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Responsible Economics

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


Edited By 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 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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