Monday, July 13, 2009

Shop Class as Soulcraft Symposium

This week, Front Porch Republic is going to be running a series of reviews and posts dealing with Matthew Crawford's wonderful, challenging, thought-provoking book, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work. It is, I am fairly confident in claiming, the single best book yet--philosophically broad-minded but also incisively personal--that I have seen emerge from the whole meandering localist/populist/anti-corporate/anti-modern "crusade" of the past half decade or so. It speaks to matters dealing with education, politics, and economics, but much more than that it speaks to how people engage in and think about--and how people should engage in and think about--the work they do, both with their brains and, more importantly, their hands. But read Patrick Deneen's general introduction to the book (which has garnered an impressive amount of media attention, deservedly so) and the symposium here. My contribution will be showing up, both there and here, towards the end of the week, but follow the whole discussion if you can; it'll be very much worth your time.

2 comments:

Wm Morris said...

Thanks for pointing this out. I recently read Shop Class as Soulcraft and enjoyed it very much (although I think the BIG emphasis on masculinity is a little overbaked).

I work for a very rare breed here in the U.S. -- a not-for-profit, private technical college. I have also been reading Sennett and Dreher of late (the past couple of years).

On the one hand, I completely agree with Crawford. On the other hand, the knowledge and actions he exhibits are so particular to his personal biography that I'm not sure how much use it is (and I was hoping to make some use of it in my job).

On the other hand, I do like that he resists any prescriptions and his only suggestion is to go for the cracks in society where you can work as a craftsman.

Russell Arben Fox said...

Thanks for your input, William. As I said, I'll be posting my own comments on the book both over at FPR and here later this week, but until then I'll be following the discussion there, occasionally commenting. I hope you do the same.

I think the BIG emphasis on masculinity is a little overbaked.

Samuel Goldman brings up this issue in his review of Crawford's book, and I probably will too, though I'm not sure what to make of it. I disagree that it is a major--or even a minor--theme of his, but it is definitely there. Should we just pass over it without comment, accept it (perhaps even praise it) as a bravely non-PC acknowledgement of the real nature of the Sittlichkeit of mototcycle repairmen, or critically engage it, asking what the arguably sexist exclusiveness he sometimes seems to partake of does to his ideal of people being "masters of their own stuff"? I don't know yet.

I do like that he resists any prescriptions and his only suggestion is to go for the cracks in society where you can work as a craftsman.

He doesn't entirely resist prescriptions; he ends the books adopting a position towards politics and the economy which he calls "progressive-republican," which actually makes more sense than he seems to notice. But yes, his overall stance is a Stoic one; take root in whatever cracks there are out there, and let us take satisfaction in our own small, local flourishings .