E. F. Schumacher Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Ernst Friedrich Fritz Schumacher (SHEW-mahk-ur), a British economist and social philosopher, was born on August 16, 1911, in Bonn, Germany, where his father was a professor of economics at the university. In 1917 the elder Schumacher accepted a post at the University of Berlin, and young Fritz was raised in the comfortable middle-class atmosphere of the cosmopolitan German capital. In 1929 Schumacher enrolled at the University of Bonn, where he was influenced to study economics by Joseph Schumpeter, who later taught at Harvard University. In 1930 he continued his studies at the London School of Economics and attended lectures at the University of Cambridge given by the famous British economist John Maynard Keynes. In October, 1930, Schumacher was awarded a Rhodes scholarship and enrolled at New College, Oxford. In late 1932, he went to New York, where he did research and lectured on economics at Columbia University during the 1933-1934 term.

Returning to Germany, he was effectively blocked from an academic career by his opposition to the Nazi regime but finally found employment as a financial consultant to a director of the Unilever Corporation in England. In October, 1936, he married and immediately left Germany for his new job in London, resolving never to return while the Nazis remained in power.

When World War II started, Schumacher and his wife were interned as enemy aliens and assigned to work on a farm, an experience which led to a lifelong interest in organic farming and conservation. (He became president of the British Soil Association in 1970.) His friends came to his aid, and in March, 1942, he was hired by the Institute of Statistics at Oxford and began to contribute articles on economic matters to various journals and newspapers. During this period, Schumacher became a socialist and supported such socialist policies as state-controlled central planning of the economy and nationalization of industries. Though worried about abuses of personal freedom in the Soviet Union, he looked forward to the socialization of postwar Germany. He also abandoned his Christian religious heritage and became a militant atheist.

Professionally, an article Schumacher published in the spring of 1942 in the journal Economica on multilateral international payments was incorporated into an important postwar planning report authored by Lord Keynes. In 1944 Schumacher was asked to assist William Beveridge in planning postwar employment policies for the British government. Lord Beveridge’s economic policies were dominated by his moral principles, an attitude that Schumacher, a scientific rationalist, despised. However, he was moved by Lord Beveridge’s liberal insistence that the state’s power be used for the social benefit of the powerless.

In 1945 Schumacher returned to Germany as a member of an Allied team, headed by American economist John Kenneth Galbraith, that was investigating the effectiveness of Allied bombing of industrial targets. In 1946 he was granted British citizenship and joined the Labour Party. While working as an economic adviser for...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Kumar, S., ed. The Schumacher Lectures. New York: HarperColophon, 1981. After his death, Schumacher’s English admirers founded the Schumacher Society, which sponsors an annual lecture series in his honor. This is the published version of the first series.

McRobie, George. Small Is Possible. London: J. Cape, 1981. An examination of applications of Schumacher’s theories on intermediate technology is given by his protégé.

Pearce, Joseph. Small Is Still Beautiful. New York: HarperCollins, 2001. Claims to continue the work of Schumacher in Small Is Beautiful. With an introduction by Barbara Schumacher Wood.

Wood, Barbara. Alias Papa: A Life of Fritz Schumacher. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985. A personal memoir by Schumacher’s daughter. Includes index and bibliography.

Wood, Barbara. E. F. Schumacher: His Life and Thought. New York: Harper & Row, 1984. A study of Schumacher’s influences by his daughter. Includes index and bibliography.