Shop Class As Soulcraft

Shop Class As Soulcraft

An inquiry into the value of work (2009)
By Matthew B.Crawford

I share similar experiences with the author, though maybe I am not so much of a high flier. While doing work facing the computer in the office, I really feel lost, and totally lost all passion and motivation. It is only when I take the plunge to do sales, running around the day that makes my living seem more worthwhile. Oh well, you can’t call sales a craft, but it certainly makes me happier.


Nowadays, many people seem to regard college, and even graduate school, as an extension of compulsory schooling. There is little accomodation of the diversity of dispositions, and of the fact that some very smart people are totally ill suited both to higher education and do the kind of work you’re supposed to do once you have a degree. Further, funneling everyone into college creates certain perversities in the labour market.


The result is that everyone are more motivated to gather more credentials rather than the cultivation of knowledge. This forfeits the motive recognized by Aristole :”All human beings by nature desire to know.” Students thus become intellectually disengaged.


Even the role of managers are subjected to unique hazards. Managers do not experience authority in an impersonal way. Rather, authority is embodied in the persons with whom one has working relationships up and down the hierachy. One’s career depends entirely on these personal relationships, in part because the criteria of evaluation are ambigious. As a result, managers spend a good part of the day “managing what other people think of them.”  When I read about this, I was laughing about it and fully agreed with the author. I do think most of the managers role are a waste of time, and are not really productive.


A decline in tool use would seem to betoken a shift in our mode of inhabiting the world: more passive and more dependent. And indeed, there are fewer occasions for the kind of spiritedness that is called forth when we take things in hand for ourselves, whether to fix them or to make them. What ordinary people once made, they buy; and what they once fixed for themselves, they replace entirely or hire an expert to repair, whose expert fix often involves installing a pre-made replacement part. I agree with this point too, many a times at home when something simple broke down, I feel so lost that I have to find someone to fix just a simple thing. Wonder where does our education comes in???


So what advice should one give to a young person?

By all means, go to college. In fact, approach college in the spirit of craftsmanship, going deep into liberal arts and sciences. In the summers, learn a manual trade. You’re likely to be less damaged, and quite possibly better paid, as an independent tradesman than as a cubicle-dwelling tender of information systems. To heed such advice would require a certain contrarian streak, as it entails rejecting a life course mapped out by others as obligatory and inevitable.






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