Archive for the ‘E. F. Schumacher’ Tag

Feast of E. F. Schumacher (September 4)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Cover of Small is Beautiful (1973)

Fair Use

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ERNST FRIEDRICH SCHUMACHER (AUGUST 16, 1911-SEPTEMBER 4, 1977)

German-British Economist and Social Critic

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I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.  We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society.  When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

–The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., at Riverside Church, New York, New York, April 4, 1967

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In the excitement over the unfolding of his scientific and technical powers, modern man has built a system of production that ravishes nature and a type of society that mutilates man.

–E. F. Schumacher, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), 388

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Ernst Friedrich Schumacher joins the ranks of holy people at this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Robert Ellsberg, All Saints (1997).  The date for Schumacher in that volume is September 7, but, given Schumacher’s death on September 7, 1977, the feast day of September 4 works better.

Schumacher, once a committed atheist, developed an interest in religion, which influenced his economic opinions.  The power of Roman Catholicism, with mysticism, Thomism, and social teaching encyclicals of Popes Leo XIII and St. John XXIII, eventually grounded Schumacher, who joined Holy Mother Church in 1971.

Schumacher was German yet did much work in England.  The native of Bonn, born on August 16, 1911, moved to England as a Rhodes Scholar in the 1930s.  He remained as an “enemy alien” sent to work on a farm in the north of England during World War II.  After the war Schumacher worked (in Germany) as an economic advisor to the British Control Board then (in England) for two decades as the chief economist and head of planning at the British Coal Board.

These experiences transformed Schumacher into a radical, prophetic figure.  He wrote two seminal books, Small is Beautiful:  Economics as if People Mattered (1973) and A Guide for the Perplexed (1977).  Our saint proclaimed materialism to be an inferior religion, one that defines growth, efficiency, and production as the ultimate standards of value, ignores the spiritual side of people, and sets society on a course for disaster.  One essay in Small is Beautiful was “Buddhist Economics,” which, according to Schumacher, he could have just as easily called “Christian Economics,” except that

no one would have read it.

In that essay, based partially on his experience as an economic advisor to the Burmese government, Schumacher condemned Western economic priorities such as the stimulation of greed and envy, as well as the encouragement of waste and short-term thinking.  Instead he encouraged the Buddha’s idea of “right livelihood,” or the dignity of work, the alleviation of suffering, respect for beauty, the reduction of desires, et cetera.  In A Guide for the Perplexed our saint wrote that society needs “metaphysical reconstruction,” because our technological answers do not help us answer the question,

What am I to do with my life?

He wrote that, if human civilization is to survive, it needs to change its logic of

a violent attitude to God’s handiwork

and replace it with reverence.

Schumacher, who influenced the language of the modern ecological movement, was touring in Switzerland when he died of a heart attack on September 4, 1977.  He was 66 years old.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF LEO XIII, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSEGISUS OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINTS FLAVIAN II OF ANTIOCH AND ELIAS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCHS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL HANSON COX, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND ABOLITIONIST; