The Phantom Economy   /   Summer 2010   /    Book Forum: Shop Class As Soulcraft

Crawford Responds

Matthew B. Crawford

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All three responses are generous and illuminating; I don’t find anything to disagree with. Maybe a little context from the rest of the book would be welcome, since the respondents were presented with just one chapter.

Richard Stivers is right, I think, to direct our attention to a larger frame, namely, modern economy as a set of organizational techniques. The first two chapters of Shop Class are an attempt to present that frame, in particular as it orders the world of work. I argue (and this is certainly not novel) that the systematic degradation of work results from the imperative to separate thinking from doing, planning from execution. Jobs get dumbed down for the sake of reducing labor costs (skilled professionals are replaced with clerks), and thinking comes to be concentrated in an ever-smaller elite that orders things from afar. This imperative is rooted in a basic conflict between labor and capital, but also in a kind of anti-humanism:  a fetish of rational administration that is hostile to the exercise of individual discretion and to the kind of practical judgment that is based on experience.

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