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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for the 21st Century

May 20, 2009

From Slate, a review of a new book about the conflicts and satisfactions of work in the “cubicle culture” from Matthew Crawford, a young man with a Doctorate in Political Philosophy from the University of Chicago who left a job at a Washington think tank to repair motorcycles in Richmond, VA. An excerpt of the review:

Crawford echoes the ’50s critique of “other-directedness” put forward in those classics of sociology that sound more dated than they are, The Lonely Crowd and The Organization Man. With his motorcycle-inspired “metaphysics of quality,” Crawford pays obvious homage to Robert Pirsig. But what distinguishes Crawford from his predecessors is how far blue-collar work, both in numbers and prestige, has fallen since even the ’70s. Shop Class surveys an economic landscape where everyone must go to college or else be viewed as suspect, stupid, and/or unemployable. The massification of higher education has also created a new vocational pitfall: I’ve got a degree; therefore, I should be doing smart, clean, fun, and well-paid work. Except for clean, these adjectives can be scarce in cubicle alley.

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