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Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered

4.13  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,273 Ratings  ·  298 Reviews
“Nothing less than a full-scale assault on conventional economic wisdom.” —Newsweek

One the 100 most influential books published since World War II

The Times Literary Supplement

Hailed as an “eco-bible” by Time magazine, E.F. Schumacher’s riveting, richly researched statement on sustainability has become more relevant and vital with each year since its initial groundbreakin
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 27th 1989 by Harper Perennial (first published 1973)
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Silent Spring by Rachel CarsonA Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There by Aldo LeopoldThe Lorax by Dr. SeussThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanDesert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
Best Environmental Books
27th out of 561 books — 745 voters
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Best Books of the Decade: 1970's
296th out of 971 books — 1,045 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Elena Holmgren
Apr 15, 2015 Elena Holmgren rated it it was amazing
The conception of economics as a free-standing, autonomous discipline and sphere of activity, and even as an end unto itself, is one of the costliest fallacies of our age. It is precisely this fallacy that this book dismantles. That economic growth should be subordinated to broader human, cultural, political and ecological concerns, and that it should serve human growth by being intelligently harnessed to fuel community-development projects (rather than having politics hijacked by economics by c ...more
Apr 16, 2007 stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in globalization, smart growth, sustainability
I baised, my economic philosophy is very much in agreement with Schumacher.

Schumacher takes economics and makes it human, ethical, and easy to understand. Shumacher's perspective is economics as a set of tools to assess and answer questions rather than economics as the answer itself. He highlights the shortcomings of statistical models (i.e., "externalities" such as quality of life, environmental degradation, social impacts, etc are not assessed).

The response to Small is Beautiful was the creati
May 19, 2009 Michelle rated it really liked it
This book was written by EF Schumacher, a German economist. As an Economics graduate at a conservative liberal arts university in the US South, I enjoyed the philosophy and ideas put forward in "Small is Beautiful". Trust me, this was not on my reading list...I am fascinated with the idea that capitalism has become the new religion for the US/West and that envy/greed the primary morals. The book discusses how capitalistic systems push for growth to solve problems, including poverty, unemployment ...more
Oct 29, 2009 Kristen rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction

I’ve never been all that interested in macroeconomics, but intrigued by the title, I gave Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher a try. It was a long read, but a good one, and I culled interesting insights from every chapter. Schumacher’s visionary simplicity with the largest elements of society were radical 30 years ago, but incredibly relevant, then and today.

A fair portion of the book is spent emphasizing the way our economy is unsustainable and how quickly we use up our natural resources. Sch
Clif Brittain
Dec 27, 2009 Clif Brittain rated it it was amazing
It has been thirty years since I read this book for the first time. I had my original copy, so it was interesting to see what I'd highlighted and noted at that time. In most cases, I agree with the note, but it was especially interesting to see what the differences were.

I've studied a lot of economics since that time, and it surprises me that so little of Schumacher's prejudices against the "religion" of economics have taken hold. Economics is so one dimensional (profit on a micro scale and GNP
This is a very dry book on economics based on metaphysics. It questions modern motives and provides some insightfull answers to them.

A great read altogether.
Nick Klagge
Mar 24, 2011 Nick Klagge rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics
This is a tough one for me to rate. There were parts of it that I found quite insightful, parts that seemed very dated, parts that felt like a big letdown.

Some thoughts:

-EFS writes clearly about the problem of the "hedonic treadmill" (though he doesn't use that term) for materialist capitalism: "There are poor societies which have too little, but where is the rich society that says: 'Halt! We have enough'? There is none."

-He advocates a "third way" between laissez-faire capitalism and state soci
Hesham Khaled
Jan 24, 2016 Hesham Khaled rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics, capitalism
E.F. Schumacher was an economist, And he wrote Small is Beautiful to talk about the economic
problems we have in the world.

this book was published back in the late ‘70s, and it has been updated more recently.

the basic idea of Small is Beautiful is that our economies in the world are big, big businesses, have become too big. And they are not sustainable anymore.
we’re destroying the planet Earth because we are consuming too much. Our economies are too big; our population, too big; our companies
Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership
One of Cambridge Sustainability's Top 50 Books for Sustainability, as voted for by our alumni network of over 3,000 senior leaders from around the world. To find out more, click here.

