Meaning at work: what the boom of neo-artisans reveals

Meaning at work revealed by the boom of neo-artisans

In a context of explosion in the tertiary sector, the "bullshit jobs" flourish in organizations. These are all these jobs that seem all the more useless and derisory as they are well paid. To this is added the impression of evolving in a virtual nebula where it becomes more and more difficult to see the fruit of his own job.

Faced with this proliferation of "bullshit jobs", we are currently witnessing that the journalist Jean-Laurent Cassely call her "revolt of the first of the class", that is to say to an exodus of young graduates who are leaving the large tertiary companies to become craftsmen, autoentrepreneurs, volunteers in non-governmental organizations (NGOs), etc.

Jean-Laurent Cassely – The revolt of executives against "bullshit professions" (Xerfi Canal, 2017).

The return to work of the hands, the modesty of the impact and the desire for contact with the "flesh of the world" then formed the creed of this new elite. So how does this reconquest of the workshop go beyond a simple fad?

Find meaning by "doing"

Contrary to an uprooted economy, even “above ground”, the return to matter represents a form of reconciliation with the world. Professors Anne Prevost-Bucchianeri and Francois Pottier are convinced:

"For some graduates, the return to the concrete, to "doing", is a necessity. [Therefore], the need for concrete joins the need for meaning."

These reunions join this "art of meaning" of which speak Jean-Luc Moriceau and its co-authors where it is a question of touching reality, approaching it and thinking about it. The "art of meaning" is ultimately a way of entering into contact with the world and of feeling fully part of it. Not without nostalgia, the philosopher Pascal Chabot evokes this neglect of the material on the part of modern employees.

“This monomania [of computer work] is paid for by an oversight: the unformulated knowledge held by the fingers of humanity, which built the world by taking it in hand, is gradually being lost. wood, metal or stone required great skill [...] The sailor who knots a piece [...] the planter who pralines roots, the mosaicist who splits tesserae: so many fundamental skills that owe their survival to recalcitrants who have the intelligence to perpetuate them."

Young graduates interviewed as part of a doctoral thesis supported recently have put forward this desire to desert their office jobs to find work direction in contact with matter.

This is particularly the case of Esther* who left her job in a large company to start her own clothing workshop:

"I have always been drawn to creation, to manual work rather than working behind a computer."

The powers of hand and touch

In Animal Parts, Aristotle recalls the power of the human hand over the rest of the animal kingdom. He insists in particular on the versatility of the hand, which would only be the extension of human reason. The psychoanalyst DarianLeader also returns to the importance of manual activities in the lives of individuals. He argues that we have an immense need to act with our hands. From then on, to touch is more than ever to be in the world.

This question of touch is also at the heart of the preface written by Philippe Simay for the work of the philosopher Georg Simmel : Big cities and the life of the mind. Follow-up of sociology of the senses.

In this booklet, Simmel notably develops an original portrait of the modern metropolis by analyzing the impact of the urban way of life on the sensory experiences and mentalities of city dwellers. In short, the German sociologist chooses to give a sensitive reading of the city where it is a question of considering the urban fabric and its stakes in terms of bodily experiences.

Starting from this observation, Simay recalls in his preface that "touch is the prohibited meaning of urban life". He adds that "this is the meaning that is never mentioned by Simmel, while it occupies an essential, if paradoxical, place in the metropolis". In effect :

"the senses of the city dweller are mobilized to create distance and to avoid that we touch each other in one way or another."

If touch is the prohibited meaning of city relations, it is then possible to extend this observation to the tasks required of employees of large companies in the tertiary sector. Unable to touch the fruit of their own labor, they evolve in a nebula where the tasks become shapeless, intangible, in a word, virtual.

The time of Wedding with the world

Join thecrafts, it is finally reconnecting with this precious tool that is the hand but it is also replaying this time of great reconciliations with the world depicted by Albert Camus in Wedding. It's high noon, with the sun shining down on Tipasa, Djemila and Florence. The Mediterranean nature then offers the setting for great reunions with the world.

Whereas in The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus speaks of a missed appointment by describing the experience of the absurd; In Wedding, the appointment is successful. Faced with the winter of a technical world and the injustice of an absurd position, this return to things is the expression of an "invincible summer" sleeping deep within everyone.

"To prevent justice from shrinking, beautiful orange fruit which contains only a bitter and dry pulp, I rediscovered in Tipasa that it was necessary to keep intact in oneself a freshness, a source of joy, to love the day which escapes the injustice, and return to the fight with this conquered light. Here I found the former beauty, a young sky, and I measured my luck, finally understanding that in the worst years of our madness the memory of this sky had never left me. left. […] In the middle of winter, I finally learned that there was an invincible summer within me."

The descriptions of the young Camus to Tipasa here echo this return to matter, this "flesh of the world" made possible by craftsmanship.

