matthew b. crawford: shop class as soulcraft

October 8, 2022

For the past 15 years or so, I have been reading & rereading this remarkable short document, as I relate to it in toto.

This reread typically happens during the period of Navaratri/Dussehra and on the day of Vijayadasami.

Since I was not in hometown on that day, I did my yearly ritual-read of it today. As usual, it continues to reaffirm my faith in DiY, unabashed admiration of Technologies and inquiries in to the ‘nature of work’ and also ‘reality.’

This is a heartfelt / soulfelt meditation of an essay on reclaiming how we, each of us, ought to work with our hands & on machines – simple & complex – in order to understand the beautiful models of reality all around us.

Please read it, reflect upon it – as and when your time and energy permit that.

And then, if possible, do let me know what you think.


His book expanding on the core idea of the aforesaid paper, though it was a NYT bestseller – was not really a great idea. Dilution and verbosity crept in, that’s why. May be, later, when I realized that the author’s name was a pseudonym, it was an inexplicable bummer too, though I happily continue to use a pseudonym, not that it really matters.


Shop floor is the arena for Soulcraft. Yes.

I miss it these days, though!

5 Responses to “matthew b. crawford: shop class as soulcraft”

  1. Sridhar Says:

    Thanks for the reference. This is an extension of my favorite book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance.

    I have been going through this the past week; being unable to fix a charging station myself or even with the support person directing over the phone upsets me. Luckily I have a person who could solve it for me; he doesn’t have a college degree and is a part-time farmer, but he has the attitude to fix things. Such people are too hard to find.

    I also got a staff who got a computer given by her school or college and doesn’t know how to use it – and she is an information worker if accountants can be called so and have a master’s degree in commerce.

    These are my subjective experiences but are good samples of the education system in almost all countries worldwide.

    Looking at these samples, I wonder at our youngsters’ clamor for 3 to 5 years of college.

    BTW – The article is hard to read, I’m still trying…

    • NADU centre Says:

      Dear sir

      Very interesting read, of course with vocabulary support system by an automated,abstract assembly line like meaning finder called Google.

      Machines made men like machines, seems to be the main contention. And the tea shop communist argument of creating desire for goods through credits seems to be over used and undermines the individual’s belief in one’s decision process

      Happening of things may be difficult to generalise and cause effect relation is non linear

      The individual had to sacrifice some of his autonomy for the perceived common good. All the time a mechanic may not have the luxury of walking around a removed engine and smoking into the air hoping for the Archimides moment. He may exercise and exploit his autonomy in selecting vegetables or meat for the weekend or picking between Julian Huxley or Aldous Huxley for the leisure read reposing in fromt of the house bought, perhaps from Lehman Bros funded banker with down payment funded by Bonus from Ford .

      We all lament for the missed opportunities and untrodden ways.

      Had I got a physics teacher in my Panchayat school who could instill in me awe for Newton and Einstein , or who could handhold like Othisaivu sir into the world of machines , I might have enjoyed the tricks of an electrical repair or setting right a motor. No use blaming the system. I lacked the fire to outsmart my ecosystem.

      An interesting coincidence while reading about the lonely mechanic.

      Today I went to the market to repair a stopped mixer. The owner was selling tools Inside the shop. The mechanic sitting outside did my work in 5 min , opening the screw, chiseling some part and replacing the screw. 50 rupees paid by me to the mechanic was handed to the young owner inside. But the mechanic’s face had a glow when I thanked him . He still exists .

      I venture to imagine that the same glow would have lit the face of Subrahmanya Bharathi when he saw the happiness of the Muslim enthusiasts from Kadayam (?) who got from him ALLAH the song where he praises God for making the worlds run without collision.

      The same glow might have flashed in the mind of Ram sir when he shattered into pieces without mercy and with the ruthlessness of a(n) intellectual street fighter(!) the pseudo historical sentimentality of Cuddalore Seenu (about Prothviraj Chauhan ,etc)

      These are mental works that give an Aha moment. I think no use blaming assembly line .

      We have to constantly try for the Mechanic’s moment of self pride while still in the wheels and cogs of assembly line. Coz they feed a family back home. That is the way to enjoy originality inside the broiler chicken farns of today’s offices and factories

      As a dull headed worker in the financial market I am trying to find such moments by trying to solve customers issues using legal knowledge whatever available or linguistic niceties of the egalitarian humanist stock. After all, “doing’ the thinking myself and speaking in one’s own voice of originality sitting on the fabricated ergonomic seat gives an artifical sense of self respect.

      Finally , Bessemer invented the copper smelting process. But miserably failed to convert to economic success. Some other businessman did it. (Please correct if wrong).As innovators revel in the sky of dreamy path finding, businessmen convert the brain into cash and invest and encourage R and D to some extent. Can we take it as correct ?

      Luckily the author asked the student to avoid Utopian thinking.

      Long live clerkdom and the cozy, safe , sleepy,tamasic golden middle path.

      Thanks for the stimulation



      • Thanks for those considered thoughts. And for wryly sharing the angst.

        I didn’t realize that we have corresponded before. And hope the lad is doing fine.

        BTW, tamassic nature is grossly underrated, IMO. What if all the nice folks were to run around with AK-58s? Yelling yell o Who Fubar?

        So, each unto his tamas. Rajas be damned.


    • Hmm. Mostly my vexperience too. Easy to blame it on the Macaulay system, which merely sought to create a Nation of Clerks.

      I have some hypotheses for the current state of affairs, but I will bore you to death sometime later about them.

      As far the soulcraft essay, all I would request for is to please go thru it – it is somewhat turgid in prose but is definitely rewarding. Especially when, you seem to read the blog entries, without major complaints – AND have read some venmurasu parts.

      (running away before you kill me)

  2. Raghavendran Says:

    The soul craft essay was brilliant and original.But the பேதை நெஞ்சம் tried to remember only perceived pain points and gather counter arguments to idiom and
    gliche shocks that are not main line of the story. The tendency to react based on latest
    and Cherry picked attack points are a bane in debate . As you say , our our mental block அவரவர்க்கு 😀

மேற்கண்ட பதிவு (அல்லது பின்னூட்டங்கள்) குறித்து (விருப்பமிருந்தால்) உரையாடலாமே...

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