The human species faces an unprecedented number of problems now that we have entered the 21st century. Global warming, overpopulation, food and water shortages, pollution, economic crises, resource depletion, and various other issues make up the agenda which concerns politicians and the public they represent. Although the public's consciousness of these problems may be a more or less new phenomenon, a small contingent of economists, environmentalists, political advocates, and concerned citizens have been warning mankind about the dangers of its practices for quite some time. All one needs to do is turn to E. F. Schumacher's book Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered.
[...] To accomplish this goal of sustainability, Schumacher states that the “economics of permanence implies a profound reorientation of science and technology, which have to open their doors to wisdom and, in fact, have to incorporate wisdom into their very structure” (20). Besides involving a return to sensible scales of life (addressed in chapter the recognition of man as a fundamentally creative being, and the reinvention of industry so that it no longer alienates the workers who constitute the productive force, Schumacher argues that religion and spiritual thinking must play a role in teaching us to revalue the various aspects of our world. [...]
[...] He also later goes on to transform the Sermon on the Mount into a new metaphysic of self-conception and worldview, but the main point which Schumacher is trying to make by referring to all of these religious ideals is that humility and reverence must become entrenched characteristics in our social consciences, as this will lead to rethinking our place in nature as members as opposed to conquistadors. Though Schumacher has a wealth of suggestions for the improvement of the state of affairs in the world, it seems that very few of them have been heeded even though the problems threatening us loom larger than ever. [...]
[...] Though Schumacher addresses this when he stresses the need for a new metaphysic and the role that education must play in changing our current methods of consumption, it is nonetheless a very difficult feat to accomplish, changing people's paradigms of thought. Even if Schumacher's arguments are brilliantly detailed and ultimately persuasive, one cannot expect an immediate seachange from one mode of thinking to an antithetical and controversial new mode. Such a progression takes resilience and time. This being said, we might want to stop and think whether or not it is even the case that Schumacher's criticisms have been ignored. [...]
[...] Because religious references and ideals play a major place in his solution to the ideology of infinite progress, some might worry that the solution might be worse than the cause, citing some recently founded traditions like freedom of speech and women's rights as the fruits of progress against the previous dominance of institutions like the Catholic Church. This criticism, however, is not without its counterarguments. The main point is that this might explain why Schumacher's solutions have not been adopted on as wide a scale as he would have liked. [...]
[...] In other words, though the predominant economic worldview remains troublingly insensitive to the havoc it is wreaking with the environment and within society, the notion of a new economics the kind suggested by Schumacher is more popular than ever, and will likely only increase in its political sway as it is made evident that the old methods of assessing the situations are inadequate. In conclusion, in this essay we have examined the first two parts of Schumacher's book Small is Beautiful, specifically considering his claim that we need to reassess those “ideas with which [people] think without being aware of doing (63). [...]
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