Small is beautiful

E.F. (Fritz) Schumacher (1911-1977) was a German-born British economist, writer and social commentator. He is best known for his critique of Western economies and his proposals for human-scale technologies, decentralisation of production, cooperative ownership and conservation of natural capital.

He believed that economics has become abstract and misses it’s essential purpose because it is not human – it separates people from their economic foundations through distance (centralisation and globalisation), industrial scale (what Schumacher called Gigantism), growth (expansionism), automation and faceless business ownership. On the contrary Schumacher proposed that our economic foundations should be based on smaller human scale, local needs and resources, appropriate technology, human and environmental well-being (not growth), and local cooperative ownership of businesses.

For Schumacher progress was not about making things bigger and more complex but about making things smaller and simpler.

The title of E.F. Schumacher’s best known book is Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered summed up his stance.

Quotes from Small is Beautiful:

“Ever bigger machines, entailing ever bigger concentrations of economic power and exerting ever greater violence against the environment, do not represent progress: they are a denial of wisdom. Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology towards the organic, the gentle, the non-violent, the elegant and beautiful.”

“An attitude to life which seeks fulfillment in the single-minded pursuit of wealth / in short, materialism / does not fit into this world, because it contains within itself no limiting principle, while the environment in which it is placed is strictly limited.”

“I have no doubt that it is possible to give a new direction to technological development, a direction that shall lead it back to the real needs of man, and that also means: to the actual size of man. Man is small, and, therefore, small is beautiful.”


Schumacher, E. (1974). Small is beautiful : a study of economics as if people mattered. London: Abacus.