Share via Email Richard Sennett enjoys the nearest to loft-style living that central London offers. His spacious, almost surreally well-ordered flat tops a maze of Farringdon offices.
The components of the man-made environment enthral him. He is an enchanting writer with important things to say. Typically his new book considers craftwork very broadly. Sennett does not stop at potters making mugs or Moroccan leather grainers, though such people do come into it, but extends his warm embrace to the crafts of making music, cooking, the bringing up of children.
This is a book about Richard sennett skills, the desire to do things well that he thinks resides in all of us, the frustration and damage once these urges are denied. When we downgrade dedication we do so at our peril, Sennett argues, in an erudite and thought-provoking work.
This professional sociologist-philosopher is also a musician. The visiting conductor of the local orchestra rehearses the string section, going over and over the same passage obsessively.
Rehearsal time ticks by, the manager is getting restless. The conductor takes no notice, the orchestra plays on, caught up in the exhilaration of the enterprise, the painstaking process of improvement Richard sennett performance. This is craftsmanship in action as "enduring, basic human impulse"; the deep inner satisfaction that comes from work perfected for its own sweet sake.
Such idealistic ways of making flourish most easily in settled social spaces. The quasi-domestic medieval workshop, containing at most a few dozen people, nurtured a tradition of perfectionism, allowing scope to care about the right choice of materials and methods of construction.
These idyllic conditions of making were self-consciously recreated in the late 19th-century Arts and Crafts workshops and a surprising number of high-quality individual craft workshops still exist in the UK in But current economics work against long-term job tenure.
Modern "flexible working" discourages pride in craftsmanship. Pleasure in making comes from innate necessary rhythms, often slow ones. As we know in our own lives there is much more satisfaction in cooking a meal or caring for small children if we are not in a hurry. Doing a job properly takes the time it takes.
Sennett argues in a fascinating way that, while we are working, submerged processes of thought and feeling are in progress. Almost without being aware we set ourselves the highest standard which "requires us to care about the qualities of cloth or the right way to poach fish".
Doing our own work well enables us to imagine larger categories of "good" in general. This of course was the belief underpinning manual work in many 19th-century utopian communities.
But where is it now that pressure to deliver has diminished the capacity for contemplation? The best craftsmanship relies on a continuing involvement.
It can take many years of practice for complex skills of making to become so deeply engrained that they are there, readily available, almost without the craftsmen being conscious of it. An obvious example is the glassblower, dependent on tried and trusted ways of using tools, organising body movements, understanding his idiosyncratic raw materials with a depth of involvement so complete the process of making becomes almost automatic.
The same total mastery of technique can apply to music making, ballet dancing, writing. But our lives are so fragmented that it is becoming rare. Sennett views the satisfactions of physical making as a necessary part of being human.
We need craft work as a way to keep ourselves rooted in material reality, providing a steadying balance in a world which overrates mental facility. He traces these ideas back to 18th-century Enlightenment perceptions.
Enlightenment thinking found a way of coping with the onset of industrial production. As summarised by Sennett:Richard Sennett has explored how individuals and groups make social and cultural sense of material facts -- about the cities in which they live and about the labour they do/5().
Apr 06, · By Richard Sennett. pp. Yale University Press. $ Lewis Hyde is the author of “The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World,” recently published in a 25th-anniversary edition.
Mar 31, · Richard Sennett is the winner of the Spinoza Prize, sponsored by the International Spinoza Award Foundation "As Richard Sennett makes clear in this lucid and compelling book, craftsmanship once connected people to their work by conferring pride and meaning/5(40).
Jan 10, · This feature is not available right now. Please try again later. Richard Sennett’s notion of an “open city” articulates how to achieve, or at least think about, the ethical city in the 21st century. Richard Sennett enjoys the nearest to loft-style living that central London offers.
His spacious, almost surreally well-ordered flat tops a maze of Farringdon offices.