E. F. Schumacher at 100: Small Is Still Beautiful

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of E. F. Schumacher, the author of the 1973 classic Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered.

More than three decades after his death, Schumacher is remembered as one of the most influential economists of the environmental movement, and he is considered an iconic figure by many in the sustainability community. 

Why? Here are three reasons:

  • Small Is Beautiful was written nearly 40 years ago, but its message is more relevant today than ever. The modern economic system is unsustainable, Schumacher wrote. Natural resources are running out, huge global markets are wildly out of scale, and people have been reduced to cogs in a machine—dehumanized and overworked. Sound familiar? Schumacher was one of the first to challenge the assumptions that “growth is good” and “bigger is better.” He believed that maximizing well-being with meaningful employment is more important than maximizing production with technology. With today’s newspapers full of headlines about growing national debt, high unemployment, and increasing rates of depression, it is now more important than ever to consider the teachings of Small is Beautiful.
  • His legacy is all around us. Schumacher’s work has inspired scores of modern-day environmentalists and activists who are now calling for a shift to local, community-based economies—from Paul Hawken to Bill McKibben, from Vandana Shiva to Annie Leonard. The New Economics Institute in Massachusetts (formerly the E. F. Schumacher Society) furthers Schumacher’s work through research, public campaigns, and educational events. Schumacher College in Devon, England, offers transformative learning programs for sustainable living based on his teachings. Back in the 1970s, Small Is Beautiful offered the public a bold, radical idea just in time for the energy crisis and the emergence of globalization—it has since grown into a prominent, galvanizing movement around the world.
  • He confronted urgent and overwhelming issues with wit, grace, and humor. Let's take a few minutes today to hear the words of E.F. Schumacher from the man himself. May we continue to build upon his ideas and reevaluate what is truly important to us.

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This is truly a moment of opportunity where green and economy are finally being discussed. Our awareness stopping to notice the world of artifice we live in, allows us to piece together a resistance to the philosophy of compliance. Wendell Berry videos at I Love Mountains.

Posted by Hugh Clines at November 11, 2011 at 9:04pm

I read “Small is Beautiful” while in college in 1984. It was one of the books that completely changed my thinking and life.

Posted by John Andersen at September 10, 2011 at 9:23pm

I always wished Schumacher had written more about green building. Thanks for posting this video, where he starts his answer with a typically witty yet penetrating quip about it.

Posted by George Elvin at September 9, 2011 at 12:18pm

My most favorite book ever.

I absolutely have to re-read it at least annually.

Posted by Sandy at September 9, 2011 at 11:51am

This could not be more timely or relevant. Thank you!

Posted by Nancy J. Wilder at August 16, 2011 at 12:05pm


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