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

Age-old questions of deprivation and lack did not go away—the masses of Europeans still lived in a scarcity society—but machine production of tableware, clothing, bricks, and glass added tot his other dimension of worry: how to use these goods well, what abundance might be for, how not to be spoiled by possessions. On balance, the eighteenth century embraced the virtue of abundance, mechanically produced, and so should we. For consumers the ma-chine then promised, and by the twenty-first century has infinitely improved, the quality of our lives; more and better medicines, houses, food—an endless list. The material quality of life for the European working poor in modern times is in many ways higher than that of the bourgeois classes of the seventeenth century. Even Martin Heidegger eventually installed electricity and modern plumbing in his Black Forest hut. What Enlightenment writers worried more about was the machine’s productive side, its influence on the experience of making—and these worries remain. (p.83)


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



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