Monday, December 28, 2009

Book Review: Shop Class as Soulcraft

I just finished reading Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work by Matthew Crawford. A friend had lent me the book and the title alone had excited me.

The book talks about a lot of topics that we environmentally-conscious bloggers have been writing, reading and talking about these past few years. The books talks about the decline of shopclass in high schools and the move to create "knowledge workers". It discusses the distance between where something consumable originates from and where it finally winds up. It also discusses the disappearing handmade goods industry that is now slowly making a comeback, and the lack of pride in work. In other words, the topics in the book was something that would really appeal to all readers of this blog.

The book is also a narrative of the author's own life to date. The author, Matthew Crawford, obtained a PhD from the University of Chicago and then moved to Washington D.C. to head a conservative think tank where one of his duties was denying the existence of global warming (if I understood him right). Besides ethical dilemmas with his job, Crawford also missed working with his hands on motorcycles - a task that given him much satisfaction in the past.

He eventually quits his job at the think tank and moves into other cubicle jobs for very little pay. These jobs continue to bring him dissatisfaction until he decides to go back to working on motorcycles, and thus working with his hands to create a tangible result for which he can feel honest about the living he is earning for himself.

Crawford has an essay on The New Atlantis that covers the message of Shop Class as Soulcraft well.

When the ladies here at the Blogging Bookworm initially invited me to post to this blog, I was excited to post a review of Shop Class as Soulcraft. I thought I would enjoy it and that I would highly recommend it to everyone.

Unfortunately, I thought that the book was very poorly written. I enjoy books that are well written and impart information in an easy to digest manner. This book was written by a former academic containing loads of academic jargon that people hardly use outside of a university funded research paper. The entire message in the book could easily be boiled down to a single page. As such, the book was a real struggle to finish. I wouldn't recommend the book, but I do highly recommend the message. To conclude, I'll quote an excerpt that state the message well:

To live wakefully is to live in full awareness of this, our human situation. To live well is to reconcile ourselves to it, and try to realize whatever excellence we can. For this some economic conditions are more favorable than others. When the conception of work is removed from the scene of its execution, we are divided against one another, and each against himself. For thinking is inherently bound up with doing, and it is in rational activity together with others that we find our peculiar satisfaction.
Rated: 2 out of 5 (I'd give it a 4 for message, but the writing was not to my liking. If you are an academic, the writing will be more to your liking.)

: To anyone interested in reading about one person's perspective on making and fixing things with one's own hands.


Donna said...

After reading that excerpt, I think I know what you mean about the writing being difficult to read! Thanks for a great review. You're right that the concept fits perfectly, but I appreciate being able to cross this one off my list.

Sam said...

Thanks Donna, and glad I was able to shorten your long book list.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it time for a new review?

Robj98168 said...

This definetely looks like a book to put on my must read list.