Welcome to The Standard’s inaugural book club. Regular commenter Greyrawshark has kindly instigated the first event.
The idea is let’s all read the same book over a month and have a discussion of our thoughts about it and see if we can find some viable good ideas in this election year! You are all invited to come on the journey and report back on the high points of your travel. Debrief in 4 weeks.
Why do this? The shared information we get on The Standard is interesting and gets discussion going. We want to join in the exploration of well-known writers producing work that is likely to be beneficial to us all, and then see what happens when we put that through the mill of The Standard commentariat and readership.
The first book is a classic that underpins much of the sustainability movement around the world,
Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if people mattered by E. F. Schumacher.
Ernst Friedrich “Fritz” Schumacher (19 August 1911 – 4 September 1977) was an internationally influential economic thinker, statistician and economist in Britain, serving as Chief Economic Advisor to the UK National Coal Board for two decades. His ideas became popularised in much of the English-speaking world during the 1970s. He is best known for his critique of Western economies and his proposals for human-scale, decentralised and appropriate technologies.
The book is divided into four parts: “The Modern World”, “Resources”, “The Third World”, and “Organization and Ownership”.
In the first chapter, “The Problem of Production”, 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 and limitations, and appropriate use of technology. It grew out of his study of village-based economics, which he later termed Buddhist economics, which is the subject of the book’s fourth chapter.
In some ways Schumacher was culturally conservative. His understanding of the role of women in the economy was a poor reflection of his times. Marilyn Waring’s classic work on feminist economics, If Women Counted, published a decade after Schumacher’s death, is a necessary addition to Small is Beautiful. But, otherwise, the sheer breadth of his challenge to economics, and its bristling relevance to now is extraordinary.
Small is Beautiful is available new or secondhand, in print, ebook and audiobook.
Please join us in 4 weeks time (Sunday 19 March) to discuss Small is Beautiful and what it has inspired in us.
“I certainly never feel discouraged. I can’t myself raise the winds that might blow us or this ship into a better world. But I can at least put up the sail so that when the wind comes, I can catch it.” E.F. Schumacher