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Why We Drive: Toward a Philosophy of the Open Road

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Why We Drive: Toward a Philosophy of the Open Road

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From the author of the landmark Shop Class as Soulcraft, a brilliant, first-of-its-kind celebration of driving as a unique pathway of human freedom, one now critically threatened by automation.

A thoughtful, entertaining, and substantive work about the joys of driving. —Wall Street Journal

Once we were drivers, the open road alive with autonomy, adventure, danger, trust, and speed. Today we are as likely to be in the back seat of an Uber as behind the wheel ourselves. Tech giants are hurling us toward a shiny, happy “self-driving” future, selling utopia but equally keen to advertise to a captive audience strapped into another expensive device. Are we destined, then, to become passengers, not drivers? Why We Drive reveals that much more may be at stake than we might think.

Ten years ago, in the New York Times-bestselling Shop Class as Soulcraft, philosopher-mechanic Matthew B. Crawford—a University of Chicago PhD who owned his own motorcycle shop—made a revolutionary case for manual labor, one that ran headlong against the pretentions of white-collar office work. Now, using driving as a window through which to view the broader changes wrought by technology on all aspects of contemporary life, Crawford investigates the driver’s seat as one of the few remaining domains of skill, exploration, play—and freedom.

Blending philosophy and hands-on storytelling, Crawford grounds the narrative in his own experience in the garage and behind the wheel, recounting his decade-long restoration of a vintage Volkswagen as well as his journeys to thriving automotive subcultures across the country. Crawford leads us on an irreverent but deeply considered inquiry into the power of faceless bureaucracies, the importance of questioning mindless rules, and the battle for democratic self-determination against the surveillance capitalists. A meditation on the competence of ordinary people, Why We Drive explores the genius of our everyday practices on the road, the rewards of “folk engineering,” and the existential value of occasionally being scared shitless.

Witty and ingenious throughout, Why We Drive is a rebellious and daring celebration of the irrepressible human spirit.

San Francisco Chronicle

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