Small Is Beautiful Essay - Critical Context

E. F. Schumacher

Critical Context

The advanced economies of the West have had nearly a century of experience with industrialization and economic growth. During that time, the standard of living in those countries has risen dramatically. Along with this improved economic well-being has come a host of problems—social, political, and environmental. For most of this period, economists have extolled the successes and ignored the problems. Even when they have recognized the problems, they have maintained that science and technology would be able to solve them. In holding to this view they have argued that they, too, were dispassionately applying a science.

According to Schumacher, these economists are espousing a religion: Their theory that greed and profits will secure the best social decisions has no scientific basis. Although he mounts a strong attack on these presumptions, Schumacher is really seeking to attain balance in economic thinking. Economic decisions do need some measure of their worth, and profits serve this function well. Nevertheless, economic decisions that are not made within the context of a larger system of values become meaningless. Schumacher wants to incorporate into economics a system of values that combines Christian and Buddhist teachings. As a result, he can be criticized for seeing his own economics as a religion. Yet his infusion of religious values into economics is conscious, whereas traditional economists rarely appreciate the element of religiosity in their...

(The entire section is 452 words.)