Thus, the apprentice craftsman gradually learns to remobilize the whole of his body and his senses, to be attentive to all the phenomena that occur around him. He does not learn so much to use his hands as to involve his whole body in each of his gestures. Therefore, the contact The direct contact that the craftsman has with the world through his five senses will allow him to acquire a sense of control over what he is doing.

The challenge of craftsmanship

In his first book, Magali Perruchini invites us to discover the portraits of a generation of new artisans reconciled with themselves. Moreover, the professor of strategy and corporate governance Pierre Yves Gomez specifies that an "authentic vocation is evaluated by the simplicity with which one leaves what no longer appears as masks and artifices to rejoin real life, concrete, material". Among all these neo-craftsmen who leave their office jobs to join the workshop, there is the desire to seal a pact with the material.

New craftsmen, portrait of a generation that is shaking up codes (Eyrolles, 2018).

After five years of higher education, Arthur Lochmann chose to follow a CAP to become a carpenter. He needed a "solid life" as opposed to the "liquid life" of which the sociologist speaks Zygmunt Bauman. This liquefaction of our existences is the reflection of a world without real structures. Faced with a permanent flow, life is then subject to novelty and consumption. It is the reign of disposable, temporary and planned obsolescence. Conversely, craftsmanship runs counter to this nebulous halo. Lochmann speaks in particular of developing an intuition of matter in order to succeed in acting on it and understanding it.

Among the portraits made by Magali Perruchini, we find in particular Pia in her ceramics studio who confides that "working a living material like earth is to establish a dialogue". Finally, the craftsmen whom Magali Perruchini "talk about authenticity, beauty, creativity, freedom. Their choices and their productions also tell, implicitly, what no longer works in our society's relationship to work: a production out of breath, a disenchantment of workers and consumers alike, a general fatigue vis-à-vis the dematerialized economy, the search for a direct, concrete and palpable impact on the world around us".

The modesty of the impact

In the perspective developed by Albert Camus, the man who has an acute awareness of the absurd is the one who creates in a humble way and who does not seek glory or recognition. When he evokes the young craftsmen that we meet in the portraits of Perruchini, Pierre-Yves Gomez speaks of the contemplation of a job well done.

"By contemplation, one should not understand lofty metaphysical meditations, but the essential reflexivity on what one does, the feeling that one has served a purpose, mastered a process, accomplished the right gesture. Contemplating is become aware of the usefulness of what we have achieved, modestly, in the right place. These twenty-five [craftsmen] do not have the claim of some digital startupers: to change the world! They simply want to achieve a beautiful motorcycle, producing old-fashioned paper or pleasing people by selling quality bread. This modesty is more likely to change the world."

Gomez ultimately calls for a concrete, visible and modest impact of everyone's work. By evoking the "beautiful motorcycle" or the "quality bread", he joins the logic of work developed by the philosopher Hannah Arendt. Thanks to the materiality of his production, the craftsman can have direct feedback on the efficiency and usefulness of what he does every day. We are indeed very far from the grandiloquent speeches of certain companies who think they have found the miracle solution to our problems.

Aesthetics of gesture and temporality

When he talks about new craftsmen, Pierre-Yves Gomez also evokes the possibility of an authentic gesture, carried out in the purest tradition. The craftsman is the figure of the one who takes care of his work. He must therefore necessarily learn very strict rules of execution which require time and patience. Indeed, it takes know-how and tenacity to make beautiful pottery or take a delicious baguette out of the bakery.

In this, the craftsman struggles against this acceleration time so characteristic of our contemporary societies.

Meeting with Hartmut Rosa, the anti-modern philosopher (France Culture, 2020).

Crafting is therefore a discipline of attention that can culminate in a meditative state close to what some psychologists call the state of "flow". The "flow" corresponds to a mental state of total absorption of the individual in a task which is characterized by a commitment of the whole person, a very intense concentration with the loss of the notion of time and a feeling of fluidity. in the gestures In a state of "flow", the craftsman is completely involved without perceiving the effort.

Under these conditions, the craftsman maintains a triple relationship to time. First of all, the artisanal gesture is developed over time to be executed correctly and this necessary time cannot be reduced. The craftsman is also part of the gestures of those who preceded him. When he carries out a renovation, he takes over the work of others and adds his own gestures to those of his predecessors. Finally, its production is part of the long term of things destined to last and not of the obsolescence of serial productions destined to be destroyed as soon as they leave the factory.

In short, the artisanal program runs counter to a society of fluidity, speed and even futility. In his workshop, the craftsman, on the contrary, praises the nice gesture, slowness and modesty: three cardinal virtues that give meaning to his existence.

Jean-Philippe Bouilloud – Doing a good job: a social demand (Xerfi Canal, 2023).

*Name has been anonymized.

Thomas simon, Assistant Professor, Montpellier Business School

This article is republished from The Conversation under Creative Commons license. Read theoriginal article.

Image credit: Shutterstock/ FreeProd33

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