This is the eleventh of a set of twelve course notes written in 1993 and revised across 1994 and 1995 for Technology and Human Existence, a half-semester first year option on the philosophy of technology.
This set of notes relies on lecture notes from the course Technology and Human Values run by C.A. Hooker and J.N. Wright at the University of Newcastle. (In the text these lecture notes are referred to as Hooker and Wright.)
Traditional and Alternative Conceptions of Development and Technology
Over the last few weeks I have pointed out several times how the more complex and involved a technology is, the more it tends to come as part of a large-scale and quite complex web of technological systems. Think of the immense array of technological systems implicit in the microprocessor of a modern computer: there is the complex process of microprocessor production itself, with all its needs. Then there are all the complex processes of production into which the chip itself must be slotted, e.g., motherboard production. Finally, there are the uses made of the actual computer, which will to one degree or another require sophisticated support systems. Even word processing, which is after all just a glorified kind of writing, requires a programme, a regular supply of electricity, floppy disks, spare parts and the like. Just how extensive this array or web of systems is becomes apparent when one considers the implications of the obvious fact that microprocessors must obviously be wired into motherboards if they are to work properly. This wiring in requires, for example, copper wire. So the microprocessor’s functioning implies the functioning of copper mines, copper smelters and wire-making plants. Moreover, these enterprises must be large-scale; there would be no economic sense in just mining and smelting copper to satisfy the requirements of motherboard production. And these large-scale plants and mines will themselves need machines and plant equipment, which will be made out of steel, they will require electricity and various forms of fossil fuel, large supplies of water, transport systems and so on, almost indefinitely. Last but by no means least, before all these complex technological systems will function, they must be related not merely physically and technologically, but also politically and economically. So behind just the microprocessor there stands a whole industrial culture. As we have seen, the point is a quite general one: the more sophisticated a technology is, the more and more it embodies or implies an entire way of life.1
This might appear to be such an obvious point that politicians and economists could hardly oversee it. Surely they would readily appreciate that a complex piece of technology will only function, or function in predictable ways, within an appropriate web of support systems and industrial culture. Unfortunately, very often they have not. As the German-born British economist Ernst Friedrich Schumacher (1911-1977) points out in his influential book Small is Beautiful—A Study of Economics as if People Mattered (London: Blond & Briggs, Ltd., 1973), the history of development aid to the so-called Third World provides abundant evidence of this blindness. The attitude of many people involved in providing assistance to the Third World may be caricatured thus: it is as if they thought that if they sent a microprocessor into such a country, the entire industrial culture which stands behind the microprocessor would be sucked into the country in order to fulfil the technical imperatives which the microprocessor creates. Quite apart from the question of whether the goal followed by such people, namely, the transplantation of First World industrial culture to the Third World, is at all worthy, this conception of how to attain this goal is, one would think, quite evidently absurd. The microprocessor is the result of a cumulative and evolutionary process; it stands at the end of a development which began with such relative simple technologies as the water-driven grinding mill, the steam engine and the mechanical loom.
Now this attitude has not just led to a succession of expensive failures which have cost the First World a lot of money. It has also radically changed the Third World itself, mostly for the worse. Sending a shipment of microprocessors to some Third World country without a stable electricity supply, large-scale industry and people skilled in the production and use of computers would just be a bungle. But sending entire industrial techniques and technologies into a foreign environment can often be a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions, one which ultimately undermines the very goals it was supposed to attain and makes the recipient people worse off than ever before. Because there are, unfortunately, all too many examples of this, I do not want to consider any specific case. Rather, I want to consider the general principle underlying many of these tragedies.
Imagine a Third World country just after the end of World War II. The majority of people in this country are typically engaged in relatively small-scale, decentralised and relatively un-mechanised forms of economic production. Each individual job or workplace involves relatively little capital, is highly labour intensive and productivity is low; people produce largely for themselves or for a relatively small, local market. The population is distributed relatively evenly over the entire country; there are not the great population differentials between town and country which are to be found in modern societies such as Australian society.
