Small is Beautiful

Hieronder een beknopt uittreksel uit E.F. Schumachers belangrijkste werk ‘Small is Beautiful’. Dit citaat vat perfect Schumachers bedenkingen over onze moderne, geïndustrialiseerde samenleving samen. In eenzelfde beweging  introduceert hij een voorstel; een mogelijke oplossing. Het argument voelt relevanter aan als ooit tevoren, wetende dat dit werk voor het eerst in 1973 verscheen (bijna een halve eeuw geleden).

“I started by saying that one of the most fatal errors of our age is the belief that the problem of production has been solved. This illusion, I suggested, is mainly due to our inability to recognise that the modern industrial system, with all its intellectual sophistication, consumes the very basis in which it has been erected. To use the language of the economist, it lives on irreplaceable capital which it cheerfully treats as income. I specified three categories of such capital: fossil fuels, the tolerance margine of nature, and the human substance. Even if some readers should refuse to accept all three parts of my argument, I suggest that any of them suffices to make my case.

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 uninfluential. To talk about the future is useful only if it leads to action now. And what can we do now, while we are still in the position of ‘never having had it so good’? To say the least -which is already much- we must thoroughly understand the problem and begin to see the possibility of evolving a new life-style, with new methods of production and new patterns of consumption: a life-style designed for permanence.

To give only three preliminary examples: in agriculture and horticulture, we can interest ourselves in the perfection of production methods which are biologically sound, build up soil fertility, and produce health, beauty and permanence. Productivity will then look after itself. In industry, we can interest ourselves in the evolution of small-scale technology, relative non-violent technology, ‘technology with a humane face’, so that people have a chance to enjoy themselves while they are working, instead of working solely for their pay packet and hoping, usually forlornly, for enjoyment solely during their leisure time. In industry, again – and, surely, industry is the pace-setter of modern life – we can interest ourselves in new forms of partnerships between management and men, even of common ownership.”