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Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  5,372 ratings  ·  521 reviews
"Nothing less than a full-scale assault on conventional economic wisdom."

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 groundbreaking
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 27th 1989 by Harper Perennial (first published 1973)
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Aug 05, 2014 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
Clif Brittain
Dec 25, 2009 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
Sep 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dew01-499, 1970s
"Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology toward the organic, the gentle, the elegant and beautiful.” Quote of 1970s wisdom
1/17/20 - Reading David Brooks editorial today bringing back memories of my enthusiasm for small scale economics. The NYT opinion writer making a case for 'Big is Beautiful'
NYT article that describes changes in our small town by big companies:
"Thus, the core problem is not cap
Mar 22, 2007 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
Oct 29, 2009 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
May 30, 2012 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 work is
May 19, 2009 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
Nick Klagge
Mar 14, 2011 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
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
Manuel Alfonseca
Feb 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
ENGLISH: 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 have used these ideas in several posts in my blog such as in English and in Spanish. For instance, here:

ESPAÑOL: Aunque no estoy de acuerdo co
Hesham Khaled
Oct 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: capitalism, economics
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
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.
Ian Russell
May 24, 2009 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
Titus L
Aug 25, 2011 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
Sai Pitre
Jul 08, 2015 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 it ...more
Dec 13, 2007 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.
May 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered."

The Economics of E.F. Schumacher is what matters to people even if it's not endorsed by Governments, Companies and other Economists alike. This book is the most unusual treatise, enormously broad in scope, pithily weaving together threads from Galbraith and Gandhi, capitalism and Buddhism, science and psychology. Schumacher's Economics is more humane, ethical, moral, realistic and very close to nature. His economics is explained so succintly
Larry Bassett
This book has been a part of my mental image of how the world ought to be for as long as I can remember. While the book was published in 1973 I think I had the notions in my mind even before that. Economic success should not be based on the largest size or the largest profits but the largest benefit to people. But I had never actually read the book as amazing as that seems. Now I have finally read it as it approaches its 50th anniversary.

The book has a few too many biblical references for my lik
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 an ...more
Christopher Gow
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ethics
Still so relevant tho it was written almost 40 years ago, with a few exceptions. This book does a really good job of critiquing capitalist assumptions and actually presenting an alternative vision for corporations.

I love his approach to developmental economics: employing "intermediate technologies" to build markets without exports. Slow, sustainable growth with the same investment of capital to combat the creation of a "dual economy".

Ultimately, he argues for a blend between competitive free ma
Sep 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
A classic treatise on Gandhian economics, or as the title says, "people centered economics". Schumacher provides a good criticism of the modern methods of production that resulted from the desacrilisation of nature and man. Production relations that resulted in the alienation of man from his work and creative spirit, and the culture of mass production and mass consumption that led to the ruthless and violent exploitation of nature.
He rightly challenges the unsustainable path of accumulation and
Jan 11, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school
Now we didn't have to read every chapter (thankfully), and there were some we had to read multiple times. Let me just say I really disagree with Schumacher's views. I really disliked his chapter where he put down the sciences, I'm a chemistry major and that whole chapter I yelled at him in my mind. Apparently to him only the humanities matter because they teach you 'the meaning of life.' *eye roll* So glad to be done with him. Just need that last part I read long enough to write next week's pape ...more
Mar 06, 2012 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. ...more
Jan 23, 2014 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
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
Small is Beautiful is a collection of speeches given by the author and as such some chapters are easier to comprehend than others. For the novice economist this book provides the language to understand and reflect on the economy and economic matters. It also goes some way to dispel myths such as economics being a subject far above the fathoming capacity of the lay person, or that the economy should be the top issue of any society worth its salt.

At a time when economic growth is advocated for abo
Mark Conrad
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was ok
Some very very wonderful bits regarding the intersection on economics and Bhuddism, and then a few hundred pages of armchair philosophy which has been proved mostly wrong since the book was written.
Sep 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
I'm proud to add Small is Beautiful to the list of significant books I've read, but getting through Schumacher's economics classic was a long, hard slog for me. I persevered only because of its reputation and my desire to self-educate, and not because of any pleasure or learning it gave me.

First, though, I laughed at the way my husband enunciated Small Is Beautiful's subtitle. Economics … As IF People Mattered!

I don't necessarily have a problem with Schumacher's overall premise, which is at leas
Dio Mavroyannis
Mar 13, 2020 rated it did not like it
Honestly I've been looking for a book that criticizes economies of scale and defends decentralization. But instead we get the rantings of somebody who doesn't even understand the economic arguments and especially the price system. Its just sophism all the way through, a book made to confuse the gullible.

He makes such silly statements as "there is universal agreement that the fundamental source of human wealth is labor", this is just so silly... he doesn't even define wealth... but the short ans
Oct 17, 2007 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
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
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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

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“Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology toward the organic, the gentle, the elegant and beautiful.” 60 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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