Imagine now that this country is freed from colonial rule and decides that it should take its place amongst the modern nations of the world. It decides to industrialise and modernise. All sorts of development experts from the First World tell it that it needs to generate more capital, because industrialisation and modernisation require high levels of capital. They tell the government of the Third World country that economic productivity needs to be increased in order that the economy might generate more surplus wealth which can be ploughed back into the economy, thereby initiating expansion and modernisation of the economy. They tell the government that the way to increase productivity is to introduce some reasonably complex piece of First World technology because, all else being equal, someone who works with modern technology can produce more, thus generate more wealth, than a person who works with traditional tools and techniques. So the government allows, say, a modern shoe factory to be built in one of its towns.2
Now the whole point of the shoe factory is to increase the productivity of shoe production. It uses modern technology and enjoys the advantages of economies of scale. So in two respects it can compete quite effectively with the traditional cobblers in the villages. Firstly, it can produce shoes more cheaply than they can. So suddenly, in each village the local cobbler will find himself confronted by a distant competitor who can outsell him. Secondly, the shoe factory can afford to pay better prices for the skins needed in order to make shoes. So in each village the local peasants, who used to sell to the local cobbler, will find that they can make more money by supplying the shoe factory; the cobbler will increasingly find that he must offer higher prices for his raw materials. Clearly, the end result of this will be that the cobbler goes out of business and the peasants find have no other buyer for their skins but the shoe factory; the village will have lost one of its craftsmen and surrendered control of one of its resources to a distant buyer in the city.
At this point, the shoe factory might decide to engage in a bit of “vertical integration”, i.e., to cut out the middlemen, in this case, the peasants. It thus buys up their land in order to raise its own herds of cattle or water buffalo and produce its own supplies of animal skins. This has a double advantage for the shoe factory; it now has a more secure supply of raw materials, and it is in a position to introduce modern, labour-saving technology into the production of animal hides. Of course, for the peasants and for the village generally, this is not a good thing: the peasants, now landless, must find find a job and work for wages, yet the number of work opportunities in the village is tending to decrease due to the introduction of modern rural technology. They therefore leave the village and migrate into the city, in the hope of finding work in the shoe factory. But their hopes are frequently disappointed, for as more and more peasants leave the land, the competition for jobs is becoming more and more intense. In any case, the shoe factory’s modern technology reduces its need for labour and prevents its presence rapidly generating jobs elsewhere in the economy because the local population have neither the skills to run and maintain it, nor the industries to produce the spare parts which its maintenance requires; these must come from the First World, like the factory itself.
Meanwhile, in the villages life is being increasingly restructured into an industrialised agriculture requiring higher and higher levels of technological sophistication and lower and lower levels of human employment. The drift to the cities continues and increases: the countryside is denuded of its people and is reduced to what Schumacher calls the hinterland. The cities swell and their populations are polarised into those who do, and those who do not benefit from the presence of the shoe factory; differentials in wealth, education and health of the kind now prevalent in, say, Rio de Janiero emerge.3 A powerful and successful island of modern industrial culture, represented by the shoe factory itself and its employees and managers, has arisen. At the same time, it has called forth a surrounding sea of human misery and destitution.
Schumacher calls this situation in which often startling industrial success rubs shoulders with unprecedented human misery the “dual economy”. He says that in the dual economy
there are two different patterns of living as widely separated from each other as two different worlds. It is not a matter of some people being rich and others being poor, both being united by a common way of life: it is a matter of two ways of life existing side by side in such a manner that even the humblest member of the one disposes of a daily income which is a high multiple of the income accruing even to the hardest working member of the other.4
And he insists that it is not, as many development experts and economists once believed, a merely transitional phenomenon. Rather, the dual economy is a “process of mutual poisoning”; each half of the dual economy undermines the other. The successful industrial development of the cities destroys the countryside, reducing it to an economic hinterland, and the hinterland takes revenge through the mass migration to the cities, which ultimately leaves them unmanageable.5
This simple tale of the shoe factory illustrates quite well what happens when a First World technology is introduced into a Third World country. Schumacher sums up these effects in the four following general claims:
Claim 1. There will be a centralisation of population and capital around the First World technology.
