E. F. Schumacher, fully Ernst Friedrich "Fritz" Schumacher

E. F.
Schumacher, fully Ernst Friedrich "Fritz" Schumacher
1911
1977

British Economic Thinker, Statistician, Economist and Author best known for "Small Is Beautiful" and "A Guide for the Perplexed"

Author Quotes

The most ?real? world we live in is that of our fellow human beings. Without them we should experience a sense of enormous emptiness; we could hardly be human ourselves, for we are made or marred by our relations with other people. The company of animals could console us only because, and to the extent to which, they were reminders, even caricatures, of human beings. A world without fellow human beings would be an eerie and unreal place of banishment; with neither fellow humans nor animals the world would be a dreadful wasteland, no matter how luscious its vegetation. To call it one-dimensional would not seem to be an exaggeration. Human existence in a totally inanimate environment, if it were possible, would be total emptiness, total despair. It may seem absurd to pursue such a line of thought, but it is surely not so absurd as a view which counts as ?real? only inanimate matter and treats as ?unreal,? ?subjective,? and therefore scientifically nonexistent the invisible dimensions of life, consciousness, and self-awareness.

This power z has undoubtedly a great deal to do with the fact that man is not only able to think but is also able to be aware of his thinking. Consciousness and intelligence, as it were, recoil upon themselves. There is not merely a conscious being, but a being capable of being conscious of its consciousness; not merely a thinker, but a thinker capable of watching and studying his own thinking. There is something able to say ?I? and to direct consciousness in accordance with its own purposes, a master or controller, a power at a higher level than consciousness itself. This power z, consciousness recoiling upon itself, opens up unlimited possibilities of purposeful learning, investigating, exploring, and of formulating and accumulating knowledge? We must, however, take great care always to remember that such a word label is merely (to use a Buddhist phrase) ?a finger pointing to the moon.? The ?moon? itself remains highly mysterious and needs to be studied with the greatest patience and perseverance if we want to understand anything about man?s position in the Universe.

Thus the maps ceased to be of any help to people in the awesome task of picking their way through life? The loss of the vertical dimension meant that it was no longer possible to give an answer, other than a utilitarian one, to the question, "What am I to do with my life?" The answer could be more individualistic-selfish or more social-unselfish, but it could not help being utilitarian: either "Make yourself as comfortable as you can" or "Work for the greatest happiness of the greatest number"? Without the qualitative concepts of "higher" and "lower" it is impossible to even think of guidelines for living that lead beyond individual or collective utilitarianism and selfishness.

To accept anything as true means to incur the risk of error. If I limit myself to knowledge that I consider true beyond doubt, I minimize the risk of error but I maximize, at the same time, the risk of missing out on what may be the subtlest, most important and most rewarding things in life.

To say that life is nothing but a property of certain peculiar combinations of atoms is like saying that Shakespeare?s Hamlet is nothing but a property of a peculiar combination of letters. The truth is that the peculiar combination of letters is nothing but a property of Shakespeare?s Hamlet.

We cannot say: "Hold it! I am not quite ready. Wait until I have sorted things out." Decisions have to be taken that we are not ready for; aims have to be chosen that we cannot see clearly. This is very strange and, on the face of it, quite irrational. Human beings ... hesitate, doubt, change their minds, run hither and thither, uncertain not simply of how to get what they want, but above all of what they want.

At the level of animal... the power of doing, organizing and utilizing is immeasurably extended; there is evidence of an "inner life," of happiness and unhappiness, confidence, fear, expectation, disappointment and so forth. Any being with an inner life cannot be a mere object: it is a subject itself, capable even of treating other beings as mere objects, as the cat treats the mouse. At the human level, there is a subject that says "I" ? a person: another marked change from passivity to activity, from object to subject. To treat a person as if he or she were a mere object is a perversity, not to say a crime. No matter how such a person may be weighed down and enslaved by circumstances, there is always the possibility of self-assertion and rising above circumstances... There is no definable limit to his possibilities, even though there are practical limitations which he has to recognize and respect.

Because of the power of self-awareness (z), [the human] faculties are indeed infinite; they are not narrowly determined, confined, or ?programmed?... Once a human potentiality is realized, it exists? This ?open-endedness? is the wonderful result of the specifically human powers of self-awareness (z), which, as distinct from the powers of life and consciousness, have nothing automatic or mechanical about them. The powers of self-awareness are essentially a limitless potentiality rather than an actuality. They have to be developed and ?realized? by each human individual if he is to become truly human, that is to say, a person? Self-awareness is the rarest power of all, precious and vulnerable to the highest degree, the supreme and generally fleeting achievement of a person, present one moment and all too easily gone the next.

