Liberatory Technology

Liberatory technology was described by Murray Bookchin in his 1965 essay Towards a Liberatory Technology 1. Bookchin describes the possibility of an environmentally-friendly technology, which would "make man’s dependence upon the natural world a visible and living part of his culture". Bookchin envisaged small communities integrated into the natural environment and using small-scale technologies which permit decentralisation and autonomy. His article succinctly expresses the vision of a utopian ecological lifestyle, which later became associated with the term "alternative technology" and the Undercurrents magazine in the UK. The main characteristic of liberatory technology, in line with Bookchin’s anarchist politics, is decentralisation, in order to avoid centralised economic and administrative control. It is powered by renewable energy, non-coercive, adapted to specific local needs, small scale, multipurpose in order to avoid underuse and shared among communities. In Ecology and Revolutionary Thought, Bookchin points to the value of organic differentiation, not mechanical standardization, for balance in society and nature alike. His view of technology reflects this, and resonates with current philosophies on sustainable design, such as that of Arturo Escobar as expressed in Designs for the Pluriverse 2, and resonates with the characteristics of Benign Computing and Permacomputing.

  1. Murray Bookchin. 1986. Towards a Liberatory Technology. In Post-Scarcity Anarchism. Black Rose Books, Montreal, 105–162.
  2. Arturo Escobar. 2018. Designs for the Pluriverse. Duke University Press, Durham.