In a world where bigger is often equated with better, the philosophy of economist and technologist Fritz Schumacher offers a compelling counter-narrative. Known for his revolutionary ideas on economics and technology, Schumacher championed the concept of “appropriate” technology and the belief that “small is beautiful”. This blog post explores the life, work, and enduring legacy of Fritz Schumacher, as captured in the documentary “Small Is Beautiful: Impressions of Fritz Schumacher” by the National Film Board of Canada.
Fritz Schumacher: A Gentle Revolutionary
Fritz Schumacher was an economist, technologist, and lecturer who, until the age of 45, was dedicated to economic growth. However, he came to believe that the modern technological explosion had grown out of all proportion to human need. Schumacher’s philosophy revolved around the idea that technology is good when it is appropriate. He admired machines that united man with nature, such as the oarlock, a simple yet perfect machine that connects man and water.
Schumacher believed that while some machinery is beautiful, the modern technological explosion had grown out of all proportion to human need. He argued that man had created a Frankenstein monster in the form of excessive technology, leading to a perversion of nature. Schumacher championed the cause of “appropriate” technology, which refers to technology that is suitable and beneficial for the context in which it is used. For instance, he appreciated a motorized wheelbarrow as appropriate for an elderly man with a bad back.
The Impact of Schumacher’s Ideas
Schumacher’s ideas have had a profound impact worldwide. His concept of “appropriate” technology has been implemented in various forms, from simple water pumps to energy-efficient machines. His philosophy has also influenced the way we think about economic growth and development. Schumacher argued that the relentless pursuit of economic growth, often measured by Gross National Product (GNP), can lead to technological violence and human degradation.
Schumacher’s legacy lives on in the work of those who continue to champion his ideas. His book, “Small Is Beautiful – A Study of Economics as if People Mattered”, has been translated into 15 languages and continues to inspire new generations of thinkers. His philosophy has also influenced various movements, from environmentalism to sustainable development.
Fritz Schumacher was a gentle revolutionary who dared to challenge the status quo. His belief in the beauty of smallness and the importance of appropriate technology offers a compelling alternative to our often unthinking embrace of large-scale, complex technologies. As we grapple with the environmental, social, and economic challenges of our time, Schumacher’s philosophy serves as a timely reminder that sometimes, small truly is beautiful.