It then occurred to me that this was not the first time I had been given a map that failed to show many of the things I could see right in front of my eyes. All through school and university I had been given maps of life and knowledge on which there was hardly a trace of many of the things that I most cared about and that seemed to me to be of the greatest possible importance for the conduct of my life. I remembered that for many years my perplexity was complete; and no interpreter came along to help me. It remained complete until I ceased to suspect the sanity of my perceptions and began, instead, to suspect the soundness of the maps.

Mapmaking is an empirical art which makes use of a high degree of abstraction but none the less clings to reality with something akin to self-abandonment. Its motto, in a sense, is "Accept everything; reject nothing." If something is there, if it has any kind of existence ... it must be indicated on the map, in its proper place.

The maps of real knowledge, designed for real life, showed nothing except things which allegedly could be proved to exist. The first principle of the philosophical mapmakers seemed to be "If in doubt, leave it out," or put it into a museum. It occurred to me, however, that the question of what constitutes proof was a very subtle and difficult one. Would it not be wiser to turn the principle into its opposite and say: "If in doubt, show it prominently"? After all, matters that are beyond doubt are, in a sense, dead; they do not constitute a challenge to the living.

We must do what we conceive to be the right thing and not bother our heads or burden our souls with whether we’re going to be successful. Because if we don’t do the right thing, we’ll be doing the wrong thing, and we’ll just be part of the disease and not a part of the cure.

All the indications are that the present structure of large-scale industrial enterprise, in spite of heavy taxation and an endless proliferation of legislation, is not conducive to the public welfare.

Economic development is something much wider and deeper than economics, let alone econometrics. Its roots lie outside the economic sphere, in education, organization, discipline and, beyond that, in political independence and a national consciousness of self-reliance.

I believe, therefore, that the best way to make contact with the essential problem is by speaking of technology: economic development in poverty-stricken areas can be fruitful only on the basis of what I have called "intermediate technology." In the end, intermediate technology will be "labor-intensive" and will lend itself to the use of small-scale establishments

In our work with the developing countries we are at least forced to recognize the limitations of poverty, and this work can therefore be a wholesome school for all of us in which, while generally trying to help others, we may also gain knowledge and experience of how to help ourselves.

Man talks of a battle with Nature, forgetting that if he won the battle, he would find himself on the losing side.

Since there is now increasing evidence of environmental deterioration, particularly in living nature, the entire outlook and methodology of economics is being called into question. The study of economics is too narrow and too fragmentary to lead to valid insights, unless complemented and completed by a study of meta-economics.

The effort needed to sustain a way of life which seeks to attain the optimal pattern of consumption is likely to be much smaller than the effort needed to sustain a drive for maximum consumption.

The power of ordinary people, who today tend to feel utterly powerless, does not lie in starting new lines of action, but in placing their sympathy and support with minority groups which have already started.

There is no such thing as the viability of states or of nations, there is only a problem of viability of people: people, actual persons like you and me, are viable when they can stand on their own feet and earn their keep. You do not make non-viable people viable by putting large numbers of them into one huge community, and you do not make viable people non-viable by splitting a large community into a number of smaller, more intimate, more coherent and more manageable groups.

What is at fault is no specialization, but the lack of depth with which the subjects are usually presented, and the absence of metaphysical awareness.

Although we are in possession of all requisite knowledge, it still requires a systematic, creative effort to bring this technology into active existence and make it generally visible and available. It is my experience that it is rather more difficult to recapture directness and simplicity than to advance in the direction of ever more sophistication and complexity.

Economic growth, which viewed from the point of view of economics, physics, chemistry, and technology, has no discernible limit must necessary run into decisive bottlenecks when viewed from the point of view of the environmental sciences. An attitude to life which seeks fulfillment 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.

I have argued all along, no system of machinery or economic doctrine or theory stands on its own feet: it is invariably built on a metaphysical foundation, that is to say, upon man's basic outlook on life, its meaning and its purpose.

Author Picture
First Name
E. F.
Last Name
Schumacher, fully Ernst Friedrich "Fritz" Schumacher
Birth Date
1911
Death Date
1977
Bio

British Economic Thinker, Statistician, Economist and Author best known for "Small Is Beautiful" and "A Guide for the Perplexed"