The EconomicContribution of E. F. Schumacher
Thepaper is about E.F. Schumacher’s contribution of economics, and isdivided into five sections. First, the paper is Schumacher’sbiographical sketch with pertinent information about his date ofbirth, place, education, major writings, which includes “Small isBeautiful” and “A Guide for the Perplexed,” career aspects, andthe cause of his death. The first section will open up theeconomist’s explanation of his philosophical condition that woulddraw illustrations from his major writings. Thirdly, the paper willbe a survey of his contribution of his position on the school ofthought. Here, examples will be drawn from his stay in Burma beforereturning to the UK. A larger focus on his book, “Small isBeautiful,” will be examined with phrases on Leopold Kohr becominga subject of discussion. Here, his support of intermediate technologyover other forms of technology will be studied with few illustrationsdrawn from Mahatma Gandhi. Finally, the paper will then focus on theenvironmental responsibilities towards protection of the environmentwith regard to the use of intermediate technology.
Schumacher’sIntroduction and Biographical
ErnstFriedrich Schumacher was born is 19th August 1911 and died on 4thSeptember 1977. Schumacher was born Ernst Friedrich Schumacher inBonn, Germany. Growing up, the younger Schumacher enrolled in aschool in Bonn and Berlin, Germany, and later from 1930, studied inthe United Kingdom at the New College, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar(Cox & Economist Books, 2006). Schumacher earned his diploma ineconomics at the Columbia University in the state of New York. Afterschool, he became a businessman, did farming, and also a journalist,but is interest lied in economics.
Career wise, Ernst Friedrich Schumacher moved back to the UnitedKingdom after completing his education before the start of the WorldWar II having had no intention of walking under the Nazism rule inGermany. He started out as an intern on an isolated English farm, andthese years of walking on the farm, he captured the attention ofEnglish, John Maynard Keynes, with a paper he had written known as"Multilateral Clearing" (Cox & Economist Books, 2006).The English, Keynes, recognized young Schumacher`s abilities andunderstanding, and he managed to have him – Schumacher – releasedfrom the internship. Schumacher assisted the British governmentduring the World War II to mobilize financially and economically,which led to Keynes finding him a position to work at the OxfordUniversity.
Schumacher work after the War as an economic advisor to the BritishControl Commission and later as a Chief Statistician, a commissionmandated with rebuilding the economy of Germany. He also held anotherposition at the National Coal Board between 1950 and 1070 as theChief Economic Adviser. In this position, Schumacher argued that itis not petroleum, but coal that should be used to distributed energyneeds across the entire world`s population.
It is in this position that those introduced him mentioned that it isSchumacher`s ideas, and foresighted ability and planning play a rolein the post-war economic recovery of Britain. He also predicted theemergence and rise of OPEC and other problems associated with nuclearpower. In Burma, Schumacher worked as an economic consultant. In1955, while there, he developed a series of principles, which hetermed as "Buddhist Economics."
One of Schumacher`s major writings was a 1973 best seller, "SmallIs Beautiful: a study of Economics as if People Mattered," whichaccording to "The Times" in 1995, ranked it among the top100 most influential economic books since the World War II (NationalFilm Board of Canada, 2015). In 1977, Schumacher published anotherbook, "A Guide for the Perplexed," which was a form of acritique of the "materialist scientism," and also as natureand organization`s exploration of knowledge.
In his 1973 publication, "Small is Beautiful: a study ofeconomics as if people mattered," was a collection of essays,which brought Schumacher`s ideas to a larger population. In thiswriting, he argued that we are not in a position to considertechnological production problem if at all demands that peoplerecklessly erode the limited natural capitals and deprive the futuregeneration of its importance and benefits. His major writings,according to Mäki (2002) constantly coincided with the rise inecological concerns followed by the emergence of environmentalism.Other major writings include 1977 "This I Believe and OtherEssays" and the 1979 "Good Work." Schumacher died fromheart attack on 19th August 1977 in while on a lecture tour aged 66.
