Year of publication:
Journal of Cleaner Production
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Keywords: Degrowth; Methodological Luddism; Technology assessment; Reform of technology; Responsibility; Focal things and practices
Abstract: This article sets out an alternative approach to the assessment and regulation of technology and innovation, situated in and aiming at degrowth and building on an idea first put forward in the late 1970s by Langdon Winner called “methodological Luddism”. Methodological Luddism does not have the original meaning of destroying machines, nor does it reflect a prejudiced attitude or a negative view of technology. As outlined in this article, it sets out to overcome the presumption that technology is value-neutral and to lower the inflated expectations with which it is generally associated. Technology and forms of life are mutually interdependent, and this implies examining the constructive possibilities for withdrawing from some technologies and adopting others, while ensuring that their role is limited to means designed to achieve certain predefined ends. The article draws on the work of Hans Jonas and Albert Borgmann, authors yet to be acknowledged by the degrowth literature. Jonas’ principle of responsibility is a response to the excessive prowess of modern technologies, while Borgmann suggests a reform of technology through focal things and practices. Building on these concepts, methodological Luddism advocates reassessing and reorienting technologies so that informed decisions may be taken as to how they should be designed and developed as means to socially equitable and ecologically sustainable ends. In this way the technological sphere may become an important ally in the transformative change in society which is required to fulfil the axiological parameters of degrowth.