Love this article from the New Yorker http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2009/06 on the subject of ‘honest’ work. The article is focused around Matthew B. Crawford’s “Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work”, written because Crawford has had enough of watching the ‘soul-destroying consequences in our new work habits—endless hours spent at flexible jobs, performing abstract tasks on computer screens, and believes there must be a better way. According to the New Yorker, ‘Crawford means his book to be a philosophical manifesto for a dawning age: an ode to old-fashioned hard work, and an argument that localism can help cure our spiritual and economic woes’. Enough, therefore, of abstract activities, that give rise to destructive and incomprehensible financial products and a return, in Crawford’s case at least, to fixing motorbikes. Crawford is both a PhD and Fellowship student, and has worked at a Washington think tank. But he quit to open his own motorbike repair shop, something he says, has given him “a place in society,” as well as an “economically viable” job that won’t evaporate or get moved overseas. He believes that ‘cultural prejudices have steered many potential tradesmen into college, and then toward stultifying office jobs, which provide less satisfaction and less security than skilled manual labor, and sometimes less money’.
The book is timely, given that there is at least some small debate (not enough) now taking place about the kind of society we have created, the kind of lives we lead, as well as why so many of us feel we have to tread the soulless corridors of corporate workspaces in order to be valued and valuable. According to the New Yorker, Crawford’s solution to big business is small business; ‘he pits the work ethic and scrappy spirit of “small commercial enterprise” against the “softly despotic tendencies” of “outsized corporations.”
As the New Yorker says, Crawford wants his readers to become better, happier, more productive workers. I think we all could agree with that.