Ernst Friedrich Schumacher was also known as the "BuddhistEconomist" when he came up with the term "BuddhistEconomics" in 1955 following his move to Burma to work as theeconomic consultant in the office of the Prime Minister. Schumacher,from the perspective of "Buddhist Economics," touched onhis interests in the religion of Buddha (Sowell, 1985). He emphasizesthat the Buddhist point of view functions on a threefold: First, hisinterests on Buddhist religion began with the term "rightlivelihoods," which according to Schumacher is the demands ofBuddha as a religion.
From the "Buddhist economics" interests of religion, heemphasizes that material being and spiritual health should not beenemies, but should live in harmony as natural allies. His interestin Buddha`s religion was characterized more on what makes a man toovercome his egocentric attitude and embrace religion by joiningother common people in engaging in a common task (Duhs & Alvey,1989). Additionally, his interests focused on the Buddhist religionand way of life, which he emphasized on uttering rationality toleading religion in the right direction.
The set of principles Schumacher developed in 1955 when he traveledto Burma came to be known as the "Buddhist economics."Schumacher argued that principles of economics does not stand solelyon its own, but rather "is acquired from a view of the actualpurpose and meaning of life – whether the economist is aware ofthis or not" (Duhs & Alvey, 1989). Having written the paperknown as "Economics in a Buddhist County," he argued thatthe Buddhist focus on economics will be based on the followingprinciples:
The ideal is not a surfeit but is sufficiency. The "progress" of the economy is good, but only to the sufficiency point, and beyond that, it is destructive, evil, and uneconomic.
The Buddhist economy recognizes the difference between the renewable and non-renewable sources. Here, a civilization that is built on the renewable resources is more on the superiority built on the non-renewable resources.
His return from Burma saw Schumacher study, lecture, and expand moreon the set principles of the "Buddhist economics."Schumacher stated that the western economies is used to measure the"standard of living" through consumption and assumes theperson that consumes more is better off than that of less consumption(Schumacher, 1973). Schumacher also discussed the fact that differentemployers consider their employees as "cost" to be loweredas much as possible.
Again, the modern manufacturing applies the production processesrequires little skills. Schumacher also pointed out regarding thediscussions among different economic theories as to whether the fullemployment pays or of some unemployment amount would be better forthe economy. In summary, Schumacher argued by stating that an economyis in existence to serve the people`s needs. However, he also arguedthat in the "materialistic economy," people are inexistence to serve the economy.
Ernst Friedrich Schumacher visit to the Buddha temples in the UnitedStates placed more relevance on placing the two different wordsBuddhism and economics, together. His visit to the Buddha templesplaces what he believed in into a clear perspective on integratingthe religion of Buddha and economics (Macdonald, 2015). His visitsshone more light beyond a particular scale of people involved withdisempowering and taking over bureaucratic machines. To Schumacher,his visit to the United States Buddha temples was natural and logicin organizing and consuming the locality as clear as possible.Therefore, for Schumacher, the question of integrating Buddhism andeconomics meant an overarching and overriding set principle.
ErnstFriedrich Schumacher`s Philosophical Position
Schumacher`s philosophical position is that of "enoughness,"considered as that of appreciating human needs, appropriatetechnological use, and limitations. His philosophical position grewout of village-based economics` research study, which he laterregards as "Buddhist economics" (Wickramasinghe, 2008). Schumacher faulted conventional form of thinking and believed in whathe thought to be the most appropriate scale for particularactivities, disregards notions, which term "growth is good,"and that bigger is always better.
Schumacher questions the convenience and appropriateness of engagingin mass production in less developed countries and instead promoteproduction in bulk by masses. Again, Schumacher was one of the peopleto question the philosophical appropriateness of applying grossdomestic and national products to measure the level and position ofhuman wellness, by emphasizing that the stand should be to obtain themaximum level of well-being while using the minimum consumptionlevels.
