Book Club | Small is Beautiful
“I thus come to the cheerful conclusion that life, including economic life, is still worth living because it is sufficiently unpredictable to be interesting.”
If you’ve bought this book on kindle, you’ll have seen the blurb on Amazon that frames the context of this book perfectly: “First published in 1973, this controversial study looks at the economic structure of the western world in a revolutionary way. Schumacher maintains that man’s current pursuit of profit and progress, which promotes giant organisations and increased specialisation, has in fact resulted in gross economic inefficiency, environmental pollution and inhumane working conditions. He challenges the doctrine of economic, technological and scientific specialisation, and proposes a system of intermediate technology, based on smaller working units, communal ownership and regional workplaces, utilising local labour and resources.”
Divided into four essays, The Modern World, Resources, The Third World, and Organisation and Ownership Schumacher critiques the modern world’s prevailing economic system. Looking at our history, Schumacher observes that the process of the industrial revolution has done less for us than what it once promised. Mass production, over productivity, profit over people, flawed education, failing capitalism has all contributed to an economic, environmental and social catastrophe that we are seeing the consequences of now. He calls readers to understand that bigger is not better, and small really is beautiful.
“No one is really working for peace unless he is working primarily for the restoration of wisdom.”
Although this book is almost 50 years old, it still has much to teach us about how we interact with our environment, people and economy. His theories are just as relevant today as they were when he wrote the book. We hope that the questions we pose below may challenge you to think wider, and deeper into the book and around the world we live in.
Below you’ll find a variety of long and shorter reads reviewing and summarising Schumacher’s book. If you stumble upon any other interesting reads, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can share it around our book club members.
“Small actions make a difference, and small groups of people make a difference, as the noted anthropologist Margaret Mead observed many years ago: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” In that sense, small is not only beautiful, it is necessary if we want to change things.”
- Small is Beautiful Summary – https://www.supersummary.com/small-is-beautiful/summary/
- “Small is Beautiful” – the foundational text of environmental economics? http://www.stephan-pfaffenzeller.com/small-is-beautiful-the-foundational-text-of-environmental-economics/
- Jared Wolf – Small is Beautiful… tech is bigger than ever https://sustainablereview.com/small-is-beautiful-tech-big/ Sustainable Review
- Small is Beautiful: an economic idea that has sadly been forgotten – Madeleine Bunting https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/nov/10/small-is-beautiful-economic-idea
- Humans need human relationships, to what degree do you think technology has shaped how we interact with others? Has our increased connectivity been a net benefit to our communities, or isolated us from one another?
- How has our relationship with technology changed and evolved since his analysis?
- How do you view our societies interactions with the problem of production?
- How relevant do you think Schumacher’s comments and theories are today? What parts do you agree with, which parts do you disagree with?
- Schumacher delves into thoughts around progress; what is progress? Would you disagree or agree with his conclusions?
- What parts of his analysis around our environment do you see as still relevant today as it was back then?