E.F. Schumacher and His Legacy for the 21st Century
Edited By Hendrik Opdebeeck
PART II Responsibility
CHRISTIAN ARNSPERGER UCLouvain 9 Small is Beautiful: But is it Responsible? A Critical Reappraisal of E.F. Schumacher’s Contribution to Ecological Economics and Political Ecology 1 Introduction In this chapter, I investigate the meaning and content of responsibility in economics as it emerges from Ernest F. (‘Fritz’) Schumacher’s writings on small-scale economics and on metaphysics. My endeavour is not intended to be a promotion of Schumacher’s ideas; rather, I of fer an attempt at laying bare some of the more hidden – and radical – presuppositions that under- lie the now all too common and overused slogan ‘Small Is Beautiful’ that has come to virtually identify Schumacher as a ‘new age’ thinker. I hope to show that he was more than that, and that – regardless of whether or not one ends up agreeing with his ideas – he built a coherent, albeit demand- ing, set of philosophical and economic ideas. In section 2, I argue brief ly that although Schumacher’s thought has been identified as the linchpin of decentralized bioregionalism, there is actually a paradox at the heart of his approach: decentralism and centralism may be more complementary than opposed. (This will come back as the main point of the paper as it ends on concrete proposals for institutional reform in section 5.) Section 3 then argues in more detail that Schumacher was a liberal and that, in terms of form and procedure though not in terms of political options, his approach shares common features with the more conservative 128 CHRISTIAN ARNSPERGER liberalism of...
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