Schumacher`s philosophical position was also evidenced when he wrotea short book, "A Guide for the Perplexed" published in 1977where he emphasized his position on the need for "philosophy ofmaterialism" on the ideals of harmony, justice, health, andbeauty (Pearce & Schumacher, 2006). In this book, "A Guidefor the Perplexed," Schumacher`s stand was about how humansexist in the world of what he termed as "materialisticscientism," which is about the treatise on the organization andnature of knowledge. Schumacher defends his stand that today`s"philosophical maps," which dominate the western scienceand thought are narrow and is based on a few false premises.
Through this book, he combined his philosophical position with alittle bit of what is viewed as technological dominance. Materialscientist, according to Schumacher, is based on the instructionalscience of methodology, which is wired to experiment and study withthe inanimate matters (National Film Board of Canada, 2015). Most ofthe science philosophers, according to Schumacher`s position, fail tonotice the difference between instructional and descriptive sciences.Again, his philosophical position is based on one of his majorwritings, "A Guide for the Perplexed." Here, his positionis reflected by what he termed as the "levels of being"where he rejected the religious and traditional philosophical viewthat the entire universe is like a hierarchy of being and stood firmon his position of human "chain of being."
A Survey ofE.F. Schumacher`s Major Contributions to the Position of "his"School
Schumacher`s major contributions to the position of "his"school are based on his views regarding the four levels of being andthe meaning of life. In one of his major writings, "A Guide forthe Perplexed," Schumacher set out to discover the entire worldand try to see through it (Duhs & Alvey, 1989). This requiredstudying what it means to understand the meaning of life, whichincludes peering back into the history books regarding thephilosophical mapmaking, unprovable and invisible layers. Schumacheremphasizes tolerance for doubt and more than that, he also emphasizeson having an active embrace of life`s uncertainties.
According to Schumacher, mapping out individual wants is the mainaim of the human journey. "If at all we do not do that," heargues, we are left "in total eerie of perplexity"(Schumacher, 1977). In his book, Schumacher argues that inphilosophy, while skepticism and rationalism rose to power, it turnsout to be a "huge impoverishment." This is in human abilityto map out a sense of abstraction, because these movements arestriving for determination, to get rid of the being`s verticaldimensions and not to say fanaticism. These movements, based onSchumacher`s position of "his" school, are as a result ofthe distinction between the higher and lower order idealsdistinguished from other people from traditional wisdom.
Schumacher`s school of thought on humanity and life is reflected hismapping of four crucial "levels of being." He proposed amodel, a formula of sorts, on how they relate and the position theybelong in philosophy. To illustrate this, Schumacher creates aphilosophical map: "mineral level" marked by m of theinorganic matter, "life force" marked by x organicmatter, "consciousness" denoted by y, and "humanposition of self-awareness" indicated by z (Schumacher &Satish, 1981). Schumacher considered this to be uniquely and entirelyhuman, though, one could argue presently so as faulty.
Through this model, his major contribution to the position of "his"school of thought is represented by the four levels of being. Forexample, m+x+y+x stands for rock, plant, animal, and a humanbeing respectively. Schumacher argues that where scientificphilosophies and reductionism, for example, fall short, is in thehandling of the lowest level of being, and in this instance, m, andassuming the rest of beings do not exist. He says, "To say thatlife has nothing but the certain peculiarity of property and atoms`combinations is like say ‘Hamlet` is nothing short of property witha peculiar combination of property letters" (Cox & EconomistBooks, 2006).
Itis from this line of thought that Schumacher argues that z, which isthe human beings` level, represent the divine power – the power ofconsciousness upon itself – in that people`s main humanity springscan be arrived at through harnessing this power along a potentialvertical dimension (Cox & Economist Books, 2006). He writes,"self-awareness represents the rarest power of all, vulnerableand precious to the highest level of degree, a person`s perfectachievement present one moment with the other one easily gone"(Wood, 1984). Regarding self-awareness, the economist implies, makeshuman beings invariably aware of the fellow human beings withouthaving to experience the vacant meaning of individual experiences.Again, Schumacher position implied rebels against instances ofreductionism.
