Saturday, November 4, 2017

Kruse's Keys: Read 'Shop Class as Soulcraft' To Expand Your Notions of What "Work" Is (Crawford)

First let me caveat this review by saying that I listened to Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work (2009) as an audiobook and consequently didn't have the opportunity to take any notes or make highlights.  And with a book this dense, I'd normally be taking a lot of highlights.   While there was a lot of good and thoughtful information presented in this book many of the early chapters were too theoretical and philosophical for my taste.  If felt like a bit like I was listening to the literature review and background section of a thesis.  But then again, Crawford has a Ph.D. in philosophy so this deep dive is to be expected.

That said, I can’t recommend someone spend time reading this book in its entirety, rather I’d recommend you check it out from your local library and read Chapters 2, 6, and 8.  Truthfully, I expected the story of a think tank/academic Ph.D. turned motorcycle mechanic to be a bit more thrilling of a read.  Ultimately, if one can get past much of Crawford’s deep marxist philosophical discussion, there is much to be gleaned from his push back against the automatic glorification of higher level education versus acquisition of a trade or craft.  Whether admitted openly or not, society tends to looks down up the trades.  Crawford illustrates clear, however, the beauty and transcendent value of our plumbers, electricians, mechanics and craftsmen.  

  • The United States has gone from a country of ‘makers’ (i.e., tradesmen, inventors, creators) to cubicle automatons.  
  • Chapter 2: The Separation of Thinking From Doing
    • On college: Approach college by going deep into liberal arts and sciences in you have four years and a deep attraction for knowledge and learning but if not there’s still a wealth of “doing” jobs out there.
  • Chapter 6:  The Contradictions of the Cubicle
    • On the language of management as an indicator of the manipulation of the worker a la Soviet bureaucracy
    • The rise of teamwork and its link to corporate culture
    • The present corporate work culture and emphasis on office speech and things like diversity and sensitivity training arise in organizations that don’t produce a tangible product
    • Value and strength of the apprentice-master relationship
  • Chapter 8: Work, Leisure, and Full Management
    • US has clear separating functions of political power but has conversely allowed for consolidation of economic power.  
  • “When the point of education becomes the production of credentials rather than the cultivation of knowledge, it forfeits the motive recognized by Aristotle: "All human beings by nature desire to know.”
  • “A decline in tool use would seem to betoken a shift in our relationship to our own stuff: more passive and more dependent. And indeed, there are fewer occasions for the kind of spiritedness that is called forth when we take things in hand for ourselves, whether to fix them or to make them. What ordinary people once made, they buy; and what they once fixed for themselves, they replace entirely or hire an expert to repair, whose expert fix often involves replacing an entire system because some minute component has failed.”
  • l,; “The current educational regime is based on a certain view about what kind of knowledge is important: “knowing that,” as opposed to “knowing how.”
  • l“The rise of “teamwork” has made it difficult to trace individual responsibility,”

Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century:


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