That is, the introduction of First World technology will lead to the rise of large cities which increasingly sucks away the population of the countryside and turns the countryside into an economically dependent hinterland.
Claim 2. The greater productivity of the First World technology will lead to an increase in unemployment.
Since the whole point of the new technology was to increase productivity and generate capital, its presence in the economy will not mean many new jobs and the competitive edge it gives will tend to destroy more traditional, labour-intensive modes of production.
Claim 3. The increase in unemployment will lead to a radical disparities in wealth, education and health within society.
As a result of the rise in unemployment there will be a minority who are employed in skilled and highly paid jobs provided by the First World technology and a majority who have either little or no income at all; there will thus arise massive differentials in life-style.
Claim 4. The First World technology will increase the country’s political, technological and economic dependence on the First World.
In general, the native population do not have the skills required to running and supplying a First World technology. Nor do they often have the industries which could supply the technology with the spare parts it needs. So the introduction of the technology creates a need for imports of skill and spare parts from the First World where previously no need had existed. Clearly, this makes the fate of the Third World economy and society more dependent than before upon what happens in the First World.
Now Schumacher does not want to suggest that we in the First World should stop giving financial and technological help to Third World countries. He insists, however, that our help must be of the right kind. It must be help based on a genuine understanding of what the needs of Third World countries are. Typically, development experts have assumed that the appropriate goal for Third World countries should be a modern, industrial economy of the kind to be found in the First World, and that therefore the aim of development aid must be to allow the rapid accumulation of capital which industrialisation and modernisation require. The way forward thus seemed to lie in giving these countries modern, First World technology which, through its great productive powers, would increase the output of individual workers, thereby generating larger surpluses than the traditional methods of production allow. This was the idea behind such disasters as the Aswan dam, the Green Revolution, U.N. aid to the Guatemalan dairy industry and the shoe factory in our hypothetical illustration.
But is this really the way forward? One needs to ask what the typical condition is of the poor who find themselves trapped in the bad half of the dual economy. This is a condition of chronic unemployment or underemployment. And this condition is not caused by a lack of capital, says Schumacher, but rather a lack of opportunities for work. If they merely lacked capital, then their problem would be that they were working at low levels of productivity. But in the Third World millions are literally unable to find adequate opportunities for work. For these people the real need is jobs or workplaces, workplaces in their original rural setting which would stop them migrating in desperation into the cities. The primary consideration cannot thus be productivity, i.e., output per person; rather, the primary consideration must be to maximise the number of jobs. “The task is,” says Schumacher, “… to bring into existence millions of new workplaces in the rural areas and small towns.” And this is a task which cannot be fulfilled by modern industry, which tends to decrease the number of workplaces.
Schumacher spells out the specifics of this task in four theses of context-sensitive, appropriate development:6
Thesis 1. These workplaces must be created in the areas where people are already living.
As already indicated, this is necessary in order to halt or prevent mass migrations to the cities.
Thesis 2. These workplaces must be cheap enough to create in large numbers.
Evidently, if the problem is one of creating jobs rather than capital, you need lots of cheap jobs rather than a few highly expensive ones, even if the many cheap workplaces render the economy less productive than significantly lesser numbers of more productive, but also more expensive workplaces. Thus, First World technology, which tends to create only a few highly productive jobs at high capital costs, is totally inappropriate.
Thesis 3. These workplaces must involve relatively simple production methods.
If the local population is to effectively fill the workplaces created, then there must be minimal demands for hi-tech skills, not only in the production process, but also in matters of organisation, raw material supply, financing and marketing.
Thesis 4. Production should draw mainly upon local raw materials and be mainly for local use.
