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

All craftsmanship is quality-driven work; Plato formulated this aim as the arete, the standard of excellence, implicit in any act: the aspiration for quality will drive a craftsman to improve, to get better rather than get by. But in his own time Plato observed that although ‘‘craftsmen are all poets . . . they are not called poets, they have other names.’’ Plato worried that these different names and indeed different skills kept people in his day from understanding what they shared. In the five centuries between the hymn to Hephaestus and his own life-time, something seemed to have slipped. The unity in archaic times between skill and community had weakened. Practical skills still sustained the ongoing life of the city but were not generally honored fordoing so. (p.24)


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



Links to Reference



How to contribute.