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This book is truly inspirational. I think this question of people connecting to their work and finding the truth from working in with their hands represents an important message for our times. These days with all of the technology we have at our disposal, we can feel disconnected from the simple truths of the world around us. This book by Sennett reconnects us. Cannot recommend the book more highly.
I found it impossible to read this book and not think about my own work as a product manager. As I read Sennett's descriptions of goldsmiths, glassblowers and Linux programmers, I examined the way I work. I asked myself how my work is similar to theirs. I questioned the way I work. I looked in the work of others for ways to improve my own.
Each chapter discusses a different aspect craftsmen and craftsmanship. Sennet draws on philosophy, psychology, sociology, anthropology, science and history to examine each of the aspects. Each chapter asks a key question and sets out to find the answer. Sennet describes himself as a "philosophically-minded writer." While the writing is certainly philosophically driven, Sennet has a keen sense of narrative. In seeking out an answer he delves deep and moves across disciplines with grace, but also illustrates each of his points with a story from the history of a number of different crafts.
This book left me with a number threads that I want to follow further on my own. Although Sennet drew his own conclusions about the nature of craftsmanship, he's left his readers with a number of useful tools to start examining and improving their own craft.
This is a really great book. A transformative work that might prove, in time, to be hugely influential. It's also a very enjoyable, fascinating, engaging, personal read.
What kind of book is it? I don't describe it as an exhaustive account of "craftwork", specific crafts now or historical. But it does contain a lot of interesting detail along such line, used for convincing effect. It is a philosophical book, deeply questioning our being in the world as physical beings making things and being made. It's not an entirely comprehensive account of philosophy's relationship with making (no discussion of Heidegger's Question Concerning Technology, no mention of the double meaning of Nietzsche's "philosophize with a hammer" and its double meaning, no mention of Deleuze and Guattari's "how to make yourself a body without organs" or their account of the handyman and the production of production). But that doesn't matter. The book works as a powerful intervention. Industrial fabrication of consumables, concepts and people has taken over. Philosophers in many cases have responded with vacuity (Sennett is a bit harsh on Arendt, but maybe its justified). Sennett brings us back down to earth and points out a whole area of human (and non-human) material existence that may well offer a different ethical route.
Dewey's (little read) Democracy and Education is a key starting point, although it doesn't become explicit until later on in the book. Sennett is in the pragmatist tradition. But he recognises the limitations of Dewey's account of experience (and its basis in material action). Sennett goes beyond Dewey, with a materialism that recognises the power of material and tools to instruct and inspire. This would link up well with the "vibrant materialism" explored by Jane Bennett in her recent book of Bergson, Deleuze, Guattari et al.
Would I recommend this? Yes, to anyone. It is a challenging read. But will provide plenty of material for you to work up into a new life and a new society.
A cabinetmaker plus design journalist plus author myself, I am writing a book about Arts & Crafts in the Digital Age. You can't avoid Sennett if you're in this space, but I confess I take issue with Fiona McCarthy (for whom I have the absolute highest respect and admiration) in her review for The Guardian when the book came out in 2008, which basically applauds the work to high heaven. In her eyes, Sennett can do no wrong. She must not have read all the book carefully. Little inaccuracies and failures of logic, rather than undermine his whole proposition, leave the reader with unease about exactly what he is getting right and wrong. Neither Sennett nor his editor saw fit to get the name of The Great Exhibition 1851 right, calling it the Great Exposition. He claims Count Dunin's 'Man of Steel', an ingenious but static robot that could change size through a complex system of sliding plates, was for nothing more than show: "The ethos of the overpowered automobile was embodied in this Victorian robot: big, but for no purpose." A glance at the facsimile exhibition catalogue confirms that the automaton was in fact devised as a multifarious tailor's dummy, adjustable in all dimensions so that military outfitters, for instance, would not have to measure every man jack of Her Majesty's Armed Forces for their uniforms. Such inaccuracies or minor lazinesses undermine confidence. When Sennett starts ennumerating what John Ruskin was trying to do with The Seven Lamps of Architecture and The Stones of Venice, one feels one has to check a more reliable source for confirmation of the analysis - a book, for instance, like McCarthy's superb life of William Morris, painstakingly researched and written with grace, a charmingly rhythmic style and a deeply held compassion for her subject and passion for her topic. I'm getting something out of him - he is good, for example, on the physical and neurological processes that underpin the activity of 'the intelligent hand' - and doing a book like mine one cannot possibly overlook him. But like many other writer and critics on craft and craftsmanship, Sennett is not himself a craftsman. He was indeed a musician - a cellist - and there is no doubt that many of the cognitive and technical skills employed in musicianship are the same or similar to those of craft. But it's not quite enough. If you're looking for a really penetrating, beautifully written and enjoyable, stimulating and challenging exploration of the true nature of the combined intellectual and manual processes at work in craft and craftmanship, you can do no better than 'The Case for Working with Your Hands' by Matthew Crawford - a political philosopher every bit as erudite as Sennett, but also a motorcycle mechanic and restorer. His account of what you need to think - and do - to make a 1963 VW Beetle go faster is joy itself.