Now what is interesting about these four thesis is the kind of technology which they determine as appropriate to the general task of creating millions of new workplaces in the rural areas and small towns of poor countries. Schumacher calls this kind of technology “intermediate technology”, 7 ultimately because such technology has an intermediate degree of sophistication. This intermediate degree of sophistication determines that such technology is intermediate in capitalisation and labour intensity: if a technology is to enable the creation of many rather than few jobs, it cannot be highly sophisticated, for highly sophisticated technology tends to cost a lot and to require the skills and expertise of people from the First rather than the Third World. On the other hand, if it is to enable the creation of jobs which genuinely improve living standards and allow some degree of capital accumulation, it cannot be completely unsophisticated, hence very low in cost. But a technology intermediate in sophistication and cost also tends to be intermediate in labour intensity.
So what would such an intermediate technology look like? Traditionally, Nigerians transported eggs in grass baskets made by basket weavers. Making these baskets took a lot of time and their use led to a fair number of eggs being broken. So the Nigerians’ traditional technology for egg transportation was not very efficient. One alternative would have been a mighty egg carton factory from the First World. But introduction of such technology would have had the following consequences:
Such a factory, when operating efficiently, produces 4 million egg cartons a year—enough egg cartons to supply Nigeria for a hundred years;
Such a factory only employs a very small number of people, in fact no more than 6, and would thus put the basket weavers out of work without creating any significant number of alternative jobs;
Such a factory, when operating efficiently, requires masses of paper pulp, and would thus encourage deforestation in Nigeria;
Such a factory would require foreign capital and foreign expertise, thereby increasing Nigeria’s dependence on the First World.
So what Schumacher did was to design an intermediate way of making egg cartons. He suggested that paper be pulped manually and then stamped into the right shape by hand-held metal moulds. This solution is clearly intermediate in technological sophistication and was intermediate in terms of capital cost and labour intensity. In order to set up a factory manufacturing egg cartons along Schumacher’s lines, only a few thousand dollars were needed. Its costs lay between the minimal cost of basket weaving and the massive cost of implementing the First World egg carton factory. Furthermore, although it employed less people than the basket method of egg transportation, it employed considerably more than the First World factory would have: people were needed to collect paper, to pulp paper and then to mould the pulp. All in all, Schumacher’s method was cheap, small and simple enough to be distributed throughout the entire country, employing thirty people in each region and several thousand in the whole country.8
Evidently, this kind of technology, while not traditional in any straightforward sense, is not a First World technology. In particular, it is not First World enough to bring with it all the negative effects which, as we have seen time and time again, the introduction of First World technology has caused. Yet it is by no means primitive. Schumacher rightly rejects the suggestion that to introduce intermediate technology is to go back “in history to methods now out-dated …”, although he certainly acknowledges that “… a systematic study of the methods employed in the developed countries, say, a hundred years ago could indeed yield highly suggestive results.”9
Thus far, I have just given a potted sociological account of the impact of First World technologies on the Third World and of Schumacher’s highly sensible suggestions as to how the First World should seek to help the Third World. But now I want to get a little more conceptual and philosophical. I want to ask just what deeper principles and attitudes to technology as such underlie the notion of intermediate technology. For I think that by doing examining this notion a little more philosophically, we can come to understand our own First World technology a little better, both as it actually is and as it perhaps ought to be.
What distinguishes Schumacher’s approach to development from the usual one employed by U.N. economists, aid workers and bureaucrats? The usual or orthodox approach assumes that Third World countries should have an industrial society like ours and that the way to get there must be similar to the way we got there. That is, the path to a modern, industrial culture must lie in building up capital to invest in new technology, which increases productivity, yielding more capital to invest in new technology, which increases productivity yet again, yielding still more capital to invest in new technology—and so on, indefinitely.10 It is this conception of what Third World development should aim for and what its path must be which underpins the traditional development strategy of introducing First World technologies into Third World countries. For First World technologies tend to be the most productive available; it would thus seem to be that kind of technology which, because it maximises the rate at which capital for new investment is generated,11 enables the fastest, hence least painful process of modernisation and industrialisation.
