A Critical Review of Matthew Crawford’s Shop Class as Soul craft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work

A Critical Review of Matthew Crawford’s Shop Class as Soul craft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work

            Matthew B. Crawford is an American writer who deals with research projects in the Virginia University. He has obtained high academic qualifications including a doctorate in politics. However, Crawford ignored a university career so that he could manage a motor cycle repair business that he had always wanted to establish. This explains why the publication discusses manual jobs, owing to the fact that he is able to evidence his work experiences as credible proof within the employment subject. In Crawford’s practice, he finds manual work to be more appealing in the logical aspect as noted in the book through his defense arguments. In addition, Crawford also analyzes his work principles and connects them to actuality through practical instances. For example, Crawford employs his mechanic experience in offering a description of the fulfillment and challenges faced in manual work (Crawford, 1).

Crawford also discusses various characteristics demanded for good execution of work requirements. For example, Crawford offers a discussion of the negative impacts of today’s white-collar jobs as contrasted with the past; notably, it is observes that the present job system causes deprivation and a high limitation of regular routines noted in the past. Crawford also points out how college education has oriented students into accepting the ordinary grounds of various working events even when there is a difference between official demonstration and reality. The author also points out that, workers within the white-collar system lack a relationship with the material world because it is difficult to determine the practical aspects of their job description. Regarding the economic and psychological aspects, the author questions the importance of education in its erroneous views that brainwash people towards basing their employment perspectives on the ability of the mind to think rather than act.

The writer also explains artisanship, as an example of manual labor that does not separate an individual’s concept of self and his desires. In addition, he uses the model of consumerism to illustrate the given standpoint by citing a craftsman’s values evidenced by the pride taken in the created product, whereas the passive consumer rejects items that are entirely functional in his restless quest to acquire the newest product. Therefore, the artisan is in a freer environment to express his ideas when making the product. Crawford also believes that the ability to think immensely about substance goods offers people liberty from the manipulation and control of advertising, which diverts concentration from the product by transferring it to the external attractive covering (Crawford 13).

Knowing the specifics of a product enables the manipulative influence of advertisement to be less powerful. The tradesman compared to the ideal consumer is therefore more effective and independent. The book also points out that the concept of labor-intensive work experiences and competence should be reevaluated to make people understand the importance of manual labor compared to other jobs that only apply knowledge from high learning institutions. In addition, Crawford emphasizes on the recognition and appreciation of manual labor especially since it does not perceive that those who have a university degree are the only ones who can acquire meaningful knowledge. This is because a degree only represents one’s discipline required to meet graduation necessities and full qualities to be eligible for white-collar jobs.

The publication tries to show how the professional workforce causes manual deprivation among employees. For example, it describes how managers do not take the responsibility of gathering traditional knowledge, contrasting with the practices of past managers who not only acquired such information but also employed the same for functional trade processes. Presently, managers have resorted to the classified and representational information that has reduced knowledge to rules and regulations (Crawford 17). In addition, this scattered information is handed to employees in form of orders for execution, rendering work as a mechanical action. This course of action replaces the essential activity that existed in the past, embedded from valued craft abilities of tradition and experience that recognized the worker’s own intellectual abilities of, and objective towards fashioning a refined product.

Crawford also blames white-collar jobs for limiting the way people think because it entails mindset restrictions focusing on the normal routine tasks assigned for delivery. On the contrary, manual labor protects an employee’s brain from being controlled because no form of limit is advanced for work executions. Crawford describes the manual population as individuals propelled by curiosity and desiring to know and learn more. From this explanation, the book points out that it is better to be an idealistic manual laborer than a depersonalized information worker (Crawford 20). Additionally, it is noted that deprivation of manual labor in the world has led to the adoption of technology and thus colossal joblessness levels.

This has become evident where technological development has led to the simplification of employee tasks. For example, the invention of ATMs has reduced complexity in the tasks of bank employees and consequently the need of cashiers in the given industry. The book also points out an advantage of participating in manual employment as an experience that enables one to utilize their brain while enjoying a task. Crawford elaborates on this by pointing out the resemblance between the Soviet and the Western communities by referring to the planning and execution work aspects. Although Crawford blames technology as the separating factor of these work methods, he also cites economic affairs as part of it. This can be evidenced by reflecting back on the Cold War era where there was degradation of many different kinds of manual labor due to the influence of machinery as a work-simplifying tool (Crawford 22).

The writer also discusses how a manual employee who fashions products using bare hands acquires pride from recognizing that his toil influences a nation in a positive way. It also reveals a person’s individuality and the pure idea he towards himself. Through this and the preceding benefits noted in the discussion, Crawford maintains that manual labor is an important economic and social aspect. In addition, Crawford explains that when one involves himself in physical labor, it overcomes the freedom of expression to speech mode and widens an individual’s opportunity to be practical. For example, little or no impact is noted when one executes renowned activities through given procedures since everybody is able to achieve this (Crawford 24).

I believe the points brought out in support of manual labor are of great importance to our society because they aid people in recognizing and appreciating their true potential in terms of productivity. I also agree with the view that white-collar jobs are a threat to creativity because when people work in a constrained environment guided by rules, procedures and usual routines, it instills disbelief constraining the release idealistic potentials. Manual labor deprivation tends to rob individuals the liberty of expression and only limits them to narrow thinking. Regarding education, formal schooling should be encouraged to incorporate the concept of artisanship in a bid to prevent manual thinking and thus foster innovative practices across various work settings and industries.


Crawford, Matthew. Shop Class As Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work. New York: Penguin Press, 2009. Print.

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