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

Diderot found printers  and  typesetters  inarticulate  in  explaining  what they did; I found myself unable to put clearly into word show  hand  and  eye  coordinate.  Language  struggles  with depicting physical action, and nowhere is this struggle more evident than in language that tells us what to do. Whoever has tried to assemble a do-it-yourself bookcase following written instructions knows the problem. As one’s temper rises, one realizes how great a gap can exist between instructive language and the body. In  the  workshop  or  laboratory,  the  spoken  word  seems  more  effective than written instructions. Whenever a procedure becomes difficult, you can immediately ask someone else about it, discussing back and forth, whereas when reading a printed page you can discuss with yourself  what  you  read  but  you  cannot  get  another’s  feedback.  Yet simply  privileging  the  speaking  voice,  face-to-face,  is  an  incomplete solution. You both have to be in the same spot; learning becomes local. Unscripted  dialogue,  moreover,  is  often  very  messy  and  wandering. Rather than getting rid of print, the challenge is to make written instructions communicate—to create expressive instructions. (p.179)


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



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