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The Craftsman

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  1,302 ratings  ·  125 reviews
In his most ambitious book to date, Richard Sennett offers an original perspective on craftsmanship and its close connections to work and ethical values

Craftsmanship, says Richard Sennett, names the basic human impulse to do a job well for its own sake, and good craftsmanship involves developing skills and focusing on the work rather than ourselves. The computer programme
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 31st 2009 by Yale University Press (first published 2008)
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I wasn’t going to review this book – not because it isn’t very interesting and well worth reading, but in some ways it like a really smart version of Drive by Dan Pink. That is, humans like autonomy and developing mastery and yet most of modern work denies people access to exactly that. The other bits that are included here and aren’t in Pink’s version have to do with why (that is, Marx and the alienation of labour being the key to understanding capitalism) and the problems of teaching things to ...more
Dec 30, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sociology of work PhD students
Shelves: craft, non-fiction
I really wanted to like this book, but became increasingly exasperated with it the further I read. I did finish it, but only so that my criticism would be complete.

Anyone with much knowledge of the sciences will be irritated by Sennett's tenuous grasp of basic scientific principles. Any engineer will be exasperated with his conflicting positions between the craft of creating and perfecting machinery, the design and use of tools as part of craft, and the romantic distaste for replacing handwork
Apr 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: inspiration, art
So happy to find a book that articulates the layered significance of the craftsman throughout history, and the many ways an individual crafts work in his daily life. Intelligently written and more far-reaching than I'd imagined, encompassing economics, cultural history, and corporate politics into its search for what it means to be a craftsman in contemporary society. Sennet is sociologist, and it shows. His writing doesn't always flow like it might if he were more a writer who simply did resear ...more
Nelson Zagalo
This is a masterpiece work on the philosophy of craft education. Sennett goes beyond current knowledge on creativity, art, play, education value and tacit knowledge. This book is a manifesto, full of knowledge, pragmatic knowledge here theorised for the first time.

You can find a longer review on my blog (in portuguese):
Jonathan Norton
Mar 06, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The sort of book in which John Milton is referred to as "the poet John Milton".
First of all, it is exceedingly unfair to write a short, impressionistic review for a book that is meant to be the first of a three volume critique and analysis on material culture intended by Richard Sennett.

But being one of the rare books out there--and I can remember only Donald Schon's 'The Reflective Practitioner' as the last word out there outlining an epistemology of practice--Sennett's new book still warrants a few exciting words despite the caveat as stated. And like Schon's 'The Refle
Jeff Van Campen
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology
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
Brent Wilson
Sep 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is packed with interesting and provocative ideas for me as an instructional designer. Its focus is on the manual crafts, but I'm thinking about the issue of craft more generally and how it competes with general processes and technologies that threaten to overwhelm education. Is education something to be mass-designed and delivered via automatic tools and program - or a craft to be custom-designed and delivered by a pro? The answer is in between somewhere, and I'm exploring how both tec ...more
The Craftsman is not, as Richard Sennett might think, a very good book of sociology, but it is a very good book in general for thinking about things and for thinking about how things are made and how and why we make them. He seems like a good-hearted guy, with a sort of William Morris socialist outlook, someone who likes sincerity and who likes carpenters and writers and chefs and architectural draftsmen and Linux programmers and wants us all to work together to make nice things. In terms of pra ...more
B. Jean
Reading this was like walking through a field after snowmelt. Some steps will be perfectly clear, but eventually you'll put a foot down wrong and end up with soggy socks and mud in your shoes.

Philosophy is not my thing, I thought this would be a little more concrete, but instead it was abstract, messy, and hard to picture. Some bits and examples were perfectly clear, and that was usually when he referred to actual historical figures and didn't wax poetic.

I found it bizarre when he referred to
Aug 08, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I pushed myself to read 100 pages or so, and then gave up. There is little structure to the book and this makes reading a cumbersome effort. Sennett has his moments, but it just didn't work for me.

Maybe others find it more appealing but I have to move on to something else.
Stefan Szczelkun
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Richard Sennett is one of those eminent intellectuals that is humane and intriguing. His writing is discursive and sometimes verges on rambling, but will pull itself back into some kind of shape just as you are about to give up. He gets away with this because his powers of description and analysis are at times acute to the point of being sublime.

This book is an example of class as 'the elephant in the room'. 326 pages on craftmanship and no mention of class as such! As a good establishment figur
Alex Moseley
Sennett made interesting observations on the life and work of the craftsman, but in the end, I was deeply disappointed. Ultimately, he never really descends from his academic perch to stand at the craftsman's workbench. Rather than acknowledging the deeper significance within the life of the craftsman, Sennett seems to be using the experience of the craftsman as a means to his own end, which has nothing to do with craft or craftsmanship.

In Part III he seems to slip into the conceit that the lif
Sandeep Bedadala
Picked up this book after seeing it on multiple lists in Designers and Books

Richard Sennett is that prodigious researcher but an awful teacher. My two stars are for introducing me to some wonderful men and women from the past and their unique approach to craft. There were some chapters that were truly insightful and inspiring and made me not give up but the persistent digressions failed my momentum.

