2011 marks the 200 year anniversary of the Luddite rebellion in the UK. The Luddite’s were workers whose livelihoods, cottage industries and communities were disenfranchised by capital intensive innovations in industrial technologies, primarily in the textile industry. Organising under a fictional leader called Ned Lud, they contested the transformations of their lives and productive autonomy by breaking the mechanised cloth-weaving frames of the new factories, particularly in Lancashire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire. They were violently resisted by the growth-oriented state of the day, resulting in the hanging of dozens of the movement’s key protagonists.
Today the word ‘Luddite’ is used pejoratively to describe someone who is technophobic and resistant to technological innovation. This overlooks the incisive understanding held by the Luddites of the death-knell that capital investment and mechanisation can spell for relatively self-sufficient communities and associated productive ways of living.
A recent issue of the magazine The Land brings together a range of articles and commentaries to commemorate the Luddite rebellion and consider its relevance for the transformations faced globally today. In it I have a short piece that considers the roles of new Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs), predominantly in the form of internet-mediated financial markets, in shaping and structuring new environmental markets for the mitigation of environmental problems. I suggest that although touted to permit reductions of environmental problems, these actually facilitate environmental transformation through development at the same time as enhancing the ways in which environmental degradation can mutate into money-making and investment opportunities for financiers and business. You can download the article here.