O livro é muito bem composto para a leitura. Absolutamente bem organizado e segue uma estrutura lógica e de fácil compreensão. As palavras usadas pelo autor são simples e de vez em quando um vocábulo menos comum é salpicado no texto. Porém vi isso na leitura como positivo, até mesmo para enriquecimento e dinâmica do processo. O autor parece ter pesquisado exaustivamente o tema e o leitor pode ler o livro ao longo de dias pois os temas e exemplos são trazidos constantemente à frente do novo assunto sendo tratado no momento. O leitor se beneficiará em ter um bloco de anotações ao lado pois os exemplos dados são riquíssimos e dignos de mais pesquisa e entendimento posterior. Indico aos que quiserem entender e refinar sua visão de carreira, não só da carreira manual ou artesã, mas mesmo aqueles que vem sua atividade como digna de dedicação e quiserem melhorar ou refinar a atividade. Se ver de certa forma como um artesão poderá lhe trazer benefícios e este livro será útil para guiar você neste caminho.
This book could have met a clear need: a work explaining clearly what craftsmen have to offer in a post-industrial age would have been welcome. Also,we could use a book explaining why so many of us rush to buy objects at "craft fairs" etc. even when they may be of lower quality than their industrial equivalents. Sennett rightly stresses the (good) craftsman's commitment to quality and the involvement in craftsmanship of implicit knowledge (in industry, there can also be a commitment to quality, but only on the basis of explicit knowledge). But he says little about the expression of personality, flair or even a certain Weltanschauung through craftwork. (Sennett seems to assume that artists are not craftsmen but surely the two categories overlap considerably.) He includes an essay on the hand but is less clear on whether craftworks are necessarily handmade. (I believe not necessarily: poets and composers are craftsmen without needing to exercise any special manual dexterity.) I agree with the other reviewers that (i)Sennett does not lay down a clear line of argument and gets bogged down in examples and byways, not all of which are strictly relevant; (ii) the book is shoddy: Penguin should be particularly ashamed of the paperback edition which contains all the typos of the hardback edition uncorrected and is produced meanly with tiny margins; so much for craftsmanship! Again, like other reviewers I have reservations about Sennett's use of his sources. I'll give one example: his references to Adam Smith. He says (a) that the "Wealth of Nations" (1776) was published a generation after the "Encyclopédie"(1751-1772) [!] and that Smith asserted that "machines would end the project of enlightenment"; but Smith says no such thing: he recognises that the repetitive work entailed by the division of labour (not necessarily involving machines) may dull people's minds but proposes a remedy for this (adult education). Smith argued - surely plausibly - that mechanisation increased productivity to society's general benefit, making inter alia education available to a wider range of people. Moreover (b) Sennett ignores Smith's admiration for the intelligence of agricultural craftsmen: in agriculture division of labour may be compatible with the preservation of some crafts, e.g. animal husbandry. Then (c) Sennett says that in "The Theory of Moral Sentiments" Smith "asked his readers to enter into the misfortunes and limits of other human beings" but he did no such thing: he clearly asserts that "sympathy" is a part of human nature; it does not "instruct ethically" as Sennett says but is the meaning of ethics. These examples raise doubts in my mind about Sennett's use of e.g. Plato or Kant and his references to the scientific revolution (which all seem to be based on secondary sources).