Crudely put, this development strategy is built around the idea that you help people by building up a modern economic system—initially as a kind of enclave within their traditional economy which, as investment takes hold and the enclave grows, eventually absorbs and replaces the traditional economy.12 Evidently, from the perspective of this development strategy, the introduction of new technology into a Third World country can only have one goal: to improve total output relative to inputs, this by improving the overall efficiency of production. For it is by improving overall productive efficiency that technology modernises an economy.
But to sum the traditional approach up in this way is to make its difference to Schumacher’s approach quite obvious. For Schumacher’s approach is based on exactly the opposite idea, namely, of building a modern economic system by helping people. This difference comes out quite clearly in his insistence that “(t)he results of the second development decade will be no better than those of the first unless there is a conscious and determined shift of emphasis from goods to people.”13 Consequently, Schumacher explicitly disavows the idea that the essential point of introducing new technology is to improve the overall efficiency of the productive process. From Schumacher’s perspective, the development and implementation of new technology can be guided by other considerations, in particular, by such considerations as whether the new technology enhances people’s living standards without surrendering their autonomy and control of resources to other countries and economies. From his point of view it makes perfect sense to introduce new technology not with the aim of improving overall productivity, in the hope that this in turn will eventually improve people’s employment opportunities, living standards and autonomy, but rather with the aim of improving these things directly. In short, on both approaches, the traditional one and Schumacher’s, the ultimate aim of introducing new technology is to improve people’s lives in these ways. But on the traditional approach, technology is supposed to do this only mediately, i.e., indirectly, via improving the overall productivity of the economy. By contrast, on Schumacher’s approach, the technology is implemented not, or not just, with a view to improving efficiency but with a view to giving people work which will directly improve their living standards and preserve their autonomy. Indeed, on Schumacher’s approach, technologies for the Third World are to be developed with these ends in mind; it is because they are to be developed with these ends in mind that they must be intermediate technologies, for only in the Third World only intermediate technologies will realise these ends.
Now these are very important points. For they reveal that underlying Schumacher’s suggestions as to what kind of technology should be embraced by the Third World is a rather unconventional view of technology as such. Conventionally, technology is designed and developed only with regard to considerations of efficiency, cost-effectiveness and safety or risk. That is, engineers and designers start with the general idea, or even mere hunch, that one might be able to realise the useful goal X by doing Y. This general idea or hunch becomes the technical problem to be solved. And solving consists in working out how to realise this general idea in a way which makes efficient use, or more efficient use, of presumed resources, which is affordable for anyone with a certain amount of capital, and which does not cause any negative side effects E which outweigh the benefit of realising X by doing Y.14 Thus, when developing nuclear power, engineers and designers sought to develop a way of generating electricity by using the heat produced by nuclear fission. This became their technical problem, and it was solved when they worked out how to control processes of nuclear fission and tap the heat they produced in ways which used uranium fuel efficiently, which the average power company could afford to implement and maintain and which did not release so much radioactivity that the benefit of acceptably priced electricity was outweighed.
But Schumacher does not see the point and purpose of developing new technology in this conventional way. Rather, he tacitly assumes that new technology ought to be developed with explicit regard to a social and political context into which the technology is to be implemented. In particular, he tacitly assumes that new technology ought to be developed only with explicit regard to whether the use of the technology in this real context will or will not intolerably impair the material existence and autonomy of the real people living within this context.15 It is only because he assumes this that Schumacher can advocate for the Third World the development of technologies and techniques of production which are not the most efficient ones available. Note that if one works with the conventional conception of what the point of developing technology is, then it is simply not possible to advocate the kind of production technology which Schumacher advocates. For on this conventional conception, to develop new technology simply is to seek the most efficient way of using given resources within the limits set by considerations of cost and safety. Yet the kind of production technology Schumacher recommends for Third World countries is not the most efficient one such countries could obtain.
