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

‘‘Craftsmanship’’  may  suggest  a  way  of  life  that  waned  with  the advent  of  industrial  society—but  this  is  misleading.  Craftsmanship names an enduring, basic human impulse, the desire to do a job well for  its  own  sake.  Craftsmanship  cuts  a  far  wider  swath  than  skilled manual labor; it serves the computer programmer, the doctor, and the artist; parenting improves when it is practiced as a skilled craft, as does citizenship. In all these domains, craftsmanship focuses on objective standards, on the thing in itself. Social and economic conditions, how-ever,  often  stand  in  the  way  of  the  craftsman’s  discipline  and  commitment: schools may fail to provide the tools to do good work, and work places may not truly value the aspiration for quality. And though craftsmanship can reward an individual with a sense of pride in work, this reward is not simple. The craftsman often faces conflicting objective standards of excellence; the desire to do something well for its own sake  can  be  impaired  by  competitive  pressure,  by  frustration,  or  by obsession. (p.9)


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



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