Masters of Craft
Old Jobs in the New Urban Economy
Richard E. Ocejo
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.
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).