E.F. Schumacher and His Legacy for the 21st Century
Edited By Hendrik Opdebeeck
PART III Responsibility in Economics
LUK BOUCKAERT K.U. Leuven & SPES Academy 14 Schumacher and the Principle of Responsibility in Economics 1 Introduction Reading Schumacher today is dif ferent from reading him in 1973 when Small is Beautiful was first published and became one of the cult books of the ‘limits to growth’ movement. Small is Beautiful was at that time an attractive alternative for the large-scale industrial growth obsession. It argued in favour of local economy, intermediate technology and new pat- terns of democratic ownership. Schumacher stood for a non-conventional economics inspired by Tolstoy’s and Gandhi’s democratic anarchism. Re-reading Schumacher for this conference was an opportunity for me to rediscover his message. But in the context of today, it was not Small is Beautiful but the Guide for the Perplexed, published in 1977 just before his death, that was the eye-opener. However, in this Guide we do not find any adulation of small-scale economics but only a genuine case for wisdom. Hence, a puzzling question has to be solved: how to relate in an intellec- tually consistent way Schumacher’s small-scale economics with his search for wisdom? The question of bringing wisdom to small-scale economics is not trivial. Both concepts have their own logic. While wisdom requires a philosophi- cal and theoretical ef fort, small-scale economics is a matter of practice and organization. Wisdom implies a logic of truth while small-scale economics is related to a logic of ef ficiency in social engineering. Most of us know the quote of Karl Marx that philosophy has to...
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