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A Guide for the Perplexed Paperback – May 31, 1978

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Editorial Reviews


"A Guide for the Perplexed is really a statement of the philosophical underpinnings that inform Small is Beautiful. Those who have read neither book should be wise to read the latest book first. Those who have read Small is Beautiful will benefit from careful reading of this new book. It's impact may be less immediate, but perhaps more substantial and lasting." -- Chicago Tribune

"A Guide for the Perplexed offers us a harvest of utterly insane, consoling , and life-afffirming insight from one of the wisest minds of our time. It is and unapologetic defense of traditional Christian humanism which I am certain will light many a darkrned path." -- Theodore Roszak, Los Angeles Times

"A harvest of utterly sane, consoling, and life-affirming insight from one of the wisest minds of our time." -- Los Angeles Times

The late E.F. Schumacher understates his case in titling this book A Guide for the Perplexed; what he undertakes is to provide nothing less than a Manual for Survival, concerned not merely with individual physical or even societal endurance (though that, too), but more importantly with the full realization of human potential.

Does that sound impossibly ambitious? It's only the beginning. In the process of articulating his view of life, Schumacher proceeds to knock the foundation from under much of what science has been about these past few centuries, and then to bring into synthesis the definitive tenets of the world's major religions. All this -- and more -- in only 140 pages.

But hold the snickers; the man pulls it off. Compelling reasoned and persuasively presented, this Guide diagrams a view of humans and the world in which they live that will challenge and stimulate every thoughtful reader." -- Newsday

From the Back Cover

An inspired critique of modern materialistic values and a road map for achieving one's true, higher potential from "one of the wisest minds of our time."*

"This is what my life has been leading to," said the maverick economist E. F. Schumacher upon completing A Guide for the Perplexed, his summation of a lifetime of wisdom. The author of the classic Small Is Beautiful, the "eco bible" (Time) named one of the Times Literary Supplement's 100 Most Influential Books Since World War II, Schumacher charts the failings of "materialistic scientism," the system of thought that dominates the developed world and which Schumacher charges with narrowing the horizons of human experience. Instead, he seeks to offer a new, far more expansive "map for living" that liberates our goals beyond the constraints of logic and inspires in us the faith to choose a life of higher significance. "Our ordinary mind always tries to persuade us that we are nothing but acorns," he writes, "but that is of interest only to pigs. Our faith gives us something much better: that we can become oak trees."

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (May 31, 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060906111
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060906115
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

142 of 148 people found the following review helpful By Blomberg Sture on August 11, 1999
Format: Paperback
I read this book about 10 years ago and I still read it again and again. The author widens our perspective on science and point to the fact that 3/4 of reality can not be investigated by conventional scientific methods. I am a scientist and I read thousands of scientific reports and also report some myself. When I read this book I instantly felt that the author was absolutely right about the limitations of conventional science. Thus, his book changed my whole perspective of science and I started to investigate the "other areas". I have never regretted that. This book is beautifully written. It is one of my 3-4 favourite books which I very often take out from the bookshelf to read in silent mornings when the family is asleep. I recommend this as a first read of my favourite books. It is particularly important reading for scientists.
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91 of 97 people found the following review helpful By DAVID-LEONARD WILLIS on February 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
Do you wonder whether humanity has the correct view of itself? Do you think that we need a radically different worldview? Do you think we need to awaken from our spiritual sloth? Are you interested to read the last words from a brilliant mind and unorthodox thinker to a muddled world - a world perplexed by the problems of its own making? This book by the author of "Small is Beautiful" received good reviews, such as "The most exciting philosophical book for ages" and in fact the author starts off with philosophical maps. At school he had been given a map of life and knowledge - how to get into the job market and make money basically - but without any of the markings which he considered to be of the utmost importance for the conduct of his life; he was perplexed until he realized that his perceptions were probably sound and it was the map that was not only incomplete but also basically unsound. He felt like he had been given a map of New York and told to find his way in Chicago. In due course, he came to the conclusion that the traditional map makers - those in authority, our teachers, our leaders - know nothing about what really matters in life and that they were quite unqualified for the task. From that moment he started to think for himself and piece together his own map of what is important that he should know and of how he should live his life. He found that with the ever more rigorous application of the scientific method the last remnants of ancient wisdom had been discarded in the name of objectivity. He decided to construct his own map based on four universal truths - the world; man and his equipment to meet the world; man's way of learning about the world; and what it means to live in the world.Read more ›
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Eric Worthen on April 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is a profound piece of writing, well worth a mere ten dollars. Schumacher, even though he was a high ranking economist in the British government for over 30 years, understood that numbers and other forms of quantifiable (observable) knowledge were phantoms of true knowledge. This book, in a very dense and deep, yet perfectly rational and understantable way, describes the failure of modern societies (and people) to reconcile themselves with their past and their place in creation. Your life has a meaning and a purpose beyond your physiological composition and the consumption of material goods. Read this book to find out why.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By not4prophet on June 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
If you were raised in Europe or the USA during the last fifty years, then you know the drill. The entire universe and everything in it sprang out of nowhere with no sense, meaning, or purpose. Human beings are a bunch of hairless, upright-walking monkeys with a major ego problem. Because primitve people were ignorant, fearful, and just plain stupid, they invented religion to explain things that they couldn't understand. Today, of course, everybody knows that there is no God, no soul, no life after death, and nothing supernatural of any kind. Our wise and fully secular leaders know everything, and we should listen only to them.

Well, E. F. Schumacher doesn't quite agree with this viewpoint. He has an different theory to propose, and he lays it out with perfect logic, careful references, and outstanding prose. His title, "A Guide for the Perplexed", is a actually a gross understatement. He is describing the world as it truly is.

Schumacher begins with a necessary point. Our society pounds us with certain prejudices right from the beginning. It does not educate us about the alternatives, or even let us know that alternatives exist. Hence the first step to wisdom is to step back and "see the world whole". In other words, we must be willing to investigate and question everything, even things that are taken for granted at the present time. Before we begin to study, we must ask the question: what should we study?

Because we are humans, we must study humans. Because we perceive the world around us, we must study our own perceptions, how they work and how they often fail to work. Because there is a world around us, we must study that world. And because we must live within the world, we must investigate how we do so.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Joe M on July 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book is a superb exposition of the deep flaws in the scientific method which has influenced everyone's lives and the scoiety we live in so profoundly. The logic of Decartes in particular is shown to be seriously fragmented, and moreover at odds with science's latest efforts to understand whole systems, like ecology, or the weather, or even economics. As a matter of fact, man is a whole system so in Schumacher's view Cartesian logic is also flawed in it's approach to life, conciousness and self-awareness, the very properties that bring great breakthroughs in science.
The reason why this book is so revolutionary in my opinion is because, along with the author's previous book, Small is Beautiful, it states the case for drastically reworking the whole of human society.

The modern-day confusion of life, which seems to state that the only reason for existence is to be a consumer within a global capitalist state, raises many problems of self-importance, what is the individual's worth or role in such an scenario? Of course God can't exist in such a scheme because Science can't reduce religion to analysable parts. Human evolution must be an accident because Science can't derive the formula to create life artificially....
This not to say that Schumacher is claiming that the Christian God did all this and he can prove it, he merely suggests that science in itself cannot decide the truth of these things, certainly not if it is based only on objective logic.
Schumacher does address these questions in a quasi-religous sense, but also makes the important point that logic or reasoning without intuition or self-knowledge is worthless, because your reason will declare your own self worthless, or some sort of random accident.
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