It has been thirty-two years since Fritz Schumacher published the influential Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered. His message has not aged. He helped us understand the connection between economic policies and the health of the planet and suggested a new course of action to balance that relationship. His message was both a warning and a grounds for hope. It is ever more urgent.
Since 1980 the Schumacher Center has continued E. F. Schumacher’s legacy by:
- stewarding his personal collection of books and papers, donated by his family;
- organizing an annual lecture program featuring visionaries working in his tradition;
- developing model regional economic programs, such as the BerkShares local currency, that incorporate ecological and social values;
- training a younger generation in the principles and application of these programs through the Building Sustainable Local Economies seminars and conferences;
- sharing the concepts more broadly through an acclaimed publication program; and
- maintaining a content-rich website that is an actively used research tool averaging 6,000 hits per day.
The Center is not alone in the recognition of the imperative of Schumacher’s message. The British Environment Agency has named him second in a list of the hundred greatest eco-heroes of all time, following Rachel Carson. In a short biography in the November issue of Your Environment, David Boyle recounts the reasons for this selection (see below).
Your tax-deductible donation to the Schumacher Center helps us continue to raise Fritz Schumacher’s voice of concern for the planet and right action for its future.
E. F. Schumacher (1911-1977) by David Boyle from Your Environment—a quarterly journal of the British Environment Agency
Better known as Fritz, he revolutionized the way we look at economics and provided insights—notably in his 1973 book Small is Beautiful —that have made genuinely green economics possible.
The book, subtitled ‘Economics As If People Mattered,’ sidestepped the main issue of environmental economics—how to price the environment properly in the economic system—and questioned whether the objectives of western economics were realistic or desirable. “Mankind talks of a battle with nature,” he wrote, “forgetting that, if he won the battle, he would find himself on the losing side.”
Schumacher emigrated to the UK from Germany before the Second World War, was a protégé of Keynes and chief economic advisor to the National Coal Board under Lord Robens, when it was a hothouse of alternative thinking. He became well known in alternative circles in the 1960s with his concepts of “intermediate technology”—a critique of the disempowerment of conventional development aid—and Buddhist Economics.
He was an early critic of economic growth as a measure of national progress, as well as other sacred cows of the 1960s like nuclear energy and the chemical-driven ‘green’ revolution in developing countries.
Small Is Beautiful is named among the ‘Times [of London] Literary Supplement’s’ 100 most influential books since the war. Its success catapulted Schumacher and his ideas to the forefront of international debate, shortly after the energy crisis. He was invited to meet President Carter and even received death threats on his final visit to the USA. He died in 1977 on a lecture tour in Switzerland. His last book, A Guide for the Perplexed, was a critique of scientific reductionism and vindication of human spirit.