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Responsible Economics

E.F. Schumacher and His Legacy for the 21st Century

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Hendrik Opdebeeck

The centenary of E.F. Schumacher’s birth (1911-1977) offered an urgent opportunity to revisit his work and life. Against the background of the crisis at the beginning of this century, reconsidering Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful or frugality paradigm makes clear that advances in responsible economics continue to be a priority. This book contains the proceedings of the 2011 Annual Conference of the European SPES Forum on ‘Responsibility in Economics and Business: The Legacy of E.F. Schumacher’, which was organised in September 2011 by the Centre for Ethics of the University of Antwerp in collaboration with the Business Ethics Center of Budapest. The aims of this conference were to celebrate the 100th anniversary of E.F. Schumacher’s birth and to engage with Schumacher’s vision to help address the present need for responsibility in economics and business. The answers to our current economic crisis presented in this book prove that the legacy of an economist and philosopher like Schumacher are not confined to a utopian economic paradigm. Utopian economic paradigms are concerned with a better economic situation in the future. Schumacher reconsidered today, however, makes it clear that society needs responsible economics invested in the sustainability of the globe, right now.

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PART I Economics

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WALTER MOSS Eastern Michigan University 2 Schumacher’s Wisdom-Centered Economics1 1 The Nature of Wisdom E.F. Schumacher (1911–77) believed that wisdom should be like the sun, lighting up (enlightening) all aspects of our lives, including our science, tech- nology, economics, politics, and personal lives. In his most popular book, Small is Beautiful, which first appeared in 1973, he wrote that ‘more educa- tion can help us only if it produces more wisdom’ (Schumacher 1975: 82). 2 How Can Wisdom Be Achieved? As we have seen, Schumacher believed that education should help us become wiser, but too often it was not much help. In his most philosoph- ical work, A Guide for the Perplexed, he wrote: ‘All through school and university I had been given maps of life and knowledge on which there was hardly a trace of many of the things that I most cared about and that seemed to me to be of the greatest possible importance to the conduct of my life. I remembered that for many years my perplexity had been complete’ (Schumacher 1977: 1). But if his formal education did not help much in his quest for wisdom, there was the more informal, self-educational path available to him and other wisdom seekers. 1 Most of the material in this paper first appeared in my essay ‘The Wisdom of E.F. Schumacher’, at http://www.wisdompage.com/SchumacherEssay.pdf. 8 WALTER MOSS Born in Germany in 1911, he received his primary and secondary educa- tion there before spending the early years of...

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