Congratulations to Richard Ocejo on the release of his new book, Masters of Craft: Old Jobs in the New Urban Economy (Princeton). To learn more about the book, check out Richard’s recent blog post for Consume This!
How educated and culturally savvy young people are transforming traditionally low-status manual labor jobs into elite taste-making occupations
In today’s new economy—in which “good” jobs are typically knowledge or technology based—many well-educated and culturally savvy young men are instead choosing to pursue traditionally low-status manual labor occupations as careers. Masters of Craft looks at the renaissance of four such trades: bartending, distilling, barbering, and butchering.
In this in-depth and engaging book, Richard Ocejo takes you into the lives and workplaces of these people to examine how they are transforming these once-undesirable jobs into “cool” and highly specialized upscale occupational niches—and in the process complicating our notions about upward and downward mobility through work. He shows how they find meaning in these jobs by enacting a set of “cultural repertoires,” which include technical skills based on a renewed sense of craft and craftsmanship and an ability to understand and communicate that knowledge to others, resulting in a new form of elite taste-making. Ocejo describes the paths people take to these jobs, how they learn their chosen trades, how they imbue their work practices with craftsmanship, and how they teach a sense of taste to their consumers.
Focusing on cocktail bartenders, craft distillers, upscale men’s barbers, and whole-animal butcher shop workers in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and upstate New York, Masters of Craft provides new insights into the stratification of taste, gentrification, and the evolving labor market in today’s postindustrial city.
“Why are upscale versions of traditional manufacturing and service jobs considered hip, desirable, and cool? Ocejo, a sociology professor, examines the ‘urban village model’ that has revitalized urban areas. He looks at four elements of gentrification–craft breweries, barber shops, whole-animal butcher shops, and cocktail bars. . . . Using his own field experiences and interviews with business owners and workers, the author identifies transformations in the U.S. cultural elite that have led to this new service economy, one that is strikingly male-dominated. He uses Chelsea Market in Manhattan as an example of how the reappearance of businesses formerly considered essential, but not prestigious, in exclusive and expensive form mirrors the gentrification of the neighborhoods that once supported them in their previous incarnations. The book reads well. . . . Sociologists and others with a serious interest in hipster culture will learn much from it.” —Publishers Weekly
“[Ocejo] engagingly portrays several workers, tracing their motivations for choosing a job, their satisfactions and challenges, and plans for their futures. A close-up and often entertaining look at new service jobs in an urban economy.”—Kirkus
“This innovative book immerses readers in the social worlds of artisanal service workers and the tony, omnivorous taste communities they serve, and deepens our understanding of the possibilities of sustaining careers based on authentic and transparent client encounters in a precarious urban economy. Ocejo offers new typologies of artisanal career paths and worker-client relationships that will benefit future scholarship and guide aspiring freelance artisans as they master their craft.”–Daniel B. Cornfield, Vanderbilt University, author of Beyond the Beat: Musicians Building Community in Nashville
Richard E. Ocejo is associate professor of sociology at John Jay College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. His books include Upscaling Downtown: From Bowery Saloons to Cocktail Bars in New York City (Princeton).