work life
January 31, 2023

From Cubicles to Craftsmanship: An Inquiry into the Value of Work

“Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work” is an engaging and thought-provoking read for anyone interested in the value of manual labor and the importance of hands-on learning. Matthew B. Crawford takes a flexible and agile approach to learning, emphasizing the importance of learning by doing. He argues that this type of learning is more valuable than theoretical knowledge because it allows for hands-on experience and practical application.

Crawford’s approach to self-esteem is highly pragmatic, based entirely on the output generated from manual labor. He appreciates work in and of itself, recognizing that manual labor provides a sense of accomplishment and self-worth. The author also highlights the importance of creativity in manual labor, claiming that it lies beyond the rule-space created by automation.

But the tradesman must reckon with the infallible judgment of reality, where one’s failures or shortcomings cannot be interpreted away. His well-founded pride is far from the gratuitous “self-esteem” that educators would impart to students, as though by magic

—Matthew B. Crawford

Crawford provides an interesting perspective on the effects of automation, calling out the limitations of rule-based systems and the importance of manual labor in providing opportunities for creativity and personal growth. He also advocates for manual labor as a form of mindfulness, providing a comforting call to action for those seeking a path towards ego death through focused work.

The moral significance of work that grapples with material things may lie in the simple fact that such things lie outside the self

—Matthew B. Crawford

While I subscribed to the author’s appreciation for objects and the idea that “things need fixing and tending no less than creating,” I found some aspects of the book repetitive and lacking substance. The chapter “The Contradiction of the Cubicle” and some ideas in “Thinking as Doing” were particularly enjoyable, but otherwise the book felt somewhat repetitive. Additionally, as other reviewers have noted, the book is written in a dated style that may be off-putting to some readers.

I believe the mechanical arts have a special significance for our time because they cultivate not creativity, but the less glamorous virtue of attentiveness. Things need fixing and tending no less than creating

—Matthew B. Crawford

January 31, 2023 · #work life


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