human attribute relating to knowledge and skill at performing a task

Workmanship may refer to the skill of an artisan or the quality of something made by an artisan.

Ruben's 1536 rendition of Vulcan, the Roman counterpart of Hephaestus, the Greek God of Craftsmen.


  • Once Europe could boast of a large class of craftsmen — free people with the opportunity for artistic creation; but now everything is manufactured by mass production and the result is an incredible shrinkage in the variety of forms due to standardization. There is probably a greater variety of goods in Timbuctoo or in the Sooks of Marrakesh than in Frankfort or Los Angeles. The artifacts are thus "democratized." (Mr. Gray and Mr. Green get an identical product for an identical price.)
  • Pride in one’s work carries with it a determination to accept the demands imposed by that work: in the case of philosophy to follow the argument where it leads, in the case of history to discover what actually happened, in the case of literature to explore to its depths a particular theme. In consequence, this sort of pride demands freedom: it has to be laid low in any authoritarian State. The historian, in such a system, has to conform to official interpretations of the past, the philosopher to dogmas, the writer to stereotypes of human action, the craftsman to “production-schedules.” More subtly, attempts are made to lay pride low in a consumer’s society: the film-director, the novelist, the craftsman are called upon to produce “what will sell” at whatever cost to their pride in workmanship.
  • Habituation to bargaining and to the competitive principles of business necessarily brings it about that pecuniary standards of efficiency invade (contaminate) the sense of workmanship; so that work, workmen, equipment and products come to be rated on a scale of money values, which has only a circuitous and often only a putative relation to their workmanlike efficiency or their serviceability. Those occupations and those aptitudes that yield good returns in terms of price are reputed valuable and commendable, — the accepted test of success, and even of serviceability, being the gains acquired. Workmanship comes to be confused with salesmanship, until tact, effrontery and prevarication have come to serve as a standard of efficiency, and unearned gain is accepted as the measure of productiveness.
    • Thorstein Veblen, The Instinct of Workmanship and the State of the Industrial Arts (1914), p. 349
  • Before the age of adulteration it was held that behind each work there stood some conception of its perfect execution. It was this that gave zest to labor and served to measure the degree of success. To the extent that the concept obtained, there was a teleology in work, since the laborer toiled not merely to win sustenance but to see this ideal embodied in his creation. Pride in craftsmanship is well explained by saying that to labor is to pray, for conscientious effort to realize an ideal is a kind of fidelity. The craftsman of old time did not hurry, because the perfect takes no account of time and shoddy work is a reproach to character. But character itself is an expression of self-control, which does not come of taking the easiest way. Where character forbids self-indulgence, transcendence still hovers around. When utilitarianism becomes enthroned and the worker is taught that work is use and not worship, interest in quality begins to decline. … There is a difference between expressing one’s self in form and producing quantity for a market with an eye to speculation. Péguy wished to know what had become of the honor of work. It has succumbed to the same forces as have all other expressions of honor.

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