It is important to recognise just how unconventional it is to conceive the immediate goal and point of developing new technology in this way. Conventionally, technologies are developed in relative abstraction from the real context in which these technologies are to be implemented. The effort is rather simply to develop the techniques themselves. As a consequence, the design and development of new technology is not constrained by any real context or environment in which it is to be implemented, but rather simply by such relatively context-free, internal considerations as efficiency, cost and safety. To the extent that one even considers whether widespread use of the new technology will or will not impair people’s lives in the context into which it is introduced, one relies upon the general rule of thumb that—all else being equal—if a technique does certain useful things efficiently, cost-effectively and safely, or more so than existing techniques, then people’s lives will not be impaired, but if anything enhanced, by its implementation. In short, the conventional approach to design and development sees the point and purpose of developing new technology in the way it does because it seeks to develop new technologies as relatively isolated, context-free techniques.
But Schumacher, in articulating his concept of intermediate technology, tacitly conceives the design and development of technology not as a matter of developing relatively isolated, context-free techniques. Rather, he sees the design and development of technique as constrained by a quite specific, real context of implementation, in this case, the real situation and plight of people in the Third World. He appreciates that while First World technology does useful things more efficiently than any other available technology, in the context of a Third World economy precisely this superiority renders it potentially destructive of people’s lives. In short, he sees that the very efficiency and sophistication of First World technology combine with the real conditions of life in the Third World to make this kind of technology an exception to the above-mentioned rule of thumb. In effect, he says that it is not enough to design and develop technology simply with a view to improving the efficiency with which certain useful things are done while keeping costs and risks within acceptable limits. One must design and develop technology with an eye to a certain real context of implementation, and one must continually ask whether the envisaged technology, for all its efficiency, cost-effectiveness and safety, is really appropriate for this real context, i.e., whether its effective use will not intolerably impair, but if anything enhance, people’s lives. In fact, Schumacher’s notion of intermediate technology is just a specification of this more general notion of an appropriate technology. For intermediate technology is the kind of technology which is appropriate for the unfortunately all too real context of today’s Third World.
But if this is so, then not all appropriate technology need be intermediate technology, i.e., technology with a middling degree of power and sophistication. For a country such as Australia, which has high levels of investment in expensive, sophisticated technology and which has a population skilled in dealing with such technology, it would be quite inappropriate for such a country to develop or adopt intermediate technology. In such a country, it may be more appropriate to develop or adopt more sophisticated forms of technology. But however this may be, the important thing is that technology, whether in the First or Third Worlds, be appropriate for its context of implementation. However efficient, cost-effective and safe it may be, its effective implementation in this context must genuinely not impair the lives of those affected by it. Such appropriateness to a real context of implementation is, as the experience of the Third World shows, not guaranteed by a technology’s being the most efficient available within acceptable limits of cost and risk. It must therefore enter into the design and development of technology as an independent constraint in its own right. Indeed, such appropriateness is ultimately the most important constraint on design and development.
This seems to me to have important implications for the social process in which technology is conceived, designed, developed and implemented. Firstly, it suggests that this whole process must be a highly context-sensitive one. If a suggestion is made to achieve goal X by certain means Y, then one part of getting this mere idea to the drawing board, thence to a prototype, must consist in assessing as far as possible whether in the intended context of implementation the general practice of achieving goal X by means Y will impair or enhance the lives of those affected by its implementation. But secondly, because determining just what counts as impairing or enhancing people’s lives ultimately requires consultation with these people themselves, such a context-sensitive process of designing and developing new technology must be a public affair which involves more than just the engineers and designers specifically engaged in the project. It will thus be a more public and consultative affair than technological development typically is today. Today, engineers and designers in public and private research institutions conceive and develop technologies in comparative privacy; the public only really gets to discuss them when they are fairly well-advanced and a fair degree of time and money has already been committed to them.
