The World Beyond Your Head

A book about “our scatterbrained ennui”.


Information from the publisher

In his bestselling book Shop Class as Soulcraft, Matthew B. Crawford explored the ethical and practical importance of manual competence, as expressed through mastery of our physical environment. In his brilliant follow-up, The World Beyond Your Head, Crawford investigates the challenge of mastering one's own mind.

We often complain about our fractured mental lives and feel beset by outside forces that destroy our focus and disrupt our peace of mind. Any defense against this, Crawford argues, requires that we reckon with the way attention sculpts the self.

Crawford investigates the intense focus of ice hockey players and short-order chefs, the quasi-autistic behavior of gambling addicts, the familiar hassles of daily life, and the deep, slow craft of building pipe organs. He shows that our current crisis of attention is only superficially the result of digital technology, and becomes more comprehensible when understood as the coming to fruition of certain assumptions at the root of Western culture that are profoundly at odds with human nature.

The World Beyond Your Head makes sense of an astonishing array of common experience, from the frustrations of airport security to the rise of the hipster. With implications for the way we raise our children, the design of public spaces, and democracy itself, this is a book of urgent relevance to contemporary life.


“Crawford’s greatest service is to spur our thought, to enjoin his readers to pay attention to the struggle of paying attention. . . . Some of The World Beyond Your Head’s individual chapters approach true excellence . . . In Crawford’s skillful hands . . . examples are far more than irreverent illustrations of philosophy by pop culture; they are illuminations from within of the many - and often surprising - connections between philosophy and ideology . . . Books like this gather strands of individual experience, cultural malaise, and philosophical reflection, weaving them together to form braided rope whose tensile strength has the power to lead readers forward, onward, and downward – from the personal to the cultural to the political by way of the social.” - Charles Clavey, The Los Angeles Review of Books

“The most cogent and incisive book of social criticism I've read in a long time. Reading it is like putting on a pair of perfectly suited prescription glasses after a long period of squinting one's way through life.” - Damon Linker, The Week

“[A] brilliant and searching new work of social criticism . . . Crawford proposes a different model of individuality and choice, at once traditional and radically new. Expounding it, with richly informative excursions into neuroscience, experimental psychology, intellectual history, mass culture, skilled crafts, and sports, is the main business of The World Beyond Your Head.” - George Scialabba, Boston Review

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