Friday, February 17, 2006

Small is Beautiful

http://www.swedetrack.com/images/schum.jpgE. F. Schumacher wrote the classic, Small is Beautiful, which became very influential in the 70's and has been recognized as one of the 100 most influential books written since World War 2. A British economist, Schumacher evangelized the notion of intermediate technology and small, human scaled production throughout his esteemed career.

Small is beautiful is a collection of essays about economic develoment of a different sort than what the conventioanal wisdom suggests. Decentralized, moderate sized production is the hall mark of Schumacher's vision. He suggetsts that production has not been solved by huge mass producing factories, and in fact these very factories, by their reliance on overly large and sophisticated machinery can squash a local eceomy. Over developed focus on perfection and inexpensive products and labor steals the soul out of making.

We live in a time where production can be readjusted to fit a more human need for just and sustainable making. Even in a highly developed nation like the US, making and production can be refitted to be more appropriate for human consumption. Expecting a perfect, cheap and fast product may not be what we want anymore, as Seth points out today. Buying handmade goods from artisans, or adding the task of making in each of our days, may lead us to a gentler way of living on this great orb. Taking greater care in choosing what we live with by focusing on handmade artisanal objects when want something could change the energy in our home. Shifting away from the overly perfect, mass produced goods that pollute our homes might just enhance our home environments. Can you imagine living with objects created by someone, a human being who loves what they do? Who we might know or may have met? I think this would change the dynamic of the home. Home is where the heart is.

This may seem like an expensive alternative, but I argue that while small is beautiful, less is more. Fewer things, created often imperfectly, are what I choose to use and live with. Saving up for a special object that will be cherished for a lifetime (or at least more than 5 minutes) gives me greater satisfaction than getting a quick hit from something easy, cheap and ad hoc.

links: E. F. Schumacher Society
Resurgence Magazine
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1 comment:

Greenjeans Adventure said...

One of the other of the 4 potters we work with at Greenjeans just wrote to me about Small is Beautiful. She is also very into community and progressive ideas. I think you two may be kindred spirits! I just wrote her and told her about your blog. I hope you two can get in touch!

Small is Beautiful is now on the Greenjeans reading list. Thanks for this post!