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

Fear  of  Pandora  creates  a  rational  climate  of  dread—but  dread can  be  itself  paralyzing,  indeed  malign.  Technology  itself  can  seem the enemy rather than simply a risk. Pandora’s environmental casket was too easily closed, for instance, in a speech given by Arendt’s own teacher, Martin Heidegger, near the end of his life, at Bremen in 1949. On this infamous occasion Heidegger ‘‘discounted the uniqueness oft he Holocaust in terms of the ‘history of man’s misdeeds’ by comparing ‘the manufacture of corpses in the gas chambers and the death camp ’to  mechanized  agriculture.’’  In  the  historian  Peter  Kempt’s  words, ‘‘Heidegger thought that both should be regarded as embodiments of the ‘same technological frenzy’ which, if left unchecked, would lead to a world-wide ecological catastrophe.’’ If the comparison is obscene, Heidegger speaks to a desire in many of us, that of returning to a way of life or achieving an imaginary future in which we will dwell more simply in nature. As an old man Heidegger wrote in a different context that ‘‘the fundamental character of dwelling is this sparing and preserving,’’ against the claims of the modern machine world.π A famous image in these writings of his old age invokes ‘‘a hut in the Black Forest’’ to which the philosopher withdraws, limiting his place in the world to the satisfaction of simple needs. This is  perhaps  a  desire  that  could  be  kindled  in  anyone  facing  the  big numbers of modern destruction. (p.3)


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



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