in today s world that completely ignores women and the role of work in women s lives except for the obligatory paragraph dismissal of sexual harassment as something that only bothers people because they re status conscious and not satisfied with their work just isn t relevant in today s world In summary interesting concept, terrible execution, reads like a BA thesis than a serious exploration of the value of work. This was such a disappointment I read a New York Times Sunday Magazine article that was a summary of this book a number of years ago when it first came out I really liked the article and immediately added the book to my to read list I only now got around to it.I hated it HATED it I thought Crawford was a sexist blowhard with weak arguments that contained almost no evidentiary support In order to make said arguments appear slightly legitimate, he dressed them up in fancy philosophical gobbledegook that just served to slow down the reader.Instead of providing evidence from surveys, academic research, or even experts about the positive aspects of the trades, Crawford spent a lot of time whining about how he personally found white collar work to be soul sucking His arguments were grounded in philosophy which I suppose makes sense, as he has a PhD in the subject from the University of Chicago , which is a subject that I admit often leaves me cold I care about how working or not working in the trades affects real human beings, not hypothetical ones I want to know how the trades fit into the economy, not how they fit into a philosophical theory I also found the book to be quite sexist At the outset, I was disappointed to find no mention of the gender imbalance and difficulties that women often face entering the trades When I reached the book s end, I realized that it was laughable to have expected such a treatment of gender in the trades, as Shop Class as Soulcraft has much bigger problems in that arena Crawford spends quite a bit of book talking about how much better it was back in the day when men were manly and had manly jobs and could partake in manly team building through obscene jokes and hazing Maybe it was because of this explicit rah rah for stereotypical construction site behavior, but his complaints about white collar work felt implicitly sexist One example white collar work forces manly men to engage in wimpy, sanitized team building activities I m not the biggest fan of forced team building either, but seriously That s one of your arguments The sexism issue aside, I think I would have found this book much compelling if it had been approached differently Instead of denigrating traditional office work, Crawford could have talked about why the trades were worthwhile I did genuinely enjoy the chapter where Crawford talks about the personal satisfaction he found solving a particularly challenging mechanical problem in a motorcycle he was trying to fix However, I think that kind of satisfaction can be found in professional work as well As someone who enjoys her own office job, I don t think it s reasonable to make assumptions about an entire population of occupations based on a sample size of one person, which is exactly what Crawford does, choosing himself as his sample I was and still am really sympathetic to the idea that the trades are a worthwhile career option and a needed alternative to white collar work I just think Crawford did a terrible job of trying to making such an argument These two types of work can and should be judged independently of each another Should you feel the same, I d suggest seeking out another book. What a disappointment this book was..I cannot imagine that anyone who ever took a shop class in high school could possibly have enjoyed this book It was so full of over analytical philosophizing by a Ph.D in Philosophy who decided to quit the think tank rat race of academia to run a shop doing motor cycling repair I applaud him for knowing what he really wanted to do and then actually doing it And even though he lists his reasons for writing the book in the next to the last chapter something I kept pondering as I slugged through this laborious text , I still don t think I really know why he wrote this book, which is disappointing to me.I was interested to learn about the birth of shop class in the early 20th century, but the changes in higher education opportunities associated with the G.I Bill of 1945 and their eventual impact on college bound curriculum of high school students is something the author didn t discuss, which surprised me.I was also curious about the fact that the author didn t trash the engineers who designed things that are difficult or impossible to fix I kept expecting this to show up every time I started a new chapter, but he never discussed it and I still don t know why About the only people the author had any respect for were laborers in the building trades and mechanics that fix broken equipment It would have made sense to me if the author denigrated the engineers that design buildings and machinery, for designing them to be overly complicated But he never did, and I still can t figure out why. I was intrigued enough by Matthew Crawford s essay in the NYT magazine to read his entire book, which is called Shop Class as Soulcraft Imagine an extended meditation, by someone with a Ph.D who has extensively studied the ancient Greek philosophers, about the meaning of happiness as it relates to finding a satisfying job in the modern world He has a snappy writing style that might remind you of Michael Kinsley or Sam Harris There are two groups of people who might want to read the whole book instead of the excerpt linked above people who aren t sure what to do with their lives and people who enjoy mastering skills.Crawford s discussion skids all over the place and occasionally