Dr Don Maclurcan


Donnie Maclurcan is co-founder of the Post Growth Institute – an international group exploring and inspiring paths to global prosperity that don’t rely on economic growth. He's passionate about innovative yet simple approaches to social change and likes to build on what's already working, whilst retaining a critical lens by which to make such observations.

A Distinguished Fellow at the Schumacher Institute, Donnie's PhD was a comprehensive assessment of nanotechnology’s possible consequences for global inequity, resulting in over 20 translations of his work and two books: Nanotechnology and Global Equality and Nanotechnology and Global Sustainability. His next books: How, on Earth: Flourishing in a Not-For-Profit World by 2050 and Not-for-Profit 2.0: How to start, Scale and Sustain Community Initiatives in a Changing Australia are due for publication in 2014.

The international convenor of Free Money Day, Donnie is best known as ‘that guy who ran across Australia as a teenager’, raising $35,000 for The Fred Hollows Foundation.

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Associate of the Institute, Institute for Sustainable Futures
+61 2 9514 4978
+61 2 9514 4941

Book Chapters

Maclurcan, D. 2009, 'Nanotechnology and the Global South: Exploratory Views on Characteristics, Perceptions and Paradigms' in S. Arnaldi, A. Lorenzet, & F. Russo (eds), Technologies in Progress: Managing the Uncertainty of Nanotechnology, IOS Press, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, pp. 97-112.
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In the Global North, confusion, hype and disagreement plague nanotechnology debates. In the meantime, the debate about the Global South's engagement with nanotechnology has forged ahead, assuming common understandings about what nanotechnology is and what it is not, as well as the general irrelevance of definitional debates. This despite evidence that nanotechnology is being presented in a conflicting manner in the literature, through mixed terminology and imagery, and that little has been documented about Southern understandings. Given the importance of understandings in the genetically-modified foods debate, the way nanotechnology is understood holds serious repercussions for the framing of its ethical, legal and social implications. This chapter reports on the perspectives of Thai and Australian key informants, from a broad range of fields. It seeks to explore and clarify how nanotechnology might be defined, perceived and framed in terms of the South. The results suggest that nanotechnology may be conceptualized in similar ways, focussing on near-term nanotechnology that is defined by a common set of characteristics. Yet, when it comes to the way these conceptualisations translate into applications, there may be large differences in nanotechnology's perceived scope, sophistication and complexity. This holds interesting ramifications for global nanotechnology discourse, particularly in terms of the assumed costs and infrastructure required to conduct nanotechnology research and development and the more general role the South will play in the global nanotechnology picture.


Maclurcan, D. 2006, The Sinking of the SIEV X, self-published, Sydney.

Conference Papers

Maclurcan, D., Ford, M.J., Cortie, M.B. & Ghosh, D. 2004, 'Medical Nanotechnology and Developing Nations', Oz Nano, Cairns, Australia, November 2003 in Proceedings of the Asia Pacific Nanotechnology Forum 2003, ed Schulte, J, World Scientific Publishing Co, Singapore, pp. 165-172.
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Journal Articles

