Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work By Matthew B. Crawford Penguin; 320 pages
A funny thing happened on the way to the knowledge economy, writes Matthew Crawford: we somehow got stupider. Globalization and technology are doing to white collar jobs in the 21st century what the assembly line did to trades in the 20th--turning them into repetitive, menial, dissatisfying tasks. "Wherever the separation of thinking from doing has been achieved," he writes, "it has been responsible for the degradation of work." Crawford, a political-philosophy Ph.D. and motorcycle-shop owner, stresses the importance of the manual trades and the cognitive challenge of working with solid things (preferably grimy, metal ones). He packs plenty of intellectual firepower into his polemic, quoting Aristotle in his own translation and sprinkling the text with erudite footnotes. Like Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Crawford's book reveals both why we do what we do and why the way we do it is important. Craftsmanship counts: it not only shows how we value our work but also teaches us to value ourselves.
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