Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered
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Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  2,430 ratings  ·  240 reviews
The classic of common-sense economics. "Enormously broad in scope, pithily weaving together threads from Galbraith and Gandhi, capitalism and Buddhism, science and psychology."-- The New Republic
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 27th 1989 by Harper Perennial (first published 1973)
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Apr 16, 2007 stephanie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Clif Brittain
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...more

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...more
Celestial Elf
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...more
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
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...more
Ian Russell
Jun 07, 2009 Ian Russell rated it 3 of 5 stars
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...more
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
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.
Nick Klagge
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...more
Thom Foolery
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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...more
Sai Chand
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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...more
Rafa Monteiro
"The cultivation and expansion of needs is the antithesis
of wisdom. It is also the antithesis of freedom and peace.
Every increase of needs tends to increase one's dependence
on outside forces over which one cannot have control,
and therefore increases existential fear. Only by a
reduction of needs can one promote a genuine reduction
in those tensions which are the ultimate causes of strife
and war."
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
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
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
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
I skipped a lot of the end because I did not really care about what he was talking about. His overall point is good. He says that economics currently is a religion where you have to believe it all or else your out. Its a system that makes people work crappy jobs because it increases efficiency (think factory line) and it does not take into consideration the fact that we are destroying our world. He points out the "obvious" which is that unlimited growth in a finite world is impossible. Overall n...more
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...more
Nick de meersman
I start reading it out of curiosity and to find out if despite it's age it still has value today beyond a curiosity of the 70ties.

It has, yes it does have parts that are outdated and the curious occasional bible references can be a bit baffling. However the core of the book still remains worthwhile. What Schumacher noted as the growing domination of scientific economic thinking has only increased since the 70ties as has materialistic obsession, short term objectives and a decrease in abstract e...more
Jesse Hanson
‎"Don' know much about Economy" but I still think this li'l ol' book has many of the answers.

I was turned onto this book by a young man, Krishna Balarama, who was embarking upon the educational path of becoming a medical doctor. He expressed his motivation for that career choice something like this: he felt that the distinction, the prestige, of a being a doctor would lend credibility to his social activism. I just heard news of his entering an intern program.
Marcy Rugland
We've heard the phrase "too big to fail" alot recently, which makes me think are big business and big government the optimum? When people feel a sense of ownership over their work and their lives, when they feel truly included in decisions that affect them, they are more likely to take genuine care in making things the best they can be. It's the difference between the mindset of an owner vs a renter (when was the last time you washed a rental car?).
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...more
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.
David Koblos
One of the best and most moving books I have ever read. It points out very skillfully what is exactly wrong with modern industrial society, and he offers an alternative: appropriate technology, respect for human values, and especially bringing things back to the small scale. I can recommend this book to everyone, not only, but especially to economists.
A rather peculiar work, but on the whole, brilliant. I hadn't known beforehand that this was a bundle of separately conceived essays written over a number of years, rather than an integrated book. Parts of the structure could have been much more tightly edited, but on the whole the general argument - a call for *balance* between large and small enterprise, rather than a fetishisation of either option - is well made.

Schumacher, in this book, exhibited little understanding whatsoever of the primac...more
Lucie Smoker
Though some of the opening chapter may seem dated, the ideas and information in this book are priceless - today and forever. Written for the layman but with enough bite to be of benefit even to a you g economist,, Small is Beautiful changed the whole game in Economics.
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“Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology toward the organic, the gentle, the elegant and beautiful.” 33 likes
“If greed were not the master of modern man--ably assisted by envy--how could it be that the frenzy of economism does not abate as higher "standards of living" are attained, and that it is precisely the richest societies which pursue their economic advantage with the greatest ruthlessness? How could we explain the almost universal refusal on the part of the rulers of the rich societies--where organized along private enterprise or collective enterprise lines--to work towards the humanisation of work? It is only necessary to assert that something would reduce the "standard of living" and every debate is instantly closed. That soul-destroying, meaningless, mechanical, monotonous, moronic work is an insult to human nature which must necessarily and inevitably produce either escapism or aggression, and that no amount of of "bread and circuses" can compensate for the damage done--these are facts which are neither denied nor acknowledged but are met with an unbreakable conspiracy of silence--because to deny them would be too obviously absurd and to acknowledge them would condemn the central preoccupation of modern society as a crime against humanity.” 31 likes
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