Craft and Managerialism: the magisterial contribution of the Sennster

Just after writing the last piece on Craft and Playwork I found this piece on Sennett by Laurie Taylor. (Boy am I glad it was after!).

I’ll freely admit that I have struggled to read Sennett (just recently I failed with ‘Together’ and ‘The Craftsman’ ) Thankfully the often populist Laurie Taylor has read him, so we don’t have to. What is often glib within the confines of his 28 minute Radio 4 show ‘Thinking Allowed’, is here simple and clear and personal. bravo.

Go read it.

Speaks more truth about playwork and managerialism than a platoon of PhuDs.

Some nuggets:

”Workers like Janet (skilled booker of guests for radio) are expected to play along with this fiction, to display continually that that they get along with others in the workplace. She is required to manipulate her appearance and performance in such a way as to lead others to believe she is a model of cooperation. And it’s her ability to do this – to go along with the fiction of teamwork – which determines her promotion prospects and indeed the whole of her future career. It is no longer enough to do your job well; you also have to constantly demonstrate that you possess a full set of people skills: you have to show that you are a “nice person”.“

”What unites his writing and his practice is the philosophy of pragmatism. He explains to me that he came to this through reading “a wonderful book” by John Dewey called Art as Experience. “It took the aura of inspiration out of the arts and went back and looked at what is actually happening. It asked whether an artist is any different in kind from a bird or a beaver building a nest or a set. The answer was ‘no’. There’s a great continuity in practical ideas.” According to Dewey art should be part of everyone’s creative lives and not just the privilege of a select group of artists.

“This theme is taken up in The Craftsman, where Sennett argues that we place too much emphasis on the idea of spontaneity and originality in art and by so doing devalue its craftsmanlike qualities. “We are,” he insists, “far too riveted to this notion of inspiration, of genius, of the idea of the single lone creator, the near-madness of artistic creation. As Dewey said, it is just an ordinary activity.”

”But the particular appeal of pragmatism to Sennett lies in its insistence that we address the world as we find it, that we do not have recourse to grand overarching theories about how it might or should be, or concern ourselves with looking for absolute truths. We have to start from where we are and make those interventions that improve the quality of our shared lives.“


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