Who was E.F. Schumacher?

This year is the centenary of Ernst Friedrich Schumacher’s birth, and as I work for the Schumacher Institute – have been for the past 4 years or so I thought I would google the man. So this morning I sat and watched a youtube video of Schumacher answering a question on Buddhist Economics in the West and I realised that until now, I didn’t have the slightest sense of who Schumacher was (frankly how embarrassing). As I watched him joking with his audience, I was struck by his sharp wit, his openess and his fearlessness in expressing himself in areas that are to-this-day rather taboo. The very man who pays my bread and butter; this Schumacher guy; this formerly a black and white stiff looking fellow has entered into my life and I am the most surprised of all to discover that he totally RULES.

Schumacher has something up on me. As I watch he talks matter-of-factly about there being no value in maximising consumtion, in the value of maximising satisfaction. He talks in a matter-of-fact way about removing ourselves from the rat race. He talks in a matter-of-fact way about a movement towards Buddhist economics. Matter-of-fact – as if it were inevitable, as if its the sensible thing that we will be doing.

I am astounded. I never thought this was a matter-of-fact thing. My introduction to this field started with doom anarchy doom (think book / movie The Road) and resulted in a rising sense of panic to swallow down with cups of tea; days spent tapping away at keyboards and nights shoring up little homes, planting vegetables and recycling in the hope that I / we can emerge somehow bruised but not broken.  Powerless, small and not particularly beautiful.

I have, quite obviously missed a significant part of the puzzle – a part that was well understood by Schumacher and by those who lived through the tumult of 1 even 2 world wars. That part is this: Change IS possible. People DO miraculous things.  Moreover, the ‘end of the world’ (as we know it) is not as scary as it seems. We know we’re going to get though it and that it takes hard work because we’ve seen it done.

Schumacher speaks with all the confidence of someone who believes that change is possible, because he has the confidence of someone who has seen it done. With this in mind, I have to say: Schumacher I envoke your spirit, your charisma, your confidence, your thornyness, your wit, your belief in the human. You have a huge amount to teach me, and are someone I really should be getting to know.


3 thoughts on “Who was E.F. Schumacher?

  1. I love this Alice, I think we should start an informal ‘get to know E.F. Schumacher’ group. Chris from Open Platform was suggesting starting an open platform study group focused on E.F. Schumacher, what do you think?

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