MARS HILL AUDIO Reprint 2

Matthew B. Crawford, "Shop Class as Soulcraft"

(from The New Atlantis, Summer 2006)

In the age of think tanks, consulting firms, and IKEA, craftsmanship seems to be in decline. Shop class is becoming rarer, and our children are told that college is the ticket to an "open future" as a "knowledge worker." This rejection of craftsmanship wrongly ignores the cognitive, social, and remunerative rewards of skilled manual work, and wrongly assumes that white-collar work always engages the mind. In this essay, political philosopher Matthew B. Crawford recounts life as a motorcycle mechanic and makes a case for the manual trades as an expression of human flourishing. Read by Ken Myers. 55 minutes

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    Introduction: “ . . . It appears shop class is becoming a thing of the past, as educators prepare students to become ‘knowledge workers.’ . . .”
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    The Psychic Appeal of Manual Work: “ . . . The satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy. . . .”
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    The Cognitive Demands of Manual Work: “ . . . Skilled manual labor entails a systematic encounter with the material world, precisely the kind of encounter that gives rise to natural science. . . .”
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    Arts, Crafts, and the Assembly Line: “The tangible elements of craft were appealing as an antidote to vague feelings of unreality . . .”
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    The Degradation of Blue-Collar Work: “ . . . Once the cognitive aspects of the job are located in a separate management class . . . skilled workers can be replaced with unskilled workers . . .”
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    The Degradation of White-Collar Work: “. . . White collar professions, too, are subject to routinization and degradation, proceeding by the same process as befell manual fabrication a hundred years ago. . . .”
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    The Craftsman as Stoic: “. . . By all means, go to college. In fact, approach college in the spirit of craftsmanship, going deep into liberal arts and sciences. . . .”