the book reads like an extended apology for his weird career trajectory But it feels as though he has pinpointed something elementally true about modern office work and the way it can deprive you of a sense of accomplishment and stability He identifies the trades auto repair, plumbing, etc as a place where a certain kind of satisfying mastery can be experienced the feeling of having tried your skill against something unyielding and outside yourself until you have achieved objectively measurable results While I am not mechanically inclined, he gives other examples that are exactly the kind of thing that I find worthwhile learning a language or musical instrument, trying to ice skate, and so forth These are activities at which it is possible to fail in fact, you are almost guaranteed to fail at first.The author isn t trying to convince you to become a motorcycle mechanic, like he is, or to reform the education system to raise a new generation of globalization bucking plumbers It s thought provoking and occasionally irritation provoking I think it struck a nerve with me because Crawford s point is an elaborate version of one I often try to make Sometimes leaving a seemingly exciting environment think tank literary publishing for one that seems humble by contrast workshop library makes a lot of sense.Very interesting, but you can get a lot of the point just from reading the NYT excerpt. I grew up in a working class family Throughout my childhood, Dad always had me working at his side completing various project and side jobs He saw the beauty in his children being to work with their hands and believed it was the best hedge against starving to death He had a strong work ethic and loved to tinker around his shop He also drew great satisfaction in seeing a job come to completion and admired ingenuity over wealth There was a certain beauty attached to something that came out of the creative process arising out of some tangible need called for by the task at hand.While I protested all the way and failed to appreciate the process, I do recall the sense of accomplishment that came at the completion of whatever job we were doing I have come to appreciate the wisdom of my Dad s unrelenting insistence that I learned how to work with my hands.Matt Crawford makes some excellent arguments for earning a living with your hands Crawford is an academic but he hasn t forgotten where he came from He was an electrician who worked his way through university His education culminated with a PhD after completing his baccalaureate studies in the hard science of Physics.To some, his decision to step down from the pinnacle of working in a high powered think tank in order to pursue his love of tinkering with motorcycle repair, was sheer folly.I disagree.Crawford experienced the sense of accomplishment and gratification associated with working with his hands In this book, he honors people who earn a living by the sweat of their brow.He makes a cogent argument that intelligence and vocation are not mutually exclusive It is particularly impressive that he could be be so articulate in honoring the workers whose contributions are so necessary in any society He doesn t dumb down the writing because he reflects what blue collar workers know they are not dumb.Unfortunately, social demands and value placed on brain powered jobs tends to marginalize the people who are the back bone of this nation It is no longer a commonplace notion that high merit should be placed on physical labor The result for such convention is creation of a world where the predictable outcome is standardized and made ever precise using measurable data, true craftsmanship and ingenuity are slowly being diminished in the interest of progress.While I can proclaim my deep sense of satisfaction to be linked with creation, and working with my hands is an integral part of my life, I would be remiss if I did not add this caveat we live in a mean world.You see, banks don t give a damn about how good I feel about working with my hands They tend to rank my credibility in the world according to whether I can pay my debts That attendant value associated with work earned by sweat of the proverbial brow is substantially lower than say, work done by day traders, doctors, lawyers and actors.I suppose the most frustrating issue for me is that like most people who have traveled this road of subsistence versus the path lined with monetary success is that it is tough to make a sour grapes argument Plainly put it sucks to be poor.I want and I want to enjoy a life where I am disencumbered enough to do what I really love and that is to be a writer The upside is I have my dreams The down side of it is that I have to pay my bills.Dividing my time between what is necessary and what I desire is what life is all about Meanwhile, I bust my butt every day in order to meet whatever demands I deemed important at some earlier time in life important enough that I committed my name to dotted lines.Undoubtedly, the sense of accomplishment I feel whenever I create a piece of furniture, complete a remodel, build a beautiful door or gate or some stone structure like a fence or fireplace from scratch or even when I just figure out how to do something, that brings great satisfaction Finding people who appreciate the same is becoming daily less common Being a craftsman nowadays is tantamount to living a life of servitude and while I am not convinced that the future looks bright, I am nonetheless committed I keep building and I keep paying my debts and I keep on dreaming of better days ahead.Yes, working with my hands is a charmed life Like it or not, I am committed and even if I could change things, I doubt that I would Romantic inklings aside, here s hoping I don t end up living under a bridge any time soon.Thanks Matt and Thanks Dad.