Richard Sennett is a sociologist at New York University and the London School of Economics. In the January/February 2010 issue of Utne Reader, an interview with him is reprinted from American Craft. I found these passages particularly resonant:
The most radical thing that could happen in the modern workplace is for workers to say, “Let us do a better job. This is not good enough, we could do better.” This would be profoundly destabilizing to the way most work is organized. So, in that sense, it is a very powerful proposal. We are beginning to see this in companies that are committed to employee enrichment and developing the craft powers of their employees, like Toyota and BMW. This is a real change for the future – how can we produce a nation of craftspeople?
In some ways we’re beginning to see an increase of the craft ethos throughout our culture. We are in an age that is inventing new crafts all the time. A lot of craftspeople I meet are focused on the traditional craft media and don’t realize how what they do is related to advances in technology, medicine, and politics. The principles of making physical objects and the skill sets involved have expanded to all sorts of other domains.
[…] What matters is that the surgeon or the computer programmer sees that they are all engaged in the same kind of activity.
I sense that this shift in perspective is similar to some of the things Peter Block says about stewardship and community. Genuine change in society will come as a result of this kind of re-positioning, re-thinking and, most importantly, doing. I’m considering reading Richard Sennett’s book The Craftsman next.