Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Still, Small Voice

"Schumacher’s greatest achievement was the fusion of ancient wisdom and modern economics in a language that encapsulated contemporary doubts and fears about the industrialized world. His words resonated with echoes of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount or the teachings of Buddha but always in terms that emphasized their enduring relevance. The wisdom of the ages, the perennial truth that has guided humanity throughout its history, serves as a constant reminder to each new generation of the dangers of self-gratification. The lessons of the past, if heeded, should always empower the present. But if wisdom was a warning, it was also a battle cry and a call to action. It pointed to the problem and pinpointed the solution.

As both philosopher and economist Schumacher was uniquely placed to bring the two disciplines into harmonious unity. The wide range of professional experience he had gained in the world of economics and industry was combined with his studies in philosophy so that spiritual truths and practical facts were welded into a more critical economic vision. This led him to question many of the conventions of modern economics. For example, was big always best? Most economists, shackled to the dogmatic idolization of economies of scale, believed that the question was already answered. Even if big wasn’t always best it was usually so. Mergers were considered good until or unless they led to monopoly.

Schumacher counteracted the idolatry of giantism with the beauty of smallness. People, he argued, could only feel at home in human-scale environments. If structures—economic, political or social—became too large they became impersonal and unresponsive to human needs and aspirations. Under these conditions individuals felt functionally futile, dispossessed, voiceless, powerless, excluded, alienated. Structures that have a genuinely human scale reveal a healthy culture, to use Wendell Berry’s language, that is part of an order of “memory, insight, value, work, conviviality, reverence, aspiration. It reveals the human necessities and the human limits. It clarifies our inescapable bonds to the earth and to each other. Appropriately, Schumacher’s book was subtitled A Study of Economics as if People Mattered."

-- from "A Still, Small Voice" by Joseph Pearce (The Distributist Review)

1 comment:

  1. Again you give me something I need to read! What would I do without you to feed my mind? :^)=)

    By the way, you've won an award. Stop by Outside the Asylum to find out about it.