Maclurcan, D. 2009, 'Southern Roles in Global Nanotechnology Innovation: Perspectives from Thailand and Australia', Journal of Nanoethics, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 137-156.
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The term `nano-divide+ has become a catch-phrase for describing various kinds of global nanotechnology inequities. However, there has been little in-depth exploration as to what the global nano-divide really means, and limited commentary on its early nature. Furthermore, the literature often presents countries from the Global South as `passive+ agents in global nanotechnology innovation+without the ability to develop endogenous nanotechnology capabilities. Yet others point to nanotechnology providing opportunities for the South to play new roles in the global research and development process. In this paper I report on the findings of a qualitative study that involved the perspectives of 31 Thai and Australian key informants, from a broad range of fields. The study was supplemented by a survey of approximately 10% of the Thai nanotechnology research community at the time. I first explore how the global nano-divide is understood and the implication of the divide+s constructs in terms of the roles to be played by various countries in global nanotechnology innovation. I then explore the potential nature of Southern passivity and barriers and challenges facing Southern endogenous innovation, as well as an in-depth consideration of the proposition that Southern countries could be `active+ agents in the nanotechnology process. I argue that it is the nano-divide relating to nanotechnology research and development capabilities that is considered fundamental to nanotechnology+s Southern outcomes. The research suggests that Southern countries will encounter many of the traditional barriers to engaging with emerging technology as well as some new barriers relating to the nature of nanotechnology itself. Finally, the research suggests that nanotechnology may offer new opportunities for Southern countries to enter the global research and development picture.
Invernizzi, N., Foladori, G. & Maclurcan, D. 2008, 'Nanotechnology's Controversial Role for the South', Science, Technology and Society, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 123-148.
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The possibility that nanotechnology will turn into an instrument to aid development or alleviate poverty has been discussed explicitly in academic circles, at meetings held by international bodies, and in non-governmental organisations since 1997. The different positions on the role that it can play in the process reflect particular interpretations of the relationship between science, technology and society. We divide the arguments expressed in this discussion in two broad groups. One can be identified as the instrumental position, which emphasises the technical capacity of nanotechnologies to solve poverty problems and spur development. The other group of arguments can be identified as the contextual position by emphasising the social context wherein technology is produced, used and adapted. We summarise and analyse the main arguments in the debate on nanotechnologies, development and poverty. We consider the most influent opinions from organisations, institutions and meetings, presenting their main ideas in chronological order. The outline covers the period from 1997 to late 2007, and reviews the documents that most directly address the issue. Afterwards, we highlight and analyse the main issues at stake in this controversy.
Maclurcan, D. 2008, 'The Change Starts Here', Social Alternatives, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 64-64.
Invernizzi, N., Foladori, G. & Maclurcan, D. 2007, 'The role of nanotechnologies in development and poverty alleviation: a matter of controversy', Journal of Nanotechnology Online, vol. N/A.
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Maclurcan, D. 2006, 'Molecular Manufacturing and the Developing World: Looking to Nanotechnology for Answers', Nanotechnology Perceptions, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 137-142.
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Ford, M.J., Cortie, M.B., Maclurcan, D. & Martin, D.K. 2006, 'Real world nanotechnology', Materials Australia, vol. 39, no. 3, pp. 10-12.
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There is a degree of uncertainty in the public mind concerning the exact subject matter of nanotechnology. Novels such as Michael Crichton+s Prey and the movie Agent Codie Banks have primed many to believe that nanotechnology is about tiny (and rather dangerous) nano-robots. Of course, most technically savvy individuals know better, but because this misconception exists there is an obligation on researchers in this field to communicate a more accurate understanding of the topic to the wider community. The Institute for Nanoscale Technology at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) has sought to bridge this gap in understanding.
Maclurcan, D. & Phelps, B. 2006, 'Not-So-Magic Nano', New Matilda, vol. 87, no. 26.
Maclurcan, D. 2006, 'Nanotechnology and Developing Countries', Science Focus, vol. 1, no. 5, pp. 1-9.
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In recent times, nanotechnology has been included in a number of the debates considering emerging technology anddeveloping countries. However, the literature considering nanotechnology's application to the developing world has often varied in its interpretation of what nanotechnology really is. Furthermore, despite a wide range of perspectives as to the relevance, appropriateness and potential impact of nanotechnology for developing countries, the key debates have often remained disengaged. This paper attempts to clarify understandings of nanotechnology and synthesize discussions on issues of relevance, appropriateness and distribution with respect to developing countries. In support, recent developments in nanotechnology and healthcare are provided.
Maclurcan, D. 2006, 'NanoTechnology in Developing Countries', Nanotechnology Newsletter, vol. 103, pp. 8-15.
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Maclurcan, D. 2006, 'NanoTechnology in Developing Countries', Iranian Nanotechnology Initiative Newsletter, vol. 102, pp. 16-24.
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Maclurcan, D. 2005, 'Nanotechnology and Developing Countries Part A: What Possibilities', AzoNano Online Journal of Nanotechnology, vol. -, no. -, pp. ---.
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Maclurcan, D. 2005, 'Nanotechnology and Developing Countries Part B: What Realities?', AzoNano Online Journal of Nanotechnology, vol. -, no. -, pp. ---.
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Maclurcan, D. 2005, 'Experiencing the United Nations in Different Forms', World Citizens Association (Australia) Bulletin, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 3-5.
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Maclurcan, D., Ford, M.J. & Cortie, M.B. 2004, 'The confusion surrounding nanotechnology', Materials Australia, vol. 37, no. 2, pp. 24-25.
Maclurcan, D., Ford, M.J. & Cortie, M.B. 2004, 'Rectifying Nanotechnology Confusion and Redirecting Focus', The Physicist, vol. 41, no. 3, pp. 84-85.