As another reviewer commented, I tried very hard to like this book but it does not reward that pa
Chris Esposo
Jan 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book that uniquely takes from the arts, the history of technology, the history of labor, engineering philosophy, and even a bit of career self-help, "The Craftsman" is relevant today, post the era of industrialization and mechanized mass-production, but still not yet in the era of the AI-dominated automation. It follows the history of the craftsman, from right before the craft guilds-system of the medieval world in Europe, to the start of industrialization in England and France, and onward to ...more
interesting exploration of craft (including related to architecture) but SERIOUSLY flawed. Remarkably poor editing - typos, misspellings, you name it. No bibliography and poor footnotes. Isn't there an irony in a book about craft being so poorly crafted.
It took me two tries to get through this book, and I will have to read it at least once more to really unpack it once my dissertation is done. This is somewhat frustrating as it is time consuming.

Like much of Sennett's work, it reads more or less easily, with a bit of a slowdown near the end of Section One. It is packed with interesting ideas, some I consider worthwhile, others I think are interesting but not supportable, or at least not as important as Sennett thinks. It is pretty clear that al
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a prime example of what philosophical analysis of certain concepts can contribute to your everyday life. I am personally convinced that everyone should read this book at least once in their life.

Sennett carefully examines the idea of 'craftsmanship', dissects the cultural practices behind the concept, and introduces his readers to the mindset behind all skillful action. This book will take you on a journey through a plethora of historical and practical examples that guide you to a d
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found Sennett's work through Matthew Crawford's The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction. The Craftsman is a solid complement to Crawford's explorations of skilled practice as an underappreciated dimension of philosophy and the social sciences.

The book is one part inquiry into the development of skills by craftsman, one part defense of the artisan in an age of mechanized production, and one part examination of the philosophical implications for our unders
Titus Hjelm
I've only read Sennett the data-driven sociologist earlier. Like so many others, Sennett has in later life moved from research reporting towards a "good to think with" philosophical style, where ideas rule and examples are by anecdote rather than systematic data. He's a fine writer, so even though I didn't quite get what I expected, it was a satisfying reading experience. I do look forward to the next installment of the trilogy, of which this was the first, where Sennett considers rituals of coo ...more
Ian Anderson
Mar 19, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Finally finished this book. It took a year. A bit at a time, in the loo. Because I couldn't tolerate longer stints that that.

What can I say? I must be a little slow, since this book made almost no sense to me at all.

An often seemingly (to me at least) random collection of philosophy, more akin to showing off what the author has read, than any real contribution to the topic at hand.

I am a craftsman and virtually nothing in this book resonated with me. Maybe it was above my pay grade.

He conclud
Tom Calvard
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great theme for a book - and Sennett deals with it in sweeping, erudite style. While I enjoyed it, by the end I felt there was not much left to say or much of a thesis - other than the idea that we humans make stuff and that process of making can be full of thought and meaning. There is a hint of nostalgia and an interesting question I was left with is in wondering how craft work will live on in different forms, today and in the future.
Jan D
The book gives a high level overview of craft-related topics like the craftsman’s relation to machines, robots and tools, instructions and learning, values and their connection to modernity.

This is all great material and an enjoyable read. The cases used are good and get across the point, however, often I whished for them to be discussed more in-depth and not be as simplified as they appeared in the book.
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although in my opinion a not 100% scientifically sound book -and in my opinion also one that could never be since it covers a much too wide sprectrum-, the Craftsman is a book that changed my life. His views about talent, being smart and other ideas that influence people's self-esteem are beautifully an originally discussed. I am telling you, Sennett, if read properly, could save years of psycoanalysis.
Laura Degenhardt
An addition to my shelf of essential, marked up, 'return to' reads. As an artist and art tutor, much of this resonated for me, particularly the emphasis on a return to skilled work as part of any art practice. I understood this principle as a therapeutic practice and as a means of disseminating higher values into my own social networks through the action of art making to a high level. I was reminded of the principle of 10 000 hours to mastery, which I believe to be true.
Aug 16, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The topic is interesting. The writing style is what you would expect. It is obvious that a lot of work and passion went into this book. However, with the exception of the first fifty pages or so I found it boring and difficult to read. I had to skim to the end. I would not say that it is not worth one's time, it just did not work for me at all and it was a struggle.
Sep 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
A fine book by a Pragmatist of our day. Sennett explores how the complex interaction of human senses, how learning and development guided by practice and 'touch' lead to expertise of a non-verbal form.
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This one is intellectually challenging for the non philosopher, such as myself. However I feel that I got a lot out of it, even if some of his arguments went over my head. His conclusion that we are all capable of craft work is empowering. Highly recommended if you are drawn to the ideal of craft.
Jul 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I admit, I didn't finish this one, either. But the book was well written and easy to read if you were interested in the history of the craftsman and how it has evolved to programming today.
Kim Zinkowski
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A+. I need to reread this book
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Richard Sennett has explored how individuals and groups make social and cultural sense of material facts -- about the cities in which they live and about the labour they do. He focuses on how people can become competent interpreters of their own experience, despite the obstacles society may put in their way. His research entails ethnography, history, and social theory. As a social analyst, Mr. Sen ...more

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“Craftsmanship names an enduring, basic human impulse, the desire to do a job well for its own sake.” 9 likes
“Issac Stern rule: the better your technique, the more impossible your standards.” 7 likes
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