Mass Production vs Craftsmanship


Mass Production; the bed-rock of modern civilisation; the source of modern prosperity; the root of homogeneity, of bland, predictable "excellence".

Craftsmanship; the very zenith of man’s art; the incarnation of the love and sweat of the skilled artisan, the fruits of years spent learning the craft.

Or is it?  Is it just a question of degrees and perspective?  Take an example.  In 1954, Leo Fender launched his design classic, the Fender Stratocaster guitar.  Those early guitars are now collectors’ pieces, changing hands for tens of thousands of pounds.  Collectors and musicians get misty-eyed over the v-profiled necks of early models.  Of course, as recorded in Tom Wheeler’s excellent book, The Stratocaster Chronicles, those necks were the result of a mistake on the cutting machine.  And Fender guitars were mass-produced, albeit in small numbers in the early days. 

And now Fender Japan produces replicas in much higher volumes than the originals, with more consistently high quality.  Again the work of skilled artisans, but artisans working on a much larger scale – mass production. 

In today’s world of "Limited Edition" chocolate bars, the most leaden and cynical marketing, and maybe the most gullible, credulous audience, we need to re-think the real definitions of "mass production" and of "craftsmanship".


About Andrew Munro

An independent business consultant, interim manager and writer, Andrew operates through his company, Burning Pine Ltd (
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