Small is better for a “Greater We”
“In agriculture and horticulture, we can interest ourselves in the perfection of production methods which are biologically sound, build up soil fertility, and produce health, beauty and permanence. Productivity will then look after itself.”
Statements such as this came to mind after reading “The Greater WE” and the comments on the Salzburg Trilogue. The quote is taken from a book I read recently called Small is Beautiful, Economics as if People Mattered, written by the economist E.F. Schumacher.
Let me continue the initial quote: “In industry we can interest ourselves in the evolution of small-scale technology, relatively non-violent technology, ‘technology with a human face’, so that people have a chance to enjoy themselves while they are working, instead of working solely for their pay packet and hoping, usually forlornly, for enjoyment solely during their leisure time. In industry, again – and, surely, industry is the pace setter of modern life – we can interest ourselves in new forms of partnership between management and men, even forms of common ownership.”
What I found most fascinating about this book is that it states clearly that the modern economy, as it is conceived, is unsustainable. Natural resources, it argues, should be treated as capital since they are not renewable. Much of what is being done to the Earth is polluting its resources in ways that will take centuries to heal or be reversed.
The funny thing is this book was written in the 1970s. In other words, there were already signs of alarm about our present problems 40 or more years ago and nobody cared or did much about it then. Yet this book did cause quite a stir in its time and is considered one of the 100 most influential books published since World War II, according to the Times Literary Supplement.
Schumacher presents different approaches for achieving a shift towards change not only in social structures but also in production methods, organization and individual conceptions.
“Small-scale operations, no matter how numerous, are always less likely to be harmful to the natural environment than large-scale ones, simply because their individual force is small in relation to the recuperative forces of nature. (…) It is, moreover, obvious that men organized in small units will take better care of their bit of land or other natural resources than anonymous companies or megalomanic governments which pretend to themselves that the whole universe is their legitimate quarry.”
Men, land, natural resources, organization, production, work - all these notions are intrinsically united. But very often we tend to forget this.
Our present day awareness of global crisis, heightened by things like the scarcity of resources, unemployment, terror attacks, company shutdowns, famines, floods, hurricanes, destruction of our natural environment, the Arab Spring, the London riots and so on, forces us to look and think for global solutions when maybe some solutions have already been written decades ago.
Now action is needed. Who will take the first step?