Small is Beautiful is a collection of essays outlining economist EF Schumacher's philosophy on modern economic, ecological and spiritual thinking. Its strength lies in Schumacher's ability to elegantly and intelligently question many assumptions of modern economics, highlighting some of the fallacies. What makes his
Titus L
Aug 25, 2011 Titus L rated it it was amazing
Although a bit dated which is apparent when he refers to specific details, Schumacher's 1973 book Small Is Beautiful; Economics As If People Mattered is a wonderful starters introduction to Economics and how the preoccupation with profit and materialism has begun to undermine the deeper and higher values upon which human society might be built.
Schumacher provides a series of simple to understand perspectives on how the world businesses might practice a more inclusive and compassionate set of val
Ian Russell
Jun 07, 2009 Ian Russell rated it liked it
Recommends it for: schumacher fans, economic historians, nearly everyone else
Recommended to Ian by: resurgence magazine
In an ideal world - as we are talking about ideal worlds, I suppose - I would give Small Is Beautiful five stars: it contains ideas that everyone should be aware of. So, for the ideas, five stars!

Unfortunately however, there are different ways to review a book and as a work of literature I found it slightly disappointing. Obviously Schumacher was a great economist-thinker of his day and, I imagine, a charismatic speaker, but this doesn't convince me writing was another of his strong suits. Some
Read for class.

Several extremely interesting economic ideas, including pointing out some of the flaws with some economic statistical models, as well as offering some very interesting solutions. I admit some of these are too idealistic to be practical, but many of them are very interesting. The book also has a clearly religious disposition, which may turn off some freethinkers, but the ideas are still substantial enough to be considered and applied, as seen in the Bhutan.

A very interesting book.
Schumacher discourses on economics, through the prism of an ethics of care and respect for human dignity. Although some ideas are dated and the Christian grounding gives his metaphysical comments a flavour that can't help but put me off, this book contains several insights and ideas which merit interest & attention today. These include the absurdity of treating non-renewable resources as income instead of capital, the central importance of fulfilling work to human well-being and the need for ...more
Manuel Alfonseca
Mar 04, 2016 Manuel Alfonseca rated it really liked it
Although I don't agree with everything he says, this small book by Schumacher contains extremely interesting ideas. I liked especially his chapters about education (which he calls The Greatest Resource) and about the prediction of future.

I intend to use these ideas in several future posts in my blog: in English and in Spanish.
Sai Pitre
Jul 22, 2015 Sai Pitre rated it really liked it
I would classify E.F. Schumacher as an economic philosopher. His thoughts are valid not just in Growth & Development economics but also extend to aspect of microeconomics, corporate culture, human resources and environmental economics. Schumacher is a Gandhian at heart. Nowhere is his writing pure theorising. There are practical application to problems in fields as diverse as you can imagine. The economics we learn in school seems very biased and this book presents a different way to look at ...more
Pierre E. Loignon

Si je devais recommander un livre à lire pour critiquer l'économie de marché capitaliste et présenter une conception plus englobante et plus humaine de l'économie, pour moi Small is Beautiful vient en tête de liste.
L'économie de surconsommation actuelle, qui s'impose de plus en plus en tant que principe d'État, comme véritable culture du pouvoir, inhumaine et destructrice de la nature commence à montrer de manière de plus en plus évidente ses failles et les périls qu'elle fait peser sur notre av
Samuel Rajkumar
I'm in complete agreement with the author that economics does not treat people and nature differently from inanimate assets and liabilities. However, truly frightening is the author's prescription that we, and the institutions of state, must become religious, and only then will we accord nature and people with the respect that is due to them. From the book it would seem as if all this 'dehumanizing' is only because of the development of science and technology and the decline of 'spirituality' (h ...more
Feb 13, 2013 Becky rated it it was ok
Shelves: unfinished
Oof, tried to read this but found it dated and preachy. Some of Schumacher's fundamental ideas are wonderful and important, but I can't read books that make blanket statements about the iniquity and moral vacuity of modern society & how things were better before the 19th/20th/21st century.

