Neighborhood and Backyard Industry
A recurring theme among early writers on decentralized production was the community workshop,and its use in particular for repair and recycling. Even in the 1970s, when the price of the smallestmachine tools was much higher in real terms, it was feasible by means of cooperative organization tospread the capital outlay cost over a large pool of users.Kirkpatrick Sale speculated that neighborhood recycling and repair centers would put back intoservice the almost endless supply of defunct appliances currently sitting in closets or basements; aswell as serving as "remanufacturing centers" for (say) diesel engines and refrigerators.
Writing along similar lines, Colin Ward suggested “the pooling of equipment in a neighborhoodgroup.”
Suppose that each member of the group had a powerful and robust basic tool, while the group as a wholehad, for example, a bench drill, lathes and a saw bench to relieve the members from the attempt to cope withwork which required these machines with inadequate tools of their own, or wasting their resources on under-used individually-owned plant. This in turn demands some kind of building to house the machinery: theCommunity Workshop.But is the Community Workshop idea nothing more than an aspect of the leisure industry, acompensation for the tedium of work?
In other words, is it just a “hobby”? Ward argued, to the contrary, that it would bridge the growinggap between the worlds of work and leisure by making productive activity in one's free time a source ofreal use-value.
Could [the unemployed] make a livelihood for themselves today in the community workshop? If theworkshop is conceived merely as a social service for 'creative leisure' the answer is that it would probably beagainst the rules.... But if the workshop were conceived on more imaginative lines than any existing ventureof this kind, its potentialities could become a source of livelihood in the truest sense. In several of the NewTowns in Britain, for example, it has been found necessary and desirable to build groups of small workshopsfor individuals and small businesses engaged in such work as repairing electrical equipment or car bodies,woodworking and the manufacture of small components. The Community Workshop would be enhanced byits cluster of separate workplaces for 'gainful' work. Couldn't the workshop become the community factory,providing work or a place for work for anyone in the locality who wanted to work that way, not as anoptional extra to the economy of the affluent society which rejects an increasing proportion of its members,but as one of the prerequisites of the worker-controlled economy of the future?Keith Paton..., in a far-sighted pamphlet addressed to members of the Claimants' Union, urged them notto compete for meaningless jobs in the economy which has thrown them out as redundant, but to use theirskills to serve their own community. (One of the characteristics of the affluent world is that it denies its poorthe opportunity to feed, clothe, or house
, or to meet their own and their families' needs, exceptfrom grudgingly doled-out welfare payments). He explains that:
...[E]lectrical power and 'affluence' have brought a spread of intermediate machines, some of them verysophisticated, to ordinary working class communities. Even if they do not own them (as many claimants donot) the possibility exists of borrowing them from neighbours, relatives, ex-workmates. Knitting and sewing
1 Kirkpatrick Sale,
(New York: Coward, McCann, & Geoghegan, 1980), p. 406.2 Colin Ward,
Anarchy in Action
(London: Freedom Press, 1982), p. 94.