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Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of WorkShop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A philosopher and motorcycle mechanic (how often do those go together?) examines the intellectual differences between blue collar and white collar work. While the book is not perfect (for instance, he's really talking about skilled laborers, such as mechanic or electrician, not factory work - though he's not as clear about that), it is incredibly thoughtful, powerful, stirring, and interesting. It speaks to the disconnect many feel in their jobs and with their educations. Some readers may find it slow going and frustrating, too full of references to other sources they have not read, but that was not me. For me, it did what great books are supposed to do - make you look at things in a new way. Highly recommended - vital for anyone interested in education or the contemporary demands of "knowledge work."

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I wanted to say a bit more about this book and the thoughts it stirred, but didn't really feel Goodreads was the place for them, as it's not so much about the book as it is my personal experience. So here it is:

I grew up in a blue collar household. My dad operated his own business that relied entirely on his back-breaking labor. He didn't want that life for me and I didn't want it for myself either. I was the first one in my family to graduate college. I got three more degrees after that, as if to prove something, I suppose. So except for a couple of summer jobs, I've always worked with my brain rather than my hands. In many ways, my current job - librarian - is the epitome of that. (Although, as a colleague once pointed out, no matter how far up the chain you go in librarianship, sooner or later, you're moving books.)

But what this book really brought home is that, despite my higher salary and at least outward appearance of better quality of life, I suspect my dad's hard work brought him more satisfaction than my cushy job. It's rare for me to leave work feeling truly accomplished. I get my satisfaction from other things these days - time with rosepurr, running, music, etc. - not from "work." I have it pretty darn good, and my job is okay, but it's not the reason I get out of bed in the morning. That's okay, but sometimes it feels disappointing to spend the day waiting out the clock.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 22nd, 2011 07:31 pm (UTC)
I have though along those lines for sometime. I recently saw an online article about Mike Rowe, yeah the "Dirty Jobs" guy where he went before congress and talked about this very subject. He is eloquent as always and successfully changes the phrase,"The world needs ditch-diggers, too!" into a statement of fact instead of an insult.

Sep. 22nd, 2011 08:43 pm (UTC)
Thanks for pointing this out. I hadn't heard about it before, but Mike Rowe's testimony is moving and thoughtful.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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