Let me sum up. Underlying Schumacher’s concept of intermediate technology is the idea that appropriateness to a real context is an independent constraint, indeed the most important condition, on the development and implementation of new technology. That this idea is at least plausible is demonstrated by the disastrous results of introducing completely inappropriate First World technology into a Third World context. But determining whether an envisaged technological practice is appropriate for a given context requires determining what and what does not intolerably impair people’s lives, and determining this latter is a cognitive or intellectual effort with two distinctive properties. Firstly, it is not a specifically engineering or technical task. For in order to determine what intolerably impairs the quality of life, one must clearly know what life’s ultimate ends are. Engineering, however, is concerned only with establishing the means to certain ends, not with establishing what the final ends are. Secondly, working out what does and does not constitute an intolerable impairment of people’s lives is an essentially collective, participatory affair. For it cannot be done without consultation with the people concerned; it can only be matter of collectively thrashing out what in the given circumstances the notion of the good life could mean and what in the given circumstances is not worthy of a good society and human existence. In my final set of notes I want to discuss these two features in a little more depth. In particular, I want look more closely at what is involved in collectively thrashing out a concrete conception of the good life. And I want to ask just what this collective activity is if it must differ from the activity of solving engineering or technical problems. Finally, I want to ask just what the preconditions of this collective activity are.
Schumacher uses the example of an oil refinery—see pp.153-154 of Small is Beautiful. ↩
I have adapted this story of the shoe factory from Hooker and Wright. ↩
The drift which has actually occurred in many Third World countries is quite massive: Lagos in Nigeria, Calcutta in India, Sao Paolo in Brazil and Mexico City have already outstripped any city in the Western world, and they are growing at rates higher than 15% per annum. Calcutta, for example, is expected to contain approximately 80 million people by the year 2010! (My source for this is Hooker and Wright.) ↩
Small is Beautiful, p.153. ↩
Small is Beautiful, p.156. ↩
Small is Beautiful, p.163. ↩
See Small is Beautiful, p.163. ↩
This information and these remarks are all taken from Hooker and Wright. ↩
Small is Beautiful, p.174. ↩
Of course, orthodox development experts know that this process took some four or five centuries in Europe’s case, whereas they have characteristically aimed to produce similar results in the Third World within some four or five decades. And they also know that the European road to a modern, industrial society was a painful and bloody one which threw peasants off their land and forced them into the cities where they either formed the first industrial working class or swelled the growing mass of under- and unemployed urban poor. But the idea of deliberately initiating in the Third World a forced march along a path which Europe took much more gradually and without deliberate planning is perhaps not as crazy as it sounds; after all, the Third World should, in theory at least, have a lot of things easier. It does not have to invent the technology which made the European development possible, and it has the European experience to guide it in mitigating and even avoiding some of the pitfalls and pain. Furthermore, it is ultimately in the First World’s overall economic interest that the Third World industrialise and modernise as quickly and painlessly as possible. ↩
Concerning the negative effects of introducing such technology into a Third World country, advocates of this approach to development would presumably argue as follows: “Even if an introduced First World technology destroys, say, 1,000 traditional jobs and creates only 20 new ones, this will still be acceptable since in the last analysis the country has no other choice: the only road to a modern industrial society consists in increasing capital and only the latest technology, because it gives the greatest possible increases in overall productivity and surplus capital, can push the country down this road as quickly as possible. In any case, the faster and greater the process of new investment takes off, the sooner the slack in employment levels will be taken up. In the meantime, government welfare programmes, aided and assisted by the U.N. and the First World, might be initiated in order to cushion the worst effects of the new technology.” ↩
In fact, this whole orthodox approach to development can be summed up as follows: the most effective aid is that which gets a Third World economy running at such an efficient and productive level that thereby an investment-led march towards modernisation and industrialisation is initiated. Note that this looks disturbingly similar to certain ideas voiced very frequently in recent years about how to keep the economies of First World countries on track: the most effective welfare is that which gets the economy running at such an efficient and productive level that thereby an investment-led march towards economic recovery and prosperity is initiated. ↩
Small is Beautiful, p.178. ↩
It is important to note that a side effect is one which is genuinely incidental to a technology. That is, it is an effect which the technology does not cause in virtue of its being as efficient as it is in producing its intended result X. ↩
One could make something Kantian out of this: Develop and implement only those technologies which, when universally implemented, bring us closer to a kingdom of ends. ↩