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Small is Beautiful (Schumacher)

Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered
E.F. Schumacher, 1973
HarperCollins
352 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780061997761

Summary
Noted British economist E.F. 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.

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

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 as capital, 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."

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 GNP 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. (From Wikipedia.)




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