For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

The Craftsman

by Sennett, Richard (2008)


Why do people work hard, and take pride in what they do? This book, a philosophically-minded enquiry into practical activity of many different kinds past and present, is about what happens when people try to do a good job. It asks us to think about the true meaning of skill in the 'skills society' and argues that pure competition is a poor way to achieve quality work. Sennett suggests, instead, that there is a craftsman in every human being, which can sometimes be enormously motivating and inspiring - and can also in other circumstances make individuals obsessive and frustrated. The Craftsman shows how history has drawn fault-lines between craftsman and artist, maker and user, technique and expression, practice and theory, and that individuals' pride in their work,

Key Passage

The myth of Pandora has become now a secular symbol of self-destruction. To deal with this physical crisis we are obliged to change both the things we make and how  we  use  them.  We  will  need  to  learn  different  ways  of  making buildings  and  transport  and  to  contrive  rituals  that  accustom  us  to saving. We will need to become good craftsmen of the environment. The word sustainable is now used to convey this kind of craftsman-ship,  and  it  carries  a  particular  baggage.  Sustainable  suggests  living more at one with nature, as Martin Heidegger imagined in his old age, establishing an equilibrium between ourselves and the resources of the earth—an image of balance and reconciliation. In my view, this is an inadequate, insufficient view of environmental craft; to change both productive procedures and rituals of use requires a more radical self-critique. A stronger jolt to changing how we have used resources would come in imagining ourselves to be like immigrants thrust by chance or fate  onto  a  territory  not  our  own,  foreigners  in  a  place  we  cannot command as our own. The stranger, remarks the sociologist Georg Simmel, learns the art of adaptation more searchingly, if more painfully, than people who feel entitled to belong, at peace with their surrounding. In Simmel’s view, the foreigner also holds up a mirror to the society into which he or she enters,  since  the  foreigner  cannot  take  for  granted  ways  of  life  that seem to natives just natural. (p.13)


Craft, Craftsmanship, Skill, Art, Pride, Technique, Heidegger, Work Quality, Meaningful Work, Artist



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