A different sort of “human scale” technology

Bookchin’s ideas parallel those of Schumacher in some ways. Both call for ‘local’ technology, suitable to the needs of smaller-scales than the massive factories they mention. Bookchin seems to, at times, take his argument to a different end than Schumacher, though. At once, he proposes adapting large scale technologies to smaller-scale needs (as opposed to more appropriate technologies) and/or adopting smaller-scale technologies at the local level. He does this in a way I find difficult to imagine Schumacher promoting:

“Some of the most promising technological advances in agriculture made since World War II are as suitable for small-scale, ecological forms of land management as they are for the immense, industrial-type commercial units that have become prevalent over the past few decades. Let us consider an example. The augermatic feeding of livestock illustrates a cardinal principle of rational farm mechanization— the deployment of conventional machines and devices in a way that virtually eliminates arduous farm labor… This type of mechanization is intrinsically neutral: it can be used to feed immense herds or just a few hundred head of cattle… In short, augermatic feeding can be placed in the service of the most abusive kind of commercial exploitation or of the most sensitive applications of ecological principles.”

 I also appreciate his strong belief in the ability of communities and ‘communitarians’ to self-regulate and maintain their own ecosystems while adopting new technologies. I’m not sure this has come to pass fully, but perhaps continues to be an ideal to strive toward.

Finally, I’m reminded of our conversation a couple of weeks ago about the hobby-ification of certain once-tedious tasks. This comes up in both the Bookchin and Morozov pieces. Bookchin puts it interestingly with reference to food cultivation:

“Relieved of toil by agricultural machines, communitarians will approach food cultivation with the same playful and creative attitude that men so often bring to gardening. Agriculture will become a living part of human society, a source of pleasant physical activity and, by virtue of its ecological demands, an intellectual, scientific and artistic challenge.”

Seems somewhat prescient, though again perhaps not at the scale of enterprise Bookchin imagined.