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

Dimensions of Freedom

Gordon Marino

Bob Dylan’s song “Everything is Broken” has a point. On the first day of class this semester, I hit the key to print my syllabus and the printer wouldn’t work, so I rushed to another office to use theirs. Then I went to run off copies, and the new Xerox machine with myriad fancy features jammed. When I finally made it to class, a large projection screen was pulled down in the front of the lecture hall. I figured I would just give it a little tug, and it would fly up. The class watched as I yanked again and again. But true to one of the central points of Shop Class as Soulcraft, the screen could not be operated mechanically, and the automatic retractor was—you guessed it—on the fritz. Shortly thereafter, I walked into the bathroom, apparently too close to the automatic towel dispenser because it started spitting out paper. All these gadgets are supposed to improve my life, but they often just serve to make me feel like a helpless idiot. Matthew Crawford speaks to this meltdown type of experience.

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