Review of 'Small is Beautiful'

Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher

small_is_beautiful.jpg In “Small is Beautiful” economist E.F. Schumacher argues against many of the tenants of modern capitalism. He argues that we need to shift our priorities to value the planet and the individual rather than a selective few rewarded for their greed. The focus on greed, he says, is not sustainable and threatens our very existence as it is not possible to have perpetual growth and expansion, the planet simply does not have enough resources to support it. A very pragmatic approach. He also discusses how the size of companies necessarily dehumanizes both the company and it's employees as it moves away from the innate comfort and support we have with smaller groups. There are a number of other very valid points he makes including touching on the unsustainable way we often treat aid in the “third world” (a particular bug-bear of mine).

This book, based on previous talks and essays, is divided into four parts each with a number of small-ish 8-10 page chapters: “The Modern World”, “Resources”, “The Third World” and “Organization and Ownership”. While the first three chapters talk about the failings of modern society in the final part he suggests solutions to address these failings. He suggests an arrangement for companies where they forgo taxes and instead provide half of their shares to a public trust that is then used to disperse funds in a socially acceptable way while giving a real example of “Scott Bader & Co., Ltd” (UK) which is wholly owned and operated by it's employees.

Though there were times Schumacher lost me with heavy conceptual prose the underlying ideas are certainly quite clear to see though it did make for a long read. Probably best to be taken slowly, one chapter at a time, letting it sink in before moving onto te next. Thankfully, he does have a way of avoiding too much in the way of economic theory yet making his ideas understood. Often I did feel like I was being preached at with statements of dogma and opinion with little effort made to prove the case as “obviously it is true” (my paraphrasing). Having said all this I think there are some very valid ideas here and we could all do from taking them on board, for the sake of ourselves and our world.

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2023-05-16

Genre: Non-Fiction

Publisher: Vintage Classics

Publication Date: 2011

ISBN: 9780099225614