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,
The workshop is the craftsman’s home. Traditionally this was literally so. In the Middle Ages craftsmen slept, ate, and raised their children in the places where they worked. The workshop, as well as a home for families, was small in scale, each containing at most a few dozen people; the medieval workshop looked nothing like the modern factory containing hundreds or thousands of people. It’s easy to see the romantic appeal of the workshop-home to socialists who first confronted the industrial land-scape of the nineteenth century. Karl Marx, Charles Fourier, and Claude Saint-Simon all viewed the workshop as a space of humane labor. Here they, too, seemed to find a good home, a place where labor and life mixed face-to-face. Yet this beguiling image is misleading. The medieval workshop-home did not follow the rules of a modern family guided by love. Organized into a system of guilds, the workshop provided other, more impersonal emotional rewards, most notably, honor in the city. ‘‘Home’’ suggests established stability; this the medieval workshops had to struggle for, since they could not assume they would survive. The workshop as home may also obscure this living scene of labor today. Most scientific laboratories are organized as workshops in the sense that they are small, face-to-face places of work. So, too, can workshop conditions be carved out of giant enterprises: modern auto plants combine the assembly line with spaces reserved for small, specialist teams; the auto factory has become an archipelago of workshops. A more satisfying definition of the workshop is: a productive space in which people deal face-to-face with issues of authority. This austere definition focuses not only on who commands and who obeys in work but also on skills as a source of the legitimacy of command or the dignity of obedience. In a workshop, the skills of the master can earn him or her the right to command, and learning from and absorbing those skills can dignify the apprentice or journeyman’s obedience. In principle. (p.53)
KeywordsCraft, Craftsmanship, Skill, Art, Pride, Technique, Heidegger, Work Quality, Meaningful Work, Artist, Communication
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