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Small Is Beautiful, 25th Anniversary Edition: Economics As If People Mattered: 25 Years Later . . . With Commentaries Paperback – June 15, 2000

4.4 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

E. F. SHUMACHER (1911-1977) was a Rhodes Scholar in economics and the head of planning at the British Coal Board. He was also the president of the Soil Association and the founder of the Intermediate Technology Development Group.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 286 pages
  • Publisher: Hartley and Marks Publishers (June 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0881791695
  • ISBN-13: 978-0881791693
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 7.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #388,210 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
When I was a student at Brigham Young University in the early 80's, I was introduced by my macroeconomics professor to what many economists of the time considered to be the "great heresy of economic theory." - a copy of Small is Beautiful. He warned me that quoting it in research papers would be most unwise, as the BYU economics department was, and continues to be, a strong proponent of the current economic orthodoxy of infinite economic growth and prosperity that dominates economics even today. He finished by saying that "Schumacher was a radical, no doubt about it. However, he will also turn out to be right in the end."
Truer words were never spoken. There are those who will point out detail errors in Schumacher's work. The book was, after all, written over 25 years ago, and Schumacher would never have considered himself a prophet. Yet the central theme of his work, that infinite economic growth is impossible within a finite system, and the inevitable consequences of ignoring this simple truth have been fully vindicated. Even the most orthodox economists are beginning to see the disasterous environmental and social consequences of their economic policies over the last 50+ years, which Schumacher describes in detail, and warn policy makers that major changes must be made. Schumacher also proposed a highly effective and practical method, Intermediate Technology, to help impoverished and developing nations make the best possible use of modern scientific and technological advances, without the vast (and for countless millions in the world impossible) financial investments and ecological/social consequences. In 1965 Schumacher and a few friends started the Intermediate Technology Development Group ...which continues to develop practical applications of his ideas in the developing world.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In my college days I struggled with economics and barely passed. My economic professors and the course material were dull, ambiguous, and non-stimulating. None of these adjectives could be used to describe Schumacher's Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered.
Schumacher makes economics come alive with wit, humor, and practicality. His approach is qualitative, not quantitative. A recurring statement throughout the book epitomizes his philosophy, "Why use the computer if you can make the calculation on the back of an envelope"? He gives the science a personality when identifying the disparities between the rich and poor, the educated and uneducated, and the gap between city people and country-folk.
Small is Beautiful created a humanistic economics movement. It's a wholistic approach containing ethical, ecological, and metaphysical components that are missing from the statistical models that solely measure GNP. Schumacher sounded the alarm regarding globalization when asking "how much further 'growth' will be possible, since infinate growth in a finite environment is an obvious impossibility". He was critical of a society that generates unbounded materialism, and motivated by greed and envy.
Some of the more interesting of the 20 essays are: "Peace and Permanence", "The Role of Economics", "Buddhist Economics", "The Greatest Resource - Education", "Technology with a Human Face", "Development of Intermediate Technology", and "Two Million Villages".
Although the book was written in 1973, it is as timely now as it was then. The 25th anniversary edition contains provocative updates provided as sidebars by contributors such as Hazel Henderson, Peter Warshall, Amory Lovins, Godric Bader, et al.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book back-to-back with another book by Schumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed. Though Small is Beautiful is the title for which he is most well known, my strong preference was for the latter title.

Small is Beautiful is the earlier book and is rightly recognised as a key instigator of what we might call `grown-up' environmental awareness. The subtitle of the book `Economics as if People Mattered' reflects the aim of the book in extending economic thinking beyond purely traditional financial factors. Central to this is the acknowledgement of the value of natural capital as an input to economic production. For example the air, water and other natural resources that traditional economics assumes to be free and abundant.

The `small is beautiful` of the title refers to Schumacher's argument that we should steer away from a belief that technology can be relied upon to solve whatever problems we throw in its direction and that decentralization as a way to bring the human touch back into the equation of business.

Schumacher makes a strong case for the value of intermediate technology, or perhaps appropriate technology, which not only delivers desired outcomes, but does so in ways that are in harmony with the broader needs of the communities where the technology is applied. For example, however valuable the finished constructed project, a JCB used in its construction may do the work of 100 men, but is of questionable value if in a developing country those 100 men have nothing to do but watch the JCB, and it is driven by a worker imported from overseas.

The book, though perhaps a little dated, is a good read, and essential reading for anyone wanting to question the dominance of single minded profit based economics.
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