亚历克·福奇认为，这种鼓捣传统是美国的一项核心美德。福奇在他的新著《爱鼓捣的人成就美国伟业：业余爱好者、DIY爱好者和发明家赞歌》（The Tinkerers: The Amateurs, DIYers, and Inventors Who Made America Great）一书中，对这种传统进行了毫无保留的探索。他在书中写到：“摆弄我们周围的机械其实已经成为了一种成年礼。对于许多人来说，这是一种生活方式。”
For much of human history, people explained away the many things they couldn't understand by resorting to gods, spirits, and fanciful tales. Life may have been nasty, brutish, and short, but the world that contained it was in some sense enchanted.
Then came the Enlightenment, with its emphasis on reason and science over superstition, leading to what Max Weber called the "disenchantment of the world." People stopped blaming the devil, in other words, and started figuring out how things worked. It was a great time for the curious and the mechanically inclined.
But sometime in the middle of the last century, the veil descended once again. The postwar technological revolution served to re-enchant everyday life, giving us lasers and computers and other mysterious technologies that many embraced but few understood or could work on. The result was a great many magical gizmos (iPad, anyone?) but the decline of a long tradition of hands-on, do-it-yourself activity that formed a salutary culture of tinkering -- one linked to such broader American traditions as self-reliance and innovation.
This tinkering tradition is a core American virtue, in the view of Alec Foege, who explores it, warts and all, in his new book The Tinkerers: The Amateurs, DIYers, and Inventors Who Made America Great. "Puttering around with the mechanical devices that surrounded us was practically a rite of passage," he writes, "and for many, a way of life."
Foege argues that tinkering has three essential characteristics. First, it involves "making something genuinely new out of the things that already surround us." Second, it "happens without an initial sense of purpose." And third, it's "a disruptive act in which the tinkerer pivots from history and begins a new journey."
Foege recognizes that tinkering can be virtual as well as physical -- that it can involve, say, mobile apps just as it once involved carburetors. That's in keeping with his thesis that tinkering, however threatened, isn't dead in this country.
He's right about this. We see it in the host of small production runs for new artisanal products, and in the renewed interest of earnest young college graduates in a life of farming, which harks back to the agrarian roots of so much American tinkering. And let's not overlook the success of Make magazine and the Makers Faires, or the spread of techshops and hackerspaces from coast to coast.