ExtendedDiscussion on Schumacher`s Book "Small is Beautiful"
The book, "Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As ifPeople Mattered," by E.F. Schumacher, a renowned Britisheconomist is a collection of essays regarded as one of his majorcontribution work to economics. Leopold Kohr, one of Schumacher`steachers, coined the phrase "Small is Beautiful." Thephrase was used to mean that the small technologies were consideredto be appropriate enough, and was believed to empower people more,which according to Pearce & Schumacher (2006), contrasted withthe use of "bigger is a better" phrase.
"Small is Beautiful" is about the Western world economicsas critiqued by Schumacher during the energy crisis in 1973 andglobalization emergence, and was directed to a wider audience. By thephrase "Small is Beautiful," Schumacher meant to expandfurther on the little understanding about the economic treatise tobroaden it further in scope, weaving together pithily and threadingit from Gandhi and Galbraith, science, psychology, capitalism, andBuddhism. According to Skousen (2007), Schumacher`s intention fromthis collection of essays was to deliberate on the general intentionto subvert the economics of science into account by writing down thetechnological metaphysical and psychological foundations.
Schumacher believed in his collection of "Small is Beautiful"essays when he traveled to Burma, and it was here that he came upwith numerous economic theories to bolster his belief in the book.Again, he opened individuals` minds to reform ideas in the westerncivilizations regarding economic policies. His theories, while inBurma, were about the simplistic ways of living, which made theseeconomic theories relevant, although complex and revolve aroundmaterial goods. In the book`s chapter on "Buddhist economics,"for example, focuses on the idea of simplicity in economic living(Schumacher, 1977).
Ofimportance to note is that Schumacher did not support the economicgrowth because in the first chapter – the problem of production –of the book "Small is Beautiful," for example, the authorargued that the modern economy was unsustainable. A section ofnatural resources like the fossil fuels are handled as expendableincomes, instead of being viewed as capital considering they cannotbe renewed, which means it becomes a subject of eventual depletion.
Schumacherfurther argues that the resistance of nature regarding pollution isnot enough (Mäki, 2002). He did not support the growth of theeconomy when he concluded that the effort from the governmentconcerned must be focused on the development sustainability. He theprovided the rationale that with minor improvements on development,for instance transferring technology to the Third World countries,will fail in sorting out the underlying problem resulting in anunsustainable economy.
Schumacher faulted the notion of conventional thinking regarding theeconomy because of failure to put into consideration the appropriatescale for economic activity, which blasts the notions that "biggeris better" and "growth is good." He went ahead toquestion the true nature of applying gross national production toascertain the human well-being. Here, he emphasizes that theintention should be "to acquire maximum well-being amounts withminimum consumption amounts" (Wickramasinghe, 2008). His failureto support to support economic growth results in his support andemphasis on the need to apply the "philosophy of materialism."
Based on Schumacher`s "small scale of production is better,"notion, his book "Small is Beautiful" had an enormousinfluence on the economy and the people. This follows theintoxication with what the author regard as "gigantism."For example, technological methods of mass production produced moregoods that were in turn cheaper than ever. It created and encouragedbigger political and bigger market entities, which according toSowell (2006), came before the 1975 vote regarding the EuropeanCommon Market. Schumacher believed that will mass production anddisregarding small scale of production it would result in thedehumanization of individuals followed by the economic systems, whichordered their lives.
Additionally, technology with a human face (non-violent technology)is reflected in the book, which also draws relevance from individualactivities and work. The book explains how technology-savvyorganizations, for example, have stripped individuals thesatisfaction from working, and, in turn, makes the worker become morethan just an anonymous representation in a huge machine. The craftskill is no longer of importance, and the quality of relationshipsmeans that human beings are required to adjusts to the presence ofmachines within the production lines. The economic system, accordingto Skousen (2007), was dehumanizing and making decisions based on theprofitability basis of human need. Of importance is that Schumacherpushed for people-centeredness of the economy, which in this view,facilitate human and environmental sustainability.
