Anybody read 'shop class as soulcraft'?

Hi all:

I read a review of ‘Shop Class as Soul Craft’ in the Times book
review a couple of weeks ago, and finally went out and got a copy
after a student recommended it. It’s sort of a less metaphysical
stepsibling to ‘Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’. It’s about
how manual work can be more fulfilling and actually more
intellectually challenging than life as a cubicle drone. The guy’s
got a whole raft of serious degrees, headed up a DC thinktank, and
then chucked it all to be a motorcycle mechanic. More importantly,
why he should chose to do this, and what ‘hand work’ means or may
come to mean, in our evolving ‘post something’ economy.

In this place, I don’t think I need to make any argument to the
satisfactions of working with one’s hands.

Anybody else read it? Thoughts?


Can you give more details as to the exact title and author? I tried
to find it by the title but no luck so far. As an art teacher who
teaches MYP and IB diploma which gives equal grades for the art work
and ‘talking’ about it I am constantly fighting with new teachers
about using ‘hands-on’ methods.

Sharron in hot, hot Dhaka…

Hi Brian,

He also wrote a piece 3 weeks ago in the Sunday Magazine in the NY
Times- the one with Conan Obrien on the front.

I think I shouted amen several times as I read it. Very, very

Also check out “The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language,
and Human Culture” by Dr. Frank R Wilson.

Take care, Andy

In this place, I don't think I need to make any argument to the
satisfactions of working with one's hands. 

I haven’t read that book, but I do remember reading something a few
years back that blue collar workers had more job satisfaction than
white collar workers. Apparently having a job in which you could
actually see the product of your work was more satisfying than
tackling never ending problems that never seem to be resolved.

Sounds like a winning concept to me!

Mike DeBurgh, GJG
Henderson, NV

that is a pretty new book- I just saw a review. amazon has it:

Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work
(Hardcover) by Matthew B. Crawford (Author) $15. 75 here in US… 3.5
out of 5 stars See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

who did you study with in Mexico?

Hi Andy:

Yeah, it was the piece in the Times that put it on my ‘check it out’
list. I’m still puzzling through my exact thoughts on it though. He
clarifies a bunch of things that I’d always been at a loss to
explain about how and why the systematization of skill into procedure
bugged me so much, and gives some pretty concrete footing for
explaining why there are some skills that just can’t be reduced to
rule following. So for about 99% of it, I’m singing with the chorus,
but every so often, the guy with the PhD in political philosophy
peeks out, and he just can’t resist using a dozen fifty cent words
where one or two simple words would have worked. (I’m hardly one to
talk, but when it bugs me…)

I think a re-read is in order. I want to make sure I understand
his arguments fully before I try to do anything with them. (For those
who think this is anything other than a compliment, if I didn’t think
he’d written something very important, I wouldn’t waste the time
reading it twice.)

I’ve read The Hand. Talk about shouting “amen” as you read! That’s
part of why I’m re-reading this one. The Hand was like flashbulbs
going off. Suddenly things that you’d never really put together
made sense. This one has some incredibly important things to say,
but somehow it doesn’t have that sense of explosive clarification.
Which makes me think I missed something. Thus the re-read.

For the woman who was having trouble finding it, the full title is:
“Shop Class as Soulcraft. An inquiry into the value of work” by
Matthew B. Crawford.


I read the article he wrote in the Times and like Andy said it was
quite validating. I will have to put his book on the to read list.


James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


You are right,few here need clarity on the message. As a daughter of
European immigrants, “hand arbeiten” was an absolute. My greatest
pleasures in my entire life have been the products of my own hands.
The materials have changed from yarns and yard goods, to metals and
the results equal.

The best we can do for many today, is to put their hands in motion
towards a tangible outcome. I was considering teaching a skill at the
newly opened senior center here near my home. I think I will go back
to an after school program at the elementary school. I so still
remember small arms around my thighs in super markets, introducing me
as the “jewelry lady” to their parents.


I just went to ‘’ to read the article mentioned; somehow
I missed the ‘soulcraft’ part.



Is the NY Times article you are talking about - “The case for
working with your hands” (from May 21st) ?

Good stuff!