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

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.

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.

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.

Can we establish an ideology, or whatever you like to call it, which insists that the educated have taken upon themselves an obligation and have not simply acquired a "passport to privilege"? Â…It is, you might well say, an elementary matter of justice.

From an economic point of view, the central concept of wisdom is permanence. We must study an economics of permanence.

If technology is felt to be becoming more and more inhuman, we might do well to consider whether it is possible to have something better - a technology with a human face.

It is true that all men are brothers, but it is also true that in our active personal relationships we can, in fact, be brothers to only a few of them, and we are called upon to show more brotherliness to them than we could possibly show to the whole of mankind.

One of the most fateful errors of our age is the belief that the problem of production has been solved. The illusionÂ…is mainly due to our inability to recognize that the modern industrial system, with all its intellectual sophistication, consumes the very basis on which it has been erected. To use the language of the economist, it lives on irreplaceable capital which it cheerfully treats as income.

The common criterion of success, namely the growth of GNP, is utterly misleading and, in fact, must of necessity lead to phenomena which can only be described as neo-colonialism.

The neglect, indeed the rejection, of wisdom has gone so far that most of our intellectuals have not even the faintest idea what the term could mean. As a result, they always tend to try and cure a disease by intensifying its causes. The disease having been caused by allowing cleverness to displace wisdom, no amount of clever research is likely to produce a cure. But what is wisdom? Where can it be found? Here we come to the crux of the matter: it can be read about in numerous publications but it can be found only inside oneself.

There are always some things which we do for their own sakes, and there are other things which we do for some other purpose. One of the most important tasks for any society is to distinguish between ends and means-to-ends, and to have some sort of cohesive view and argument about this.

We may say, therefore, that modern technology has deprived man of the kind of work that he enjoys most, creative, useful work with hands and brains, and given him plenty f work of a fragmented kind, most of which he does not enjoy at allÂ…we might do well to take stock and reconsider our goals.

Character, at the same time, is formed primarily by a man's work. And work, properly conducted in conditions of human dignity and freedom, blesses those who do it equally their products.

From the point of view of the employer, it is in any case simply an item of cost, to be reduced to a minimum if it cannot be eliminated altogether, say, by automation. From the point of view of the workman, it is a 'disutility'; to work is to make a sacrifice of one's leisure and comfort, and wages are a kind of compensation for the sacrifice.

In his urgent attempt to obtain reliable knowledge about his essentially indeterminate future, the modern man of action may surround himself by ever-growing armies of forecasters, by ever-growing mountains of factual data to be digested by ever more wonderful mechanical contrivances: I fear that the result is little more than a huge game of make-believe and an ever more marvelous vindication of Parkinson's Law. The best decisions will still be based on the judgments of mature non-electronic brains possessed by men who have looked steadily and calmly at the situation and seen it whole.

It might be said that energy is for the mechanical world what consciousness is for the human world. If energy fails, everything fails.

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"