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Handwerk by Richard Sennett

Handwerk (edition 2008)

by Richard Sennett, Michael Bischoff (Übersetzer)

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5061120,102 (3.48)8
Authors:Richard Sennett
Other authors:Michael Bischoff (Übersetzer)
Info:Berlin Verlag (2008), Edition: 1, Gebundene Ausgabe, 432 pages
Collections:Your library, Nicht mehr in meinem Besitz
Tags:Handwerk, Kultur, Sachbuch, Arbeitswelt, Arbeit

Work details

The Craftsman by Richard Sennett

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English (10)  German (1)  All languages (11)
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Heard about this book on the To the Best of Our Knowledge show called Reconsidering Craft, 12/14/2008: http://www.wpr.org/book/081214a.cfm.
  jlapac | Aug 14, 2013 |
I was really looking forward to reading this, a good book about the act of making things and learning skills is long overdue. There were some very interesting facts and ideas in this book, but it was really hard work finding them because the writing is muddled. Sennett skips around the topic too much, exploring too many ideas without explaining them clearly.

The whole book needs a severe edit. I persevered to the end, but didn't enjoy it. ( )
  lettice | Mar 24, 2012 |
Sennett, a renowned sociologist, writes about craft based on a broad historical base, ranging from ancient Greece to Linux open source communities. For a design researcher, the book corroborates all that is said in general design theory, such as the work by Schön (who is, oddly enough, not mentioned), as well as interaction-design specific accounts such as the one by McCullough. Moreover, it extends and elaborates upon this knowledge in several fruitful directions, including the social dynamics of the workshop and the asymmetric relation between master and apprentice; the detailed nature of head-and-hand work in complex craft skills (including the importance of rhythm and concentration); the nature of learning crafts and the roles of instructions and tools in learning. Further relevant themes include the concepts of resistance and ambiguity, the ethics of craftmanship, and the relation between play and craft. In sum, it is a remarkable book that adds significantly to the body of knowledge in interaction-design research and education.
  jonas.lowgren | Aug 5, 2011 |
Sennett's book treats an important question. The skilled manual worker who has been crucial in and to the development of civilization does not fare well today, Instead of repairing goods, we simply replace them. The tailors of yore who mended garments has been replaced by H & M's one season wear, produced by robots and cheap labor. IKEA's self-assembled furniture pushes cabinetmakers and joiners into an upmarket niche. CAD and office software suites have made the skills of most draftsmen and desk warriors obsolete. Even Sennett's own former colleagues, musicians face stiff competition from computers that can double as a complete orchestra. So it is both timely and important to discuss what happens to the craftsmen.

The first part of Sennett's book is the one where its main value lies. It is both a history of the craftsman and a discussion of the importance of tacit knowledge sharing in the workshop. The shared community, organized in guilds, is one of the important elements modern successor jobs lack. This pushes the homo faber back towards the animal laborans, Countries with a craft culture such as Jaoan and Germany treat their skilled workers much better than countries without a craft culture (UK, US) with their emphasis on unskilled jobs.

Unfortunately, Sennett then removes himself from the real discussion in the next two parts, preferring to elaborate on the theme of the craftsman as artist. This is valid only for a minority of craftsmen. While the price for most services performed by craftsmen approaches the level one pays for artwork, what is wanted and what is delivered mostly isn't art but a competent, adequate job, Redefining the craftsman as an artist is certainly a solution to the problem, but the limited number of artists required will never be adequate to replace the legion of redundant craftsmen. On the other hand, there is a quaint picture book about the numerous professions that never made it into the 20th century. Is it just that the hand-based crafts are disappearing, replaced by head-based/symbolic crafts such as systems engineers and project managers?

Most architects are not even close to the mastery of an Adolf Loos. They design and build (cheap) offices and houses. Prefab elements and configuration kits challenge even those highly skilled crafts. Sennett contrasts the houses built by pro Loos and the amateur Wittgenstein, a difference in skill and constraints. I took the occasion to visit the Wittgenstein House here in Vienna, now occupied by the Bulgarian cultural embassy. Its main flaw is its failure to respect a Palladian hierarchy of room sizes. The door handles set at around 1,70 m aren't helpful either. In a deeper sense, it shows that architecture is a social craft. Deep-pocketed autodidacts such as Thomas Jefferson and Ludwig Wittgenstein may remodel their houses to eliminate their mistakes. Learning a craft means absorbing the lessons of the successes and mistakes of countless forebears, the essence of a craft, a knowledge all too quickly lost.

The book unfortunately doesn't answer the question about the future of the craftsman. The good first part is marred by the cop-out of the next two parts. Craft is more than delivering quality work. ( )
  jcbrunner | Jul 30, 2011 |
Little genuine content. Forgettable. ( )
  hagertyhartfeldt | Jul 12, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0300151195, Paperback)

Defining craftsmanship far more broadly than “skilled manual labor,” Richard Sennett maintains that the computer programmer, the doctor, the artist, and even the parent and citizen engage in a craftsman’s work. Craftsmanship names the basic human impulse to do a job well for its own sake, says the author, and good craftsmanship involves developing skills and focusing on the work rather than ourselves. In this thought-provoking book, one of our most distinguished public intellectuals explores the work of craftsmen past and present, identifies deep connections between material consciousness and ethical values, and challenges received ideas about what constitutes good work in today’s world.


The Craftsman engages the many dimensions of skill—from the technical demands to the obsessive energy required to do good work. Craftsmanship leads Sennett across time and space, from ancient Roman brickmakers to Renaissance goldsmiths to the printing presses of Enlightenment Paris and the factories of industrial London; in the modern world he explores what experiences of good work are shared by computer programmers, nurses and doctors, musicians, glassblowers, and cooks. Unique in the scope of his thinking, Sennett expands previous notions of crafts and craftsmen and apprises us of the surprising extent to which we can learn about ourselves through the labor of making physical things.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:18 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Taking in everything from Pandora and Hephaestus to Linux programmers, Sennett posits that the spirit of craftsmanship-an "enduring, basic human impulse, the desire to do a job well for its own sake"-is tragically lacking in many areas of the industrialized world. Craftsmanship, by combining skill, commitment and judgment, establishes a close relationship between head and hand, man and machine, that Sennett asserts is vital to physical, mental and societal well-being; the symptoms of craftsmanship-deficiency can be found in worker demoralization, inefficiency and waning loyalty from both employees and employers, as well as other (largely institutional) effects. Sennett looks at the evolution of craftsmanship and the historical forces which have stultified it, how it's learned in the areas it still thrives (among scientists, artists, cooks, computer programmers and others), and issues of quality and ability (skill, not talent, makes a craftsman).--From Publisher's Weekly.… (more)

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