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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2009
Shop Class as Soul Craft is a very enjoyable book. It is a well researched, somewhat academic review of the relationship between people and their work and how people find value in work. The book isn't very long at about 200 pages, but is not a very quick read as some of the concepts are fairly involved. I would recommend to any young person starting out in the work force that they read the author's views on the transportablity of work. For people, like myself, nearing retirement age, it brought back pleasant memories of times when I felt that my work made a difference. I think his view of office work is a bit jaundiced, but none the less, he makes some very valid points, made more valid perhaps in the wake of Enron and other corporate deceptions.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
In the great rush to improve our present lifestyle and secure our occupational futures, we, the workers of the world, have inadvertently trashed our appreciation for the real meaning of work. Crawford, in "Shop Class as Soulcraft", describes what many of us have lost in terms of becoming mere cogs in the industrial wheel that threatens to grind us into absolute submission because we no longer control the things we produce. This book takes both a cerebral and light-hearted approach in defining what truly constitutes an ideal workplace where the worker is an individual who enters into the joy of producing something that he or she can take personal pride in. While part of this book deals with the philosophy and psychology of why we have become industrial drones controlled by other people's wishes, Crawford offers his readers a ray of hope in the story he shares about his own decision to change. For him, an academic trained to be a 'cubical' professional, his secret passion had always been working on old motorcycles and cars. Returning to this later in his life, he discovered that there was virtue in working with one's hands. Manual labor involves an intellectual and mechanical sophistication that connects the mind with the body to create or preserve something that usually outlives and outperforms anything modern technology can build. Crawford's personal reflections are helpful in defining the need in all of us to come to grips with our identity in the workforce. To make that critical change is not easy. It will require a mindset that is given to appreciating detail, working under extended timelines, and willing to experiment with different options. The inevitable job satisfaction comes with knowing that you can work for yourself while having the ability to fix other people's problems. Crawford writes with a conviction that anyone can discover this purpose if they are willing to turn their backs on the artificial constraints of the conventional job: a slavish responsibility to the company; a continual redefining of the job; and a need to compete with fellow workers to maintain one's place.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2011
This was an incredible read - definitely opened my eyes as an educator about how we as a society have been conditioned to learn and work in one particular stream lined way. I ended up feeling frustrated at realizing that I have also been subjected to these methods, but somehow came out the other side as exactly the kind of person matthew talks about - a trades person first (welder) also independent (artist and small business owner) but also a professor who recognizing the errors in teaching the way we traditionally have, is hoping through practice to perhaps effect a shift that will benefit future students. i'm passing this book around my entire department. Thank you!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 2013
I really enjoyed this book. I am an Electrician by trade, and now teach at a College. Leaving the trade to start a new career as an educator has been a difficult transition for me. I also worked in the corporate world for some time. I identify with the comparisons the author makes with "The Crew versus the Team" When a tradesperson joins the ranks of academics it can be intimidating. The way the author explains philosphy and relates it to trades is very interesting. He convinces the reader that working with your hands and appling a skill is highly cognitative. The best quote in the book is " If you don't vent the drain pipe like this, sewage gases will seep up through the water in the toilet, and the house will stink of shit" I recomend this book highly to anyone who teaches trades or shop related classes. It is also a good read for Managers to get inside the head of your subordinates and understand how to manage effectively.
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on May 2, 2015
Loved it. Helps me appreciate the manual things that need to be done in our lives.
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on April 12, 2015
Such a great book - I'm recommending it to everyone I know!
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord." -- 1 Corinthians 15:58

Imagine that you build sand castles for a living. It could be pretty frustrating. When the tide comes in, a wave will wash away all but the memory of your work. Or if the waves don't get you, a careless foot may. Alternatively, the wind will blow your castle down.

It's the nature of a very secular society to seek enormous satisfactions from work. After all, it's what we mostly do on Monday through Friday. Matthew Crawford describes his experiences and observations about how to gain pleasure and meaning from work. He does so from an unusual perspective. He has a Ph.D. in political philosophy from the University of Chicago but prefers to repair old motorcycles.

After you go through the story of his working life, you'll be reminded of all those wonderful vignettes in Studs Terkel's book, Working. You don't have to be president of the United States to find work satisfying.

Mr. Crawford posits these kinds of qualities for making work meaningful:

1. You work on something you care about.
2. You come into contact with those whose lives will be affected by your work.
3. The nature of the tasks is inherently satisfying to you.
4. You get to solve difficult problems.
5. You develop expertise that makes the work more enjoyable and helpful.
6. You use creative thinking.
7. You are not bound by time, space, or quotas.

For much of the book, he describes in glowing terms how great motorcycle repair is for him . . . and some of the satisfactions of electrical work. He also takes Dilbert-like potshots at routine office work, particularly when it is done in an assembly-line-like fashion. From that platform, it would have been easy to describe many more kinds of work, describing what to seek out and what to avoid. But he held back from making such general points where they cried out to be made.

As a management consultant, I was fascinated to see that his view of management consulting was of something very theoretical and impractical. Having done this kind of work for over forty years, I would say management consulting work is often a great deal like motorcycle repair work . . . but without the skinned knuckles. The book would have been stronger if he had taken the time to do what Studs Terkel did and ask workers what they like and don't like about various occupations.

I do agree that exposure to physical work should emphasize appreciating the disciplines involved rather than just mastering some information, making an ornament for the home, or getting through a required course. It is a big mistake to downplay the various trades. Many of my happiest friends learned to be masters of various trades after finding little practical use for their liberal arts degrees.

To me, the biggest missed point related to the spirituality of work. Your job can be one of the ways that your worship the Lord and serve Him. Some pretty grubby work can feel great when you know that it's what the Lord wants you to be doing for Him: One of the most gratifying days of work in my life was digging latrines for an orphanage in Mexico where the children had no indoor plumbing.

Let me leave you with one word of caution: The book opens more slowly and less interestingly than it becomes. Stick with it for at least a hundred pages before deciding that you like or can't stand what's being described.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2011
I was looking forward to reading this book based on the positive reviews but unfortunately it was extremely dry and boring. Crawford is a former professor who tries to use as many big complicated words as possible. The book reads like a Phd thesis. The author is so pompous and arrogant it is sickening. It is very ironic that he continuously rants about the abstractions of white collar jobs but then writes a book that is so full of abstract words that it is incomprehensible at times. Don't waste your money on this one. You will be very disappointed.
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on January 14, 2015
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 11, 2010
I bought this book for my partner and after describing it to a few friends and colleagues 3 people I know have also purchased it for loved ones. Inspiring, I might even add, life changing book.
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