Editor’s Note: In Making Sen$e’s report on “the artisan economy” Tuesday evening on the NewsHour, Paul Solman speaks with two exterminators and a dementia coach. Not what you typically think of as “artisans”? Well, how about operators of a fresh fruit Popsicle company or a line of handmade dog leashes, both crafted in a repurposed Brooklyn factory? Any of those jobs can be artisan says Larry Katz, the Harvard professor who’s coined the term “artisan economy.” What makes them artisan is that they’re not standardized occupations; they involve what he calls “personal flair” in each stage of the job.
But this movement is about a lot more than hipsters bucking a traditional career path. Katz believes the artisan economy can help shore up the American middle class by creating new jobs to replace those mass production and middle management jobs lost to outsourcing or new technology. And he thinks that a firm grounding in the multidisciplinary liberal arts is the best preparation – better even than a business degree – to taking advantage of the artisan economy that he hopes will be a path to upward mobility for the average American. His extended interview with Paul Solman, edited and condensed for clarity, is below.