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If you’ve ever struggled to express that strange something which draws our kind into the shop, Matthew Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft is worth a read. The book is designed to explain the importance of the manual trades and the deep satisfaction to be had in applying one’s self to mechanical problems. Crawford has many an unkind word for the circumstances that led us to a “knowledge economy,” arguing that such a system is crippling to the human spirit. In other words, desk jobs drive men mad. Sound familiar?

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Hit the library for this one, or go to Amazon with $17.13 for your own copy. No tradesman, mechanic, builder or laborer will ever feel like they’re missing anything in the white-collar world once Crawford’s wisdom is absorbed.

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10 Responses to A Good Read: Shop Class As Soulcraft

  1. Ted says:

    I feel that desks jobs do not necessarily destroy the human soul, nor do all jobs that require hands-on work enrich your lives; I think there could be a parallel between mindless office work and mindless trench digging.

    For me I get some satisfaction from successfully coding a problem away or drafting a very accurate drawing; I think it’s being able to stretch creatively or come up with a unique approach to a problem that provides satisfaction in the long run.

  2. Schmoe says:

    @ Ted: You sir have nailed it. Jobs that squash creativity destroy the human soul.

  3. heywood says:

    …knew it all along, that’s why I’m in the trades now.

    Last job I had before that was as a database engineer (a poor excuse for one) for a pr0nography website startup.

    Learning a trade is something people only look down upon because many guys in the trades never bother to learn anything about business and never make it farther than journeyman.

    For that, I am bummed but it’s not my story…

  4. Benjamen Johnson says:

    I think another part of the problem is that many people think they need to live a certain lifestyle to be happy and need to work a higher paying job that they hate in order to support it. Whereas they would be much happier in a lower paying job where they loved to wake up and go to work in the morning.

  5. dexm says:

    @toolguyd: lame, lame, lame. Why not try to contribute to the discussion rather than just post a link to your own blog. This isn’t the first time: you’ve got to start learning to develop your own material, rather than just rip-off other sites or forums.

  6. ToolGuyd says:

    Ben, I (respectfully) disagree. I think that the major issue is that people don’t want to get their hands dirty anymore. Part of the reason IS because teens are not exposed to shop classes in schools anymore. Most teens certainly don’t engage in these types of activities as a hobby – playing their PS3 or XBOX is just too damned convenient.

    One of Crawford’s main arguments is that work where something is accomplished is valued higher than certain accomplishment-less white-collar jobs. But then what about certain jobs where nothing is built, nothing substantial is built or “accomplished.”

    dexm, First off, Trackbacks are automatic and cannot be recalled.

    Second of all, I haven’t yet read the book, so it would unfair to share my assessment of it. Based off of Crawford’s essay adapted from the book, I can tell you that his arguments are spot on, but I am not exactly fond of the tone with which Crawford writes. Actually, I am very, very put off by the tone of his essay, but that’s not exactly fair to share publicly without first reading the entire book.

  7. Rob says:

    I am currently a desk worker (web developer), but have for some time been thinking about doing something more mechanical/manual. One problem getting in the way is salary. I don’t make a great living now, but I do alright. If I try my hand at something like carpentry, or fabrication work, I wouldn’t make close to what I’m making now, at first anyway. It’s expensive living in my area (Washing DC suburbs), and I just don’t see a way to make that transition to a new career. People have suggested I start working as a carpenter’s helper in the evenings and on the weekends, but I’m not superman here. I currently work full time. When I get home I’m too tired to go off to another job. I guess if I wanted it badly enough, I would figure out a way to make it work.

  8. Benjamen Johnson says:

    Before you go off and buy the book I’d read the essay ToolGuyd was talking about.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/24/magazine/24labor-t.html

    And I don’t buy the shop class argument, It’s like saying that women aren’t staying home anymore because Home-Ec isn’t taught as much as it used to be.

  9. ToolGuyd says:

    There’s also a NY Times book review, that I found to be somewhat helpful.

  10. Nate says:

    Jobs that squash creativity are definitely the problem, but I think there’s something about desks and neckties that facilitates that squashing. For a few decades now, the “knowledge economy” folks have been winning, pushing vocational ed out of the schools. And we’ve seen the results, people without the first clue how anything actually works, getting swindled for muffler bearings and halogen fluid fill-ups…

    I think we’re seeing the beginning of the end, for these white-collar dark-ages. DIY culture is resurgent, and there’s no stopping it now. Rob, have you tried getting in touch with HacDC? Hacker spaces, as collaborative, member-supported workshops, are a great place to pick up skills and get access to tools you might not otherwise find. If the schools won’t teach us, we’ll teach ourselves, and each other.

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