People have the power: appropriate technology and the implications of labour-intensive making

Oropallo, Gabriele (2018) People have the power: appropriate technology and the implications of labour-intensive making. In: Craft economies. Bloomsbury, London, pp. 83-93. ISBN 9781474259538

1802 Craft Economies.pdf - Published Version

Download (212kB) | Preview
Official URL:

Abstract / Description

Reliance on fossil fuels has a multiple impact on the ecosystem, from the blight often inflicted on natural landscapes when oil and gas are extracted and shipped around the planet up to the quantity of carbon released in the atmosphere when they are burnt. When fossil fuels are turned into other forms of energy, they power machines that easily outdo humans in productivity, just as the Luddite conservatives lamented in the age of the Industrial Revolution. Appropriate technology (AT) is an approach proposed to escape both energy-intensive lifestyles and unemployment-yielding mechanization. First formally articulated by the economist E. F. Schumacher, AT favoured labour-intensive approaches to production as opposed to capital-intensive ones, and labour-intensive modes of use as opposed to energy-intensive ones. Less mechanization, and more muscle power. Less state-level planning, and more decentralized management of production. This chapter looks at the genealogy of AT and the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG), the organization Schumacher founded in 1966 as an instrument to implement the theory in actual projects. It will then examine some examples of AT artefacts and pieces of machinery designed for the so-called developing world. This review will also allow us to come to a set of conclusions about the implications of this centre-periphery – or more precisely North-South – approach to design for labour-intensive use. Schumacher’s own reading of historical processes such as modernization and industrialization raises the question as to what extent his labour-intensive model can be said to empower the individual, as opposed to confirming the preexisting social, political and economic structures. If social forces shape artefacts and technology, and communities are built around shared technical knowledges, then the material environment a society builds around itself is ultimately a projection of its aspirations.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: labour-intensive; appropriate technology; social construction of technology; design; Schumacher; international development; intermediate technology
Subjects: 100 Philosophy & psychology > 170 Ethics
300 Social sciences > 360 Social problems & services; associations
600 Technology > 620 Engineering & allied operations
600 Technology > 630 Agriculture & related technologies
600 Technology > 670 Manufacturing
600 Technology > 680 Manufacture for specific uses
700 The arts; fine & decorative arts
900 History & geography
Department: The School of Art, Architecture and Design
Depositing User: Gabriele Oropallo
Date Deposited: 02 Dec 2020 16:28
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2020 16:28


Downloads per month over past year

Downloads each year

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item