Small is Beautiful

Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered, (1973) is the title of a collection of essays by the economist E.F. Schumacher. It was very popular in the counter culture of the time and many of its arguments are now more widely made, as we face problems like global warming.

From a literary point of view it is interesting because Schumacher argued that the humanities, and literature in particular, are of prime importance because they teach us how to live. Not a unique point of view but most unusual coming from an economist:

“What do I miss, as a human being, if I have never heard of the Second Law of Thermodynamics? The answer is: Nothing. And what do I miss by not knowing Shakespeare? Unless I get my understanding from another source, I simply miss my life. Shall we tell our children that one thing is as good as another– here a bit of knowledge of physics, and there a bit of knowledge of literature? If we do so, the sins of the fathers will be visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation, because that normally is the time it takes from the birth of an idea to its full maturity when it fills the minds of a new generation and makes them think by it.” E.F. Schumacher

n 1995 The Times Literary Supplement ranked Small Is Beautiful among the 100 most influential books published sinceWorld War II

If you would like to read more about it, here is a Guardian article by Madeleine Bunting:

“Looking back over the intervening almost four decades, the book’s influence has been enormous. “Small is beautiful” was a radical challenge to the 20th century’s intoxication with what Schumacher described as “gigantism”. “

For a completely different take on the theme I’d like to return to William Blake. I don’t think that Auguries of Innocence is his finest poem, much of it is a long series of moralising couplets, but the beginning is Blake at his transcendental best.:

‘To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower 
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 
And Eternity in an hour’

William Blake, (published 1863 but thought to be written in 1803)

The rest can be read here:

One thought on “Small is Beautiful

  1. Good things come in small packages

    Often said by parents of small children

    Baby animals puppies kittens and birds such as chicks
    Are all cute and lovely except (in my opinion
    Baby herons cannot be called lovely nor cute)

    Small is Beautiful is the title of a book by
    E.F. Schumacher in which he proposes that
    large industries and large cities
    would lead to the depletion of natural resources.

    TardigradeSchokraie E, Warnken U, Hotz-Wagenblatt A, Grohme MA, Hengherr S, et al. (2012)

    Tardigrades are usually about 0.5 mm (0.02 in) long when fully grown.
    They are short and plump, with four pairs of legs,
    each ending in claws (usually four to eight) or suction disks.
    Very resilient small animals that have been sent into outer space
    And survived even after thirty years without food and water
    I would not describe them as beautiful but
    Beauty does lie in the eye of the beholder

    So this piece too is small
    As I have run out of thoughts



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