The Craftsman Prologue

by Richard Sennett

Prologue: Man as His Own Maker

  • Fear of self-destructive material inventions
    • Atomic bombs
    • Holocaust
  • Arendt, The Human Condition
    • Separation between Animal laborans and Homo faber
    • Public discussion important
    • Sennett: false, there is more to the maker
  • This is the first of three books on material culture, all related to the dangers in Pandora’s casket, though each is intended to stand on its own.
    • This book is about craftsmanship, the skill of making things well.
    • The second volume addresses the crafting of rituals that manage aggression and zeal;
    • The third explores the skills required in making and
      inhabiting sustainable environments.
    • All three books address the issue of technique—but technique considered as a cultural issue rather than as a mindless procedure; each book is about a technique for conducting a particular way of life.
  • Dimensions of skill, commitment and judgement
  • Book structure:
    • First: historical struggles in recognising and encouraging the impulse of craftsmanship
    • Second: the development of skill through bodily practices and imagination
    • Third: motivation and talent
    • Conclusion: give people an anchor in material reality. History has drawn fault lines dividing practice and theory, technique and expression, craftsman and artist, maker and user, modern society suffers from this historical inheritance.
  • [taking the craft out of the material – there is no more thinking, there is only the making. there is no questioning of why]
  • Second and third books in this series:
    • Warriors and Priests: how the craft of rituals makes faith physical. aim is to understand how the fatal marriage of religion and aggression might possibly be altered by changing the ritual practices in each.
    • The Foreigner: the dream of dwelling in equilibrium… lead(s) us to seek escape in an idealised Nature… (we need to) confront the self-destructive territory we have actually made… (through) the stranger… Craft is now foreign to us.
    • Georg Simmel: the stranger… learns the art of adaptation more searchingly, if more painfully, than people who feel entitled to belong… in his view, the foreigner also holds up a mirror to the society into which he or she enters, since the foreigner cannot take for granted way of life that seem to natives just natural. So great are the changes required to alter humankind’s dealings with the physical world that only this sense of self-displacement and estrangement can drive the actual practices of change and reduce our consuming desires…