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July 30, 2009

Finished: Artists, Craftsmen, and Technocrats

Finished reading Artists, Craftsmen, And Technocrats, by Patricia Pitcher. (Link leads to PDF).

This is an excellent book about the role of artists, craftsmen, and technocrats. I've been increasingly interested in the role of apprenticeship in the the historic European journeyman system, and the guild structure. This book applies the artist-craftsman-technocrat scheme to modern life (in work, organizations, and societies). I really enjoyed reading it, which is unusual in a book translated from the French into English; the author is a PhD at a bilingual Toronto university.

She describes all three as honest, hardworking, and ethical. She positions the Artist as that 1% of the population that is the creator, the dreamer, the filler of vacuums, the synthesizer who can take the (work, industry, society) to a new level. The Artist is people-oriented, open-minded, intuitive, and visionary.

She paints the Craftsman as the majority of the population, the people who've learned through experience, the day-in-day-out people who actually do things, the patient, tolerant people who know what works and what won't. The Craftsman is humane, dedicated, knowledgeable, and wise.

The Artist and Craftsman are "fellow-travelers"; they get along and respect each other.

But the Technocrat is another story. Detail-oriented, rigid, methodical, and hardheaded, the Technocrat is the enemy of both the Artist and the Craftsman. His/her analytical thinking leaves no room for fresh ideas and new pathways; he/she follows an uncompromising set of rules he/she believes are right.

The Technocrats are the buzzworders, acceptors of current wisdom, the micro-focused, the planners and charters, the people who want it now, and in essence the people that embrace the administration of things rather than the human and social consequences involved.

Of course, she says it much better than that. She develops interesting flows of how each group sees the other, and suggests that the Technocrats have risen beyond their place in (business, society) to the detriment of us all.

Her dynamic suggests that the Technocrats have thrived because the Artists respect their skills, and the Craftsmen tolerate or ignore them, while the Technocrats will actively plan against the other two groups, viewing the Artist as out of control and lazy, and the Craftsman as old-fashioned and incompetent.

She closes with a call to embrace the Craftsmen and to tolerate the Artists, who are hated beyond reason by the Technocrats.

The test of any good theory is: does it explain what you've experienced? Does it predict where things might go? On both counts, this book is informative and successful.

Pitcher describes the behavior, thought processes, temperment, and inner life of each group. She backs it up with a 15-year ethnographic examination of a financial corporation, and I find it hard to disagree with her descriptions.

She does not offer bromides or checklists for the care and feeding of each type, but rather focuses on a call for Character, a return to Philosophy, a re-cognition of the Classics, and a call for restoring the place of the Craftsman, who has been too easily displaced by the Technocrat.

I enjoyed the translation, and found her discussion contrasting the French system of compagnonnage and it's social attributes with the more German system of apprenticeship to be a fascinating examination.

I highly recommend this book. Although I purchased the hard-cover from an hard-to-find book vendor, this link sells the PDF for $4. It's a good read from a multi-disciplinary perspective.


Cindy said...

I want a copy of this book, but I can't find one. Any suggestions? (E-mail suggestions to, thanks!)

Vannevar said...

Cindy, click the link at the top of the post, you can download a digital copy from Amazon for $4.

LionDormant said...


Re; "the author is a PhD at a bilingual Toronto university"

In fact, she did her PhD under Henry Mintzberg at McGill University, an English-language university, and now teaches at UniversitĂȘ de MontrĂȘal, a French-language university. Both of these institutions are located in the (effectively, if not officially) bilingual city of Montreal, about 500 km from Toronto.

I, too, found the book interesting and inspiring, especially as I watch my own workplace become a technocrat's paradise.

...and just for fun, although I understand what you mean, I can't help thinking that your hard-to-find book vendor might want to advertise its coordinates better, so as to become an easy-to-find hard-to-find-book vendor.

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