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

This study has sought to rescue Animal laborans from the contempt  with  which  Hannah  Arendt  treated  him.  The working human animal can be enriched by the skills and dignified by the spirit of craftsmanship. This view of the human condition is, in European culture, as old as the Homeric hymn to Hephaestus, it served Islam in the writings of Ibn Khaldun, and it guided Confucianism throughout several thousand years.∞ In our own time, craftsmanship finds a philosophical home within pragmatism. For  more  than  a  century,  this  movement  has  dedicated  itself  to making  philosophical  sense  of  concrete  experience.  The  pragmatist movement began in the late nineteenth century as an American reaction to the ills of idealism in Europe, embodied by G. W. F. Hegel, in the eyes of the first pragmatist, C. S. Peirce. Peirce sought instead to find the keys to human cognition in everyday, small acts; the spirit of scientific experiment in the seventeenth century animated him, as did Hume’s empiricism in the eighteenth. From its origins, pragmatism ad-dressed the quality of experience as well as sheer facts on the ground. (p.286)


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



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