Also, if you're writing for an audience of non-conformists in the seventies and you're NOT a feminist, shame on you. (Schumacher says that "most" women shouldn't have to work, yet claims that meaningful wor
Dec 13, 2007 Ian rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Corporations and capitalism are evil. Blah blah blah. More simplistic garbage drenched in Eastern mythology. I appreciate the attempt of the author to save the world from consuming itself into its grave, but such an effort deserves far more academic rigor than that exemplified by this book.

This was assigned to me in class long ago. Admirable, but forgettable.
Oct 22, 2007 Javier rated it it was ok
Shelves: post-college
Granted, I only read 2 of the articles from this book, but I found the ideas there to be little more than Bono-esque bullshit (that is, Bono with regard to development issues--not Bono with regard to 'life').
Jul 21, 2015 Alexis rated it really liked it
It's amazing how old this idea is and yet how little we really take to heart. let us change.
Apr 14, 2016 Shaun rated it really liked it
Dated, Still Relevant

The last great finical debacle, the one in 2007, is still affecting people the world over, but the affect is still heavy in American. I was personally affected, my wife and I both lost jobs. We have yet to recover from that. There was a snow storm a few weeks back. It occurred when the Polar Vortex slipped it’s usual spot over the North Pole and paid North America a visit. The company I work for is dependent upon trucks from Chicago based warehouses to fulfill the retail st
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 08, 2013 Cris rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, economics
A wonderful collection of essays by this seminal economist born at the turn of the century who is still very relevant today. Although his work has been praised by those espousing the Distributist philosophy of economics, his work has many more facets worth exploring in the areas of ethics, environmentalism, corporate management, women's studies and political science. This book has often been used as a textbook because despite dealing with very intricate economic topics and important philosophic ...more
Sai Chand
Sep 11, 2012 Sai Chand rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 14, 2014 Dylan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This 1973 take on industrial and global economics is as applicable now as it was back then. Schumacher, perhaps the first to develop the notion of natural capital, argues for both the virtues and necessity of a sustainable economy, and he examines insightfully (if broadly) the requirements for such an economy. The book is an overflowing blend of realism and idealism, and this explains part of its attraction.

It also sheds a somewhat disconcerting light on the present environmental movement, a mov
Oct 11, 2009 Ben rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This treatise from E.F. Schumacher makes an excellent, clearly written case for a more humane brand of economics, politics, and the way we structure our societies. First published back in 1973 and drawn from essays and speeches first written even earlier, Small Is Beautiful remains amazingly current today. This is both a testament to the power of Schumacher's ideas and a cause for dismay, as it highlights how little progress we've made fighting poverty, inequality and environmental destruction o ...more
Laura Jordan
I will admit to skimming a lot of this. But the underlying message is one that I am fully convinced of: that "logical absurdity...destructive of civilization...[is] the pretense that everything has a price or, in other words, that money is the highest of all values" (48). It reminds me a lot of the ridiculousness that many of my students repeat, the belief -- without actually thinking it through -- that the only reason anyone would do anything is because of money. (Sometimes I want to yell at th ...more
Aug 24, 2012 Steve rated it really liked it
Schumacher does a great job in identifying the problem with modern economics and modern economic theory: profit is the motive for all economic activity. Schumacher spends the first 2/3 of this book explaining how economics really is about the human person. If economics does not serve the person then it is broken. Unfortunately in the last third of the book the solutions Schumacher proposes do not strike me as valid solutions: socialism or "public ownership" is not the answer to capitalism; it me ...more
The classic critique of the trends towards centralization, corporatism, and globalization, trends just becoming to become powerful at the time the book was written. Schumacher, a trained and highly experienced economist, addressed the unsustainable nature of the current economic models not only from an economic and environmental standpoint, but also from a spiritual perspective. Buddhism was a strong influence on the philosophy of the book. It promotes small-scale economic markets and systems, c ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: please update book cover 3 12 Jan 18, 2015 11:17AM  
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Ernst Friedrich "Fritz" Schumacher 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.
More about Ernst F. Schumacher...

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“Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology toward the organic, the gentle, the elegant and beautiful.” 41 likes
“An attitude to life which seeks fulfilment in the
single-minded pursuit of wealth - in short, materialism - does not fit into this
world, because it contains within itself no limiting principle, while the
environment in which it is placed is strictly limited.”
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