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

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.

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.

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.

And what is my case? Simply that our most important task is to get off our present collision course. And who is there to tackle such a task? I think every one of us, whether old or young, powerful or powerless, rich or poor, influential or un-influential.

EconomicsÂ… deals with goods in accordance with their market value and not in accordance with what they really are. The same rules and criteria are applied to primary goods, which man has to win from nature, and secondary goods, which presuppose the existence of primary goods, and are manufactured from them. All goods are treated the same, because the point of view is fundamentally that of private profit-making, and this means that it is inherent in the methodology of economics to ignore man's dependence on the natural world.

I say, therefore, that the dynamic approach to development, which treats the choice of appropriate, intermediate technologies as the central issue, opens up avenues of constructive action, which the static, econometric approach totally fails to recognize.

In this respect, the idea of private enterprise fits exactly into the idea of The Market, which, in an earlier chapter, I called "the institutionalization of individualism and non-responsibility."

Nature always… knows where and when to stop. Greater even than the mystery of natural growth is the mystery of the natural cessation of growth. There is measure in all natural things – in their size, speed, or violence. As a result, the system of nature, of which man is a part, tends to be self-balancing, self-adjusting, self-cleansing.

Statistics never prove anything.

The fundamental task is to achieve smallness within the large organization.

The reign of quantity celebrates its greatest triumphs in "the Market." Everything is equated with everything else. To equate things means to give them a price and thus to make them exchangeable. To the extent that economic thinking is based on the market, it takes the sacredness out of life, because there can be nothing sacred in something that has a price.

To press non-economic values into the framework of the economic calculus, economists use the method of cost/benefit analysis. This is generally thought to be an enlightened and progressive development, as it is at least an attempt to take account of costs and benefits which might otherwise be disregarded altogether. In fact, however, it is a procedure by which the higher is reduced to the level of the lower and the priceless is given a price. It can therefore never serve to clarify the situation and lead to an enlightened decision. All it can do is lead to self-deception or the deception of others; all one has to do to obtain the desired results is to impute suitable values to the immeasurable costs and benefits. The logical absurdity, however, is not the greatest fault of the undertaking: with is worse, and destructive of civilization, is the pretense that everything has a price or, in other words, that money is the highest of all values.

What we have today, in modern industrial society, is not romantic and certainly not utopianÂ…But it is in very deep trouble and holds no promise of survival. We jolly well have to have the courage to dream if we want to survive and give our children a chance of survival.

Anything that we can destroy, but are unable to make is, in a sense, sacred, and all our 'explanations' of it do not explain anything.

Economists themselves, like most specialists, normally suffer from a kind of metaphysical blindness, assuming that theirs is a science of absolute and invariable truths, without any presuppositions.

I thus come to the cheerful conclusion that life, including economic life, is still worth living because it is sufficiently unpredictable to be interesting.

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"