As an aesthetic
Economics of artisanship
On the decreasingly relevant business model of cool. See astroturf and artificial reefs
DIY as a cognitive bias
We find stuff more satisfying if we do it with our own hands. Perhaps irrationally, dysfunctionally dissatisfying (Murphy 2020).
DIY as status signalling
Why is hipster? Nick Whitaker in Better Eats argues
preparing ready-made meals is often met with disdain, especially when home cooking is moralized. This has been particularly prevalent in the “slow food” movement, spearheaded by Michael Pollan and Alice Water. These writers argue that modern food and the system used to create it is ecologically, nutritionally, and morally corrupt. Instead, food should be more thoughtfully prepared from scratch. But, as sociologists Sarah Bowen, Joslyn Brenton, and Sinikka Elliott argue in Pressure Cooker (Bowen, Brenton, and Elliott 2019), this rhetoric has created an undue mystique around home cooking that creates unnecessary pressures on women, particularly those in vulnerable positions. That is even before you consider how dubious the underlying claims are, as Rachel Laudan has explored at length.
And really, aren’t people who cook from scratch the ones being irrational? Economist Ryan Murphy argues (Murphy 2020) that the desire for “DIY” is a manifestation of evolutionary intuitions that make us unduly skeptical of our current technological and institutional environment. This makes us prone to doing costly things ourselves instead of just paying someone else who is better at it to do it for us. Frozen and pre-prepared food seems unnatural, so we take questionable health and moral claims about them for granted. Even claims about home cooking being less expensive are more complex than they might appear, once the opportunity cost of one’s time is fully accounted for—if you don’t enjoy doing it, cooking uses up scarce leisure time that could be spent with family, or watching TV, instead.