Magazine
Latest Issue

19th Century Surgical Instruments. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

An optimistic new book argues that we can all become expert at something

An appreciation of physical craft ranges from surgery to flower-arrangement. But it doesn't untangle the way most of us actually work

By Tanya Harrod   December 2020

We worry about work a lot: lack of work, furloughed work, unstable work on zero-hour contracts. And then there’s new forms of work, guided entirely by an algorithm, stripping out any sense of agency or job satisfaction. These fears go back a long way, in step with the gradual spread of the industrial revolution from the late 18th century onwards. By the turn of the 20th century there was, as the historian José Harris puts it, “a lurking grief at the memory of a lost domain,” a sense that where work was concerned, “change was inevitable, and in many respects desirable, but that its gains were purchased at a terrible price.”

In Marx’s Capital, the passages on the division of labour and the perfection of complex machinery are written with the vivid energy of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. Some 80 years later, Walter Benjamin laments the passing of…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to letters@prospect-magazine.co.uk

More From Prospect