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1 Small Is Beautiful

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Small Is Beautiful
Image
1973 Cover
Author E. F. Schumacher
Genre(s) Non-fiction
Publisher Blond & Briggs
Publication date 1973
Media type Hardcover
Pages 288 pages
ISBN 978-0060916305
OCLC Number 19514463
Dewey Decimal 330.1 20
LC Classification HB171 .S384 1989

Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered is a collection of essays by British economist E. F. Schumacher. The phrase "Small Is Beautiful" came from a phrase by his teacher Leopold Kohr.1 It is often used to champion small, appropriate technologies that are believed to empower people more, in contrast with phrases such as "bigger is better".

First published in 1973, Small Is Beautiful brought Schumacher's critiques of Western economics to a wider audience during the 1973 energy crisis and emergence of globalization. The Times Literary Supplement ranked Small Is Beautiful among the 100 most influential books published since World War II.2 A further edition with commentaries was published in 1999.3

Small Is Beautiful received the prestigious award Prix Européen de l'Essai Charles Veillon in 1976.

2 Author

Schumacher was a respected economist who worked with John Maynard Keynes and John Kenneth Galbraith, and for twenty years as the Chief Economic Advisor to the National Coal Board in the United Kingdom. He was opposed to the tenets of neo-classical economics, declaring that single-minded concentration on outputand technology was dehumanizing. He held that one's workplace should be dignified and meaningful first, efficient second, and that nature (and the world's natural resources) is priceless.

Schumacher proposed the idea of "smallness within bigness": a specific form of decentralization. For a large organization to work, according to Schumacher, it must behave like a related group of small organizations. Schumacher's work coincided with the growth of ecological concerns and with the birth of environmentalism and he became a hero to many in the environmental movement.

3 Content


The book is divided into four parts: "The Modern World," "Resources," "The Third World," and "Organization and Ownership."

In the first chapter, "The Problem of Production", Schumacher argues that the modern economy is unsustainable. Natural resources (like fossil fuels), are treated as expendable income, when in fact they should be treated ascapital, since they are not renewable, and thus subject to eventual depletion. He further argues that nature's resistance to pollution is limited as well. He concludes that government effort must be concentrated on sustainable development, because relatively minor improvements, for example, technology transfer to Third World countries, will not solve the underlying problem of an unsustainable economy.

Schumacher's philosophy is one of "enoughness," appreciating both human needs, limitations and appropriate use of technology. It grew out of his study of village-based economics, which he later termed "Buddhist economics," which is the subject of the book's fourth chapter.

He faults conventional economic thinking for failing to consider the most appropriate scale for an activity, blasts notions that "growth is good," and that "bigger is better," and questions the appropriateness of using mass production in developing countries, promoting instead "production by the masses." Schumacher was one of the first economists to question the appropriateness of using gross national product to measure human well being, emphasizing that "the aim ought to be to obtain the maximum amount of well being with the minimum amount of consumption."

4 Quotes

Man is small, and, therefore, small is beautiful.

A Buddhist economist would consider this approach excessively irrational: since consumption is merely a means to human well-being, the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption.... The less toil there is, the more time and strength is left for artistic creativity. Modern economics, on the other hand, considers consumption to be the sole end and purpose of all economic activity.

It is clear, therefore, that Buddhist economics must be very different from the economics of modern materialism, since the Buddhist sees the essence of civilisation not in a multiplication of wants but in the purification of human character. Character, at the same time, is formed primarily by a man's work. And work, properly conducted in conditions of human dignity and freedom, blesses those who do it and equally their products.

The most striking thing about modern industry is that it requires so much and accomplishes so little. Modern industry seems to be inefficient to a degree that surpasses one's ordinary powers of imagination. Its inefficiency therefore remains unnoticed.

Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology towards the organic, the gentle, the non-violent, the elegant and beautiful.

The way in which we experience and interpret the world obviously depends very much indeed on the kind of ideas that fill our minds. If they are mainly small, weak, superficial, and incoherent, life will appear insipid, uninteresting, petty, and chaotic.

5 See also

6 References

  • Dr. Leopold Kohr, 84; Backed Smaller States, New York Times(external link) (cache) obituary, 28 February 1994.
  • The Times Literary Supplement, October 6, 1995, p. 39
  • Schumacher, E. F.; Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered : 25 Years Later...With Commentaries (1999). Hartley & Marks Publishers ISBN 0-88179-169-5(external link) (cache)

  • Multiple translations of the essay Buddhist Econ

Created by Peter Ramsden3328 points . Last Modification: Saturday 18 of February, 2012 18:19:43 GMT by Peter Ramsden3328 points . (Version 1)