Archive for May 28th, 2009

The Value of Manual Labor

May 28, 2009

The New York Times magazine has a great essay from Matthew B. Crawford, an author who also happens to own a small motorcycle repair shop in Richmond, Va. In “The Case for Working With Your Hands,” Crawford examines the value of manual (as in hands-on) work versus the abstract nature of most white-collar work. It’s well worth a read as Crawford chose his path after aiming for a gig as a college-educated knowledge worker (he has a Ph.D. in political philosophy.)

From the story:

After finishing a Ph.D. in political philosophy at the University of Chicago in 2000, I managed to stay on with a one-year postdoctoral fellowship at the university’s Committee on Social Thought. The academic job market was utterly bleak. In a state of professional panic, I retreated to a makeshift workshop I set up in the basement of a Hyde Park apartment building, where I spent the winter tearing down an old Honda motorcycle and rebuilding it. The physicality of it, and the clear specificity of what the project required of me, was a balm.

Crawford drills into a subject close to my heart and formerly calloused hands. As a professional keyboard pecker, I’m often at odds with my former career path and childhood aspirations to solid blue-collarism. It was in high school that I decided to opt out of college and work for a living. After a stint helping out my Brother, the Plumber, I became a roto-rooter guy. From there I worked as a technician for an aerospace (more…)