© 1980 Kirkpatrick Sale
Human Scale is an ambitious assault on big business, big government — the very concept of Bigness. Opening with biology, Kirkpatrick Sale first establishes his basic operating principle: for everything, there is a limit to its size beyond which it cannot grow without being compromised. In its opening third, Human Scale addresses the problems inherent in large, complex systems, then follows that with sections on how society, economy, and politics might function more effectively if scaled down. On the hefty side itself, Human Scale impresses with its thoroughness; a kindred spirit to E.F. Schumacher’s small is beautiful, the book has largely stood the test of time in putting forth a case for decentralized politics, appropriate technology, organic locally grown agriculture, and cities and buildings built to the human scale. Sale creates a synthesis from topics as varying as demographics and aesthetics.. It is at times dated, at least in its optimistic projections for solar energy efficiency. On the whole, however, it offers insight into government dysfunction and widespread social problems, along with ways people can work to effect change themselves. It is almost an anarchist how-to, a review of ways people can reclaim their lives against the power of centralization, and its enduring relevance is proven in the multitude of authors still advancing its ideas, a number that includes Bill McKibben and Wendell Berry.