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Theses Doctoral

In Pursuit of a Softer Path: Countercultural Vision, Energy Politics, and the American Appropriate Technology Movement

Gaglio, Meredith J.

In the late-1960s, a handful of young, countercultural Americans, inspired by E. F. Schumacher’s concept of “intermediate technology,” founded the Appropriate Technology, or AT, movement in the United States. Although Schumacher’s project focused upon the ways in which technologically sustainable methods could gently and prudently support the modernization of underdeveloped nations, American proponents of AT recognized, in this approach, an opportunity to mitigate the overdevelopment of the Western world. By advocating, promoting, and effecting sustainable techniques from a grassroots to governmental level, practitioners of appropriate technology sought to prevent the further environmental, economic, and social degradation of American communities.
The mission of AT was synergistic: by implementing “appropriate” methods of energy production, building design, transportation, education, health care, and communications, appropriate technologists attempted to create comprehensive change. This disciplinary and conceptual inclusivity encouraged the organization of a diversity of AT proponents into cooperative, multifunctional groups, which acted both from within governmental bureaucracy, in the case of California’s Office of Appropriate Technology and the National Center for Appropriate Technology, and outside the Establishment, in the case of the New Alchemy Institute and RAIN collective. My dissertation centers upon these four groups – in particular, their realized projects, community outreach programs, and numerous publications – emphasizing the ways in which the initial philosophy, politics, and focus of AT evolved as the movement transitioned from a countercultural pipe dream to a widely supported solution for America’s energy problems in the wake of the 1973 Oil Crisis.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Architecture
Thesis Advisors
McLeod, Mary Caroline
Scott, Felicity Dale
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 28, 2019
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