Schumacher`sSupport of Intermediate Technology
Appropriate technology, better known as intermediate technology, isan ideological movement articulated by Ernst Schumacher in one of hisinfluential books, "Small is Beautiful." The differencebetween applications and fields were as a result of appropriatetechnology nuances, which Schumacher emphasizes to includetechnological preference and application, which is small-scale,labor-intensive, decentralized, environmentally sound,energy-efficient, and controlled locally (Cox & Economist Books,2006). Schumacher supports intermediate technology by terming it as"people-centered."
Schumacher`s intermediate technology came as a result of blaming thesize of operations in the industry for what he termed as "uncaringresponse" received by miners diagnosed with the black-lungdisease. In 1962, he coined the idea following his descriptions ofIndians as "short in the capital and long in labor" (Mäki,2002), which end up harnessing labor surplus in India. His support ofthe idea came from the 1962 Planning Commission report. In his stintin Burma, he went ahead and publishes the paper, "Economics inBuddhist Country," where he critiqued the Western economicseffects on third world countries by supporting the formalization ofintermediate technology use. Schumacher went ahead and credit hisideologies to Gandhi.
Based on labor intensive, creativity, and renewable sourcestechnology, Gandhi said, "The poor of the world can be helpednot by mass production, but by production by the masses" (Wood,1984). On Gandhi`s reference, the western materialism is reflected inmaximum consumption and production. His credit on Gandhi`s ideologiesas shown from the reference above, discussion of consumerism providesaccess to the process of natural resources depletion following massproduction. The Gandhian call for the proper use of renewableresources reflects on Schumacher`s emphasis on the containment ofhuman wants, which becomes relevant in the rapid depletion of naturalresources, ecosystem, and biodiversity.
Schumacher`s support came as a result of the problems foreseen tocrop up, which include mass production, use of modern technology andheavy machinery, procurement of large quantities of raw materials,and excessive use of energy. Also, it include on bulk production,storage of large warehouses, transportation, and the creation ofwastages, which leads to the degradation of the environment (Pearce &Schumacher, 2006). Additionally, production of bulk and excessive useof energy result in intensive, and Schumacher`s support ofintermediate technology seeks to emphasize in the creation of soundtechnologies for the protection of the environment.
Schumacher`s support of intermediate technology providesopportunities for local employment, an increase in creativity, lowercapital requirement, do dependency on foreign help, focus on localand not on imported resources. Again, Schumacher & Satish (1981)noted that intermediate technology was targeted at addressing fourmain issues: starvation, extreme poverty, urban migration, andunemployment. Schumacher, on his side, saw a major purpose ensureprograms on economic development eradicate extreme poverty. He alsosaw a clear connection between extreme poverty and mass employment(Roy, 1991). Regarding this, Schumacher sought to alter hisdevelopment efforts from biases of local villages to the urban towns,which on increasing majority output per laborer will result in anincrease in employment. Schumacher still went ahead and said thatmachinery is also beautiful because they are eco-friendly.
Regarding intermediate technology, Schumacher describes the properuse of land as part of a major production factor that if takenadvantage of can result in fulfilling particular tasks such as beingthe main source of foods and materials (Duhs & Alvey, 1989).Schumacher gave an example of India regarding the problem ofunemployment. For instance, he quoted that the main challenge ofIndia is far more severe and intensive considering the highpopulation of people at the time. Again, in his book, "Small isBeautiful," one of the major focuses is the environment, itslocal resources, and the impact it has on humanity. Schumacherinforms the reader of two sections of the book, which thecivilization has disregarded fossil fuels and views them asdisposable income instead of as capital, and thus the need forintermediate technology.
Schumacher was also against globalization through is support oflocals and the use of intermediate technology. He illustrated hisviews when he cited what had happened in Peru. He said the oncebeautiful Spanish town had been reduced to slums, which is alsosurrounded by the misery belts. His criticism of globalization, whichhave in turn result in urban development proved his suspicion of thehinterland, which according to Sowell (1985), is a representation ofsociety as a whole. His sentiments against globalization earned himan invited into the White House by then the president of the UnitedStates, Jimmy Carter, on March 22, 1950. His invite was based on hisideas that were viewed to be important and environmentally benign andconservation energy development, globally through reduction oftechnological use.
It was through this invitation to the White House that it becameevident that global problems were not going to be solved by thelarge-scale use of technology. According to (National Film Board ofCanada, 2015), Schumacher`s criticism of globalization was as aresult of the capital intensive approaches that were seen tointensively consume large amounts of non-renewable energy and hasserious harmful impacts on the environment. His support ofintermediate technology demonstrated strategically that intermediateor small-scale technologies can tremendously conserve a large amountof money and most importantly conserve global resources (NationalFilm Board of Canada, 2015). Through his prediction of world energycrisis, it came to pass 18 years later.
On environmental responsibilities, Schumacher contributions came toinspired people of the need towards environmental protection. Ofimportance is that the degradation of the environment is a globalissue, and one of the factors responsible on consumerism. Hisemphasis on the use of intermediate technology instead saw hiscontribution result in a shift of focus to determine a moresustainable approach.
For example, features such as low consumption of fossil fuels, lowcost, and the use of local resources are advantageous for providingsustainability. Therefore, Schumacher`s support of this type oftechnologies was to promote and advocate for alternative andsustainable technology (Wickramasinghe, 2008). Again, criticism ofglobalization saw a section of the countries embrace the use of wastematerials through the use of conventional waste management methods tobuild a sustainable environment.
Evaluation ofE.F. Schumacher`s Relevant Contribution to Political Economy andAnalysis
Many of the issues that Schumacher raised are still battled withuntil today. For instance, he questioned the economic growth of theShibboleth as part of the main preoccupation of politics. He alsotalked about the constraints on resources regarding the developmentof the economy. Here, he insisted and emphasized that human happinesswould be difficult to achieve following material wealth immersed byfew individuals. Schumacher (1977) noted that his human vision waslike a time bomb ready to strike in no time, more so in the 21stcentury with his reference going back to his time in Burma.
The validity of his point politics of the economy is still validdespite a global increase in monetary and resources wealth.Schumacher warned about the issues experienced today on economicdecline and political upheaval in some of the countries. These issueshave in turn gave rise to other serious problems such as increasedmental illness levels, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and stress(Macdonald, 2015). This what the economist feared and one of hismajor answers were the need for little things in "small arebeautiful."
Finally, Schumacher`s major works addressed the broader context ofthe economic philosophy of both politics and economic impactglobally. His economics became a frontal attack on the neo-classicalimpact of economics in general. He also rejected the Marxistanalytical analysis of the society. While Schumacher shares a few ofinstitutionalists concern, he was different in his method ofquestioning the philosophical and moral foundations of the politicaleconomics discipline. According to Sowell (2006), Schumacher can beconsidered to be one of the members of the fourth school ofeconomists and philosophers.
E.F. Schumacher is known for his contributions to the world ofeconomics. His major contributions are in the form of writings,achievements, and work. Of his major writing contributions includethe "Small is Beautiful" and "A Guide for thePerplexed." It is in his book, "Small is Beautiful"that he came up with economic terms such as "Buddha Economics."His philosophical position, for example, is based on theappropriateness of mass production and the impact it has on theeconomy and natural and natural environment and its resources(Schumacher, 1973). Schumacher emphasized in the production of massesinstead. Again, he contributed largely to the school of thoughts. Healso focused on the four levels of being, which included the rock,plant, animal, and human being.
These four levels he said, forms a basis for better understanding oflife. Additionally, Schumacher contributed largely to conventionalthinking about the economy. His contributions led to him supportingthe use of intermediate technology instead towards conservation ofthe environment. In his book, "Small is Beautiful,"Schumacher came out strongly to emphasize on labor intensive,creativity, and renewable sources technology. Finally, His relevancein political economy and economic analysis are focused on the battleand constraints of resources depletion that are still felt untiltoday.
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