small is Beautiful

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

In a world where often bigger and more are better, what happens when we give value to the smaller and seemingly less significant? I recently read Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher, first published in 1973. I was startled by how much of what he talks about is very applicable today. In fact, in some ways, he seems to be foretelling the current economic and environmental unraveling of the world.

His book is filled with so much wisdom that it's difficult to even scratch the surface of its depths. I really like his ideas of placing importance on people in modern economics, as opposed to just goods or products, and organizing work so that it is respectful and nourishing to the soul, and enhances a person's gifts and power.

While I was reading the book, at some points I would just put it down and stare off into space, wondering how some of these ideas could be more effectively put into practice in our world. And an abyss...

He argues for "small-scale operations" as opposed to large-scale ones, and writes of "technology with a human face," technology and methods that nuture human creativity. But, as he says, modern technology has eliminated much of the skillful and satisfying work of human hands that come in direct contact with real materials.

I think of the mass-produced object and how as a budding ceramic artist/maker, I am unable to compete with the level of production of large companies that employ "time-saving" technologies and cheap labour. But it makes me wonder about what I can make and the process of my making that a large company could not compete with, unless they changed the structure of their organization.