Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

E.F. Schumacher’s essays in Small Is Beautiful comment on the state of economics and the functioning of the economy; he is critical of both. In his opinion, economists are too tied to the notion that profits should be a determining factor in economic affairs; thus, they are blinded to many of the economy’s negative features. The features on which Schumacher focuses his attention are related to the form of modern technology, which employs the techniques of mass production. As a result, modern business firms have grown increasingly large and human beings have become dwarfed by their own creations. Nevertheless, Schumacher offers more than a critique. His book is a plea for a return to organizations and technologies more reflective of human needs and values. As he states,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.

In form, the book brings together nineteen essays, most of which were derived from articles and lectures presented by Schumacher between 1967 and 1972. From 1951 to 1971 Schumacher had worked as an economist for the British Coal Board, and his concerns with the environment, large-scale technology, energy, resources, and large organizations reflect that experience. Nevertheless, the essays are not highly technical, although some...

(The entire section is 494 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Barnes, Peter. Review in The New Republic. CLXX (June 15, 1974) p. 29.

Brynes, Asher. Review in The Nation. CCXVIII (June 8, 1974), p. 725.

Economist. Review. CCXLVII (June 23, 1973), p. 113.

Henderson, Hazel. “The Legacy of E.F. Schumacher,” in Environment. XX (May, 1978), pp. 30-37.

Love, Sam. “We Must Make Things Smaller and Simpler: An Interview With E.F. Schumacher,” in Futurist. VIII (December, 1974), pp. 281-284.