Book Review: Shop Class as Soulcraft

Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into The Value Of Work

Author: Matthew B. Crawford

Let it never be said that this blog isn’t diverse! Yes, this weeks two wheel adventure takes the form of a book review.

One note before we begin. This book was published in 2009 so i’m a little late to the party with this review. Fortunately it’s content should be of interest to those who enjoy motorcycles and motorcycle culture.

Matthew B. Crawford has a Ph.D in political philosophy and owns his own independent motorcycle repair shop. Whilst this may seem like a contraction at first glance, Shop Class as Soulcraft, goes a long way in describing how these two subject go hand in hand, particularly for the author himself.

If shop class is a term you are unfamiliar with, it is a subject that is taught in American schools. Essentially what we would call in Britain “Design and Technology”. Although shop class has a lot more to do with motor mechanics and according to the author, it’s on the decline, along with similar types of jobs that require working with your hands rather that just your brain.

In a series of articles exploring the idea of “the value of work”, interwoven with the authors personal stories, it looks deep into how we perceive manual work as something that doesn’t require as much brain power as high paying, management type jobs. When in fact it is precisely those manual jobs that require more brain power. It also highlights the decline in “Craftsmen” and the rise in “knowledge workers” and how being self-reliant is no bad thing.

I will say there were a few things I didn’t like about the book. Now I might not be the sharpest bulb in the shed, but this is a tough read. Especially at the beginning, I felt as though I could have easily been reading his actual Ph.D thesis. He goes into great detail about all of the topics covered in his book, but if you aren’t put off by talk of mathematical theory behind Volkswagen Bugs, then this could be the book for you.

Despite that, I think the book is full of enough interesting ideas to keep you turning those pages, but to be honest the areas I found most interesting were the authors personal stories. From his beginnings as an electrician then working in a Porsche repair shop as a teen, getting a Ph.D and a high paying job and then jacking it all in to open his own, independent motorbike repair shop, his own life is an inspirational tale that will leave you wondering if there is more to life that sitting behind your office desk.

Thanks for reading folks.

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