SBFIBackground

Background Reading

 

 This web-version of the Appropriate Technology Sourcebook provides concise summaries of over 1,150 of the best do-it-yourself books. Use the Search or Table of Contents in the right-hand column to browse subjects and locate books. The complete text and graphics of these books can be obtained on USB or DVD in Village Earth’s AT Library. Click here for more information and to order.

 


Books Reviewed in This Section

Appropriate Technology for African Women
Appropriate Technology: Problems and Promises
The Barefoot Book
Coming Full Circle
Design for the Real World
Experiences in Appropriate Technology
High Impact Appropriate Technology Case Studies
Introduction to Appropriate Technology
Paper Heroes
Participatory Approaches to Agricultural Research and Development
Questioning Development
Radical Technology
Repairs Reuse Recycling
Rural Women
Sharing Smaller Pies
Small is Beautiful
Strategies for Small Farmer Development Projects
Technology and Employment in Industry
Technology for the Masses in Invention Intelligence
Towards Global Action for Appropriate Technology
Village Technology in Eastern Africa
When Aid is No Help
The World of Appropriate Technology

Every machine that helps every individual has a place, but there should be no place for machines that concentrate power in a few hands and turn the masses into machine-minders, if indeed they do not make them unemployed. —Gandhi

Shall we forever resign the pleasure of construction to the carpenter? … Where is this division of labor to end? and what object does it finally serve? No doubt another MAY also think for me; but it is not therefore desirable that he should do so to the exclusion of my thinking for myself.—Thoreau

The books reviewed in this chapter offer a variety of views on the cultural and economic aspects of technology choice, some of the political choices reflected in development strategies, and common technology needs in rural areas of the South.

E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful has played a crucial inspirational role for much of the “A. T. movement.” For readers interested in the hard economic basis for appropriate technology, there is no better reference thanTechnology and Underdevelopment. Appropriate Technology: Problems and Promises gives a historical perspective on factors that have influenced the development of practical technologies in the United States and China and explores a large number of policy issues that surround appropriate technology. This continues to rank as one of the most insightful books in the A.T. literature.

The A.T. Reader assembles in one place a set of the best articles and commentary on the subject from around the world. A thoughtful analysis of the problems and issues involved in transnational “technology transfer” is contained in The Uncertain Promise. This volume is particularly concerned with the impact of alien technology on cultural value systems.

Coming Full Circle explores the increasingly accepted view that farmers should be directly involved in technology development—that it is only through this involvement that acceptable innovations can be developed. If local participation in development projects is to be achieved, bureaucracies will have to change; this is the theme ofBureaucracy and the PoorThe Barefoot Book takes a look at a whole range of professionals with intermediate levels of training. Putting People First provides valuable practical advice on making the people side of development projects work.

Paper Heroes, while favorably reviewing several particular tools and techniques, is critical of the many basic assumptions and perceived benefits associated with appropriate technology. For the most part these are “the excessive claims and unsubstantiated promises of paper heroes,” argues the author.

The World of Appropriate Technology offers a picture of the institutions involved in this work. Repairs, Reuse, and Recycling discusses the technological alternatives in reducing the flow of valuable materials to dumps and landfills, an important step on the road to a more environmentally sound society.

The author of Questioning Development suggests that a critically important measuring stick for evaluating the worth of development projects should be their anticipated effects on the distribution of power in the community, nation, or the world.

Among the other books included in this chapter are sets of case studies of technologies and projects that offer insight into what has and has not succeeded in various circumstances. There are also publications that suggest what kinds of everyday activities in the South most urgently need improved technologies, and that give many examples of tools and techniques that may be appropriate.

Appropriate Technology for African Women and Rural Women are specifically concerned with the effects of technological change on Women’s lives, and discuss improved technologies that might particularly help women.

Small is Beautiful, book, 297 pages, by E.F. Schumacher, 1973.

Schumacher’s famous introduction of the concept of “intermediate” (or “appropriate”) technology has had a major impact on current thinking in the development field. Schumacher was a founder of the Intermediate Technology Development Group.

For Schumacher, solutions to the world’s problems must embody the four qualities of smallness, simplicity, capital-saving, and non-violence. To that end he is a leading advocate of “appropriate technology” as a partial answer to global problems of food and energy shortages, alienation, and poverty. In the developing countries, designed particularly to suit agricultural conditions that are different from those in the industrialized countries, this technology should be superior to the primitive forms of the past. Yet it should also be simpler, cheaper, and all but independent of the energy requirements of today’s technology of the rich. “One can also call it ‘self-help’ or ‘people’s technology”‘ says Schumacher.

“The task, then, is to bring into existence millions of new workplaces in the rural areas and small towns. That modern industry, as it has arisen in the developed countries, cannot possibly fulfill this task should be perfectly obvious. It has arisen in societies which are rich in capital and short of labor and therefore cannot possibly be appropriate for societies short of capital and rich in labor. The real task may be formulated in four propositions:

1) Workplaces have to be created in the areas where the people are living now, and not primarily in metropolitan areas into which they tend to migrate.

2) These workplaces must be, on the average, cheap enough so that they can be created in large numbers without this calling for an unattainable level of capital formation and imports.

3) The production methods employed must be relatively simple, so that the demands for high skills are minimized, not only in the production process itself but also in matters of organization, raw material supply, financing, marketing, and so forth.

4) Production should be mainly from local materials and mainly for local use.”

Schumacher on technological complexity: “Any third-rate engineer can make a machine or a process more complex; afterwards, it takes a first-rate engineer to make it simple again.” An excellent book.

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