How America Went from Industrial to Handmade

"If you follow certain avenues of American habits over the years, you might notice a shift from the mass-produced to the bespoke. What does that say about modern society, and what might it be heralding for our future? Cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken’s Return of the Artisan grapples with these questions and many more."

- InsideHook, "The 10 Books You Should Be Reading This July"

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”RETURN of the ARTISAN” is, for me, the most articulate writing about what makes an ARTISAN, the cultural value that the ARTISAN provides, and how the ARTISAN significantly impacts their community. 

Please have a READ, I guarantee that this BOOK will shed some much needed LIGHT on this subject. You may find a new appreciation and understanding for ARTISAN as a SIGNIFICANT, POWERFUL WORD.

– Ken Skovron, artisan and proprietor, Darien Cheese and Fine Foods, Darien, CT

Ken Scovron

“Return of the Artisan”, by Grant McCracken, is one of the most enjoyable and important books I’ve read in forever. Charts the recent past and likely future of lifestyle, commerce, and capitalism with deep debts to Stewart Brand, Alice Waters and others.

– Nick Gillespie, host, The Reason Interview

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Meet the Author

Grant McCracken

Grant McCracken is a cultural anthropologist. He has an unparalleled perspective enabling him to recognize emerging cultural signals and translate them into useful insights, innovations, and plans for action.  

Grant holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago and is a leading practitioner of Anthropological and Ethnographic approaches to the study of contemporary American culture. Grant has written a number of books on the trends and dynamism of American life. These include Plenitude, Transformations, New Honor Code, and Return of the Artisan. He has also written books designed to help Americans master their culture for strategic purposes. (See especially his Chief Culture Officer, Culturematic, Dark Value, and Culture and Consumption I & II.)

As a partner to business, Grant interprets “slow culture” and “fast culture” to solve wicked challenges and provide actionable insights and scenarios. Grant consults widely, including the Ford Foundation, Kanye West, Google, Netflix, Boston Book Festival, Timberland, Sony, Diageo, Siemens, NBC, Microsoft, Nike, LEGO and The White House. He has participated on advisory boards for IBM and Sam Adams.

Grant founded the Institute of Contemporary Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum and has taught at the Harvard Business School, University of Cambridge and the Convergence Culture Consortium at MIT. Grant is the co-founder of the Artisanal Economies Project focusing on the rise of small batch, handmade America.

Grant is the inventor of The Griff, a tool for spotting, tracking and analyzing emerging cultural trends. The Griff is now used by several organizations to establish early warning and the long view of emerging American and international futures.

In his educational seminar, Grant McCracken’s Culture Camp, Grant defines what culture is, how to make culture, and how to deepen marketing and creative endeavors to participate in culture in new, inventive and profitable ways.

Why I wrote this book

As an anthropologist, I see two big revolutions transforming our world.

One is the tech or digital revolution, the one that has given us the internet, cell phones, computers, new social networks, and new ways to make culture.

The other is the artisanal revolution. This is equally large in scale and consequence. It has changed what we eat, where we shop, how we live.

But here’s the strange thing. The tech revolution gets almost all the attention. There are endless podcasts and blogs and industry coverage.

So it’s time to give the artisanal revolution it’s due. After all, It has changed the way we thinking about our chefs, bar tenders (now “mixologists”), supermarkets (increasingly “farmer’s markets”), and our diets and our bodies (in the name “wellness” and “mindfulness”), and our communities increasingly dedicated to a cruelty free capitalism.

My second objective: to argue that the artisanal revolution represents one way to address the problems of unemployment and opioid addiction that now haunt certain parts of the US.  When people are pushed out of the industrial economy, they fall hard and they fall far. The artisanal economy is a great way to reach out and catch them.

My third objective: how the artisanal revolution is, or may be, in the process of creating small, powerful towns across America that will advise the artisanal cause. These were well underway before COVID, but COVID actually brought lots of new comers, some with big city incomes. Something remarkable is happening in these “colonies!”

Praise for Grant McCracken


Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker

Malcolm Gladwell , The New Yorker

"No one views American culture—nor discovers its meaning—in quite the way Grant McCracken does."

B. Joseph Pine II, author of The Experience Economy and Infinite Possibility

B. Joseph Pine II , author of The Experience Economy and Infinite Possibility

"A provocative, original, and thoughtful writer, someone who addresses topics that are central to our culture from a fresh vantage point, and someone who is willing to challenge orthodoxies—right, left, and center—which prevent theorists of other stripes from seeing what's in front of their eyes."

Henry Jenkins, author of Convergence Culture

Henry Jenkins , author of Convergence Culture

"Grant McCracken is a cool guy and thinker with consistently cutting-edge insights about the way people are thinking, working, and feeling."

Peter Sims, author of Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge From Small Discoveries

Peter Sims , author of Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge From Small Discoveries

"I have deep admiration and respect for Grant McCracken, a nimble thinker who combines a mastery of marketing, culture, anthropology, and modern business practice."

Philip Kotler, author of Chaotics: The Business of Managing and Marketing in the Age of Turbulence

Philip Kotler , author of Chaotics: The Business of Managing and Marketing in the Age of Turbulence