Shop Class as Soul Craft by Michael Crawford

Jan 19, 2011

The author chucked a lucrative professional career (he was head of an international NGO at the time) as he began to feel increasingly isolated from whatever it was his efforts were supposed to be producing.  He knew the organization was important, and he understood that it accomplished valuable goals.  But his sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in a job well done was diminishing.  So he chose to pursue a more satisfying occupation - repairing motorcycles.

Shop Class as Soul Craft is his manifesto on the humanity of labor, the essential value of learning by doing, of mastering through trial and error.  In a world where not even the so-called "knowledge industries" or the professions are safe from being reduced to an algorithm, just another "yes, no or maybe" keystroke, Crawford is arguing that the continuing devaluation of knowlege gained through hands on labor and experience are robbing us of our creativity.  What, after all, fires up the creative juices except purpose?  And what satisfaction is better than impacting others in some (hopefully positive) manner  who will appreciate our contribution?

Phony choices, ie crafting a Build a Bear, are not truly creative.  The designs are already there, the components are pre-selected, personalization is quite restricted.  Not unlike the choices the accountant is given when filling out electronic tax forms..., or the job seeker reduced to a questionnaire....or the banker, bundling morgages for resale....

If you are feeling disconnected or marginalized by the computers in your life, Mr Crawford may have an explanation that speaks to you.

Written by Kathy B.