Skip to content

‘Small is Beautiful’ fifty years on

  • by JW

“economics as if people and planet matter”


The Times Literary Supplement ranks “Small is Beautiful” among the 100 most influential books published since 1945:

Schumacher argues that the modern economy is unsustainable. Natural resources (like fossil fuels), are treated as expendable income, when in fact they should be treated as capital, since they are not renewable and, thus, subject to eventual depletion. He further argues that nature’s resistance to pollution is limited as well. He concludes that government effort must be concentrated on sustainable development, because relatively minor improvements will not solve the underlying problem of an unsustainable economy.

Schumacher was one of the first economists to question the appropriateness of using GNP to measure human well being, emphasizing that “the aim ought to be to obtain the maximum amount of well being with the minimum amount of consumption.

As such, it inspired the foundation of the Schumacher College at Dartington, Totnes:

“Economics should be in the service of humanity rather than humanity being in the service of economics. Also, economics must maintain the integrity of Nature. In other words, economics as if people and planet matter.”

Fritz Schumacher’s seminal work came out fifty years ago – and is being remembered:

There is a series of events at the College which bears his name: