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

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.

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.

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.

At present, there can be little doubt that the whole of mankind is in mortal danger, not because we are short of scientific and technological know-how, but because we tend to use it destructively, without wisdom. More education can help us only if produces more wisdom.

Even today, we are generally told that gigantic organizations are inescapably necessary; but when we look closely we can notice that as soon as great size has been created there is often a strenuous attempt to attain smallness within bigness.

If [businessmen] themselves pursue objectives other than that of profit-making, they cannot very well argue that it becomes impossible to administer the nation's means of production efficiently as soon as considerations other than those of profit-making are allowed to enter.

It is necessary, therefore, that at least an important part of the development effort should by-pass the big cities and be directly concerned with the creation of an "agro-industrial structure" in the rural and small-town areas.

Nobody really likes large-scale organization; nobody likes to take orders from a superior who takes orders from a superior who takes ordersÂ…Even if the rules devised by bureaucracy are outstandingly humane, nobody likes to be ruled by rules, that is to say, by people whose answer to every complaint is: "I did not make the rules: I am merely applying them."

The answer is self-evident: greed and envy demand continuous and limitless economic growth of a material kind, without proper regard for conservation, and this type of growth cannot possibly fit into a finite environment.

The marketÂ… represents only the surface of society and its significance relates to the momentary situation as it exists there and then. There is no probing into the depths of things, into the natural or social facts that lie behind them. In a sense, the market is the institutionalization of individualism and non-responsibility. Neither buyer nor seller is responsible for anything but himself.

The truth is that a large part of the costs of private enterprise has been borne by the public authorities—because they pay for the infrastructure—and that the profits of private enterprise therefore greatly overstate its achievement.

We can say that man's management of the land must be primarily orientated towards three goals – health, beauty, and permanence. The fourth goal – the only once accepted by the experts – productivity, will then be attained almost as a by-product.

Yet it remains an unalterable truth that, just as a sound mind depends on a sound body, so the health of the cities depends on the health of the rural areas. The cities, with all their wealth, are merely secondary producers, while primary production, the precondition of all economic life, takes place in the countryside.

Before we can talk about giving aid, we must have something to give. We do not have thousands of poverty-stricken villages in our country; so what do we know about effective methods of self-help in such circumstances?

Everywhere people ask: "What can I actually do?" The answer is as simple as it is disconcerting: we can, each of us, work to put our own inner house in order. The guidance we need for this work cannot be found in science or technology, the value of which utterly depends on the ends they serve; but it can still be found in the traditional wisdom of mankind.

If aid is given to introduce certain new economic activities, these will be beneficial and viable only if they can be sustained by the already existing educational level of fairly broad groups of people, and they will be truly valuable only if they promote and spread advances in educations, organization, and disciplineÂ…It follow from this that development is not primarily a problem for economists, least of all for economists whose expertise is founded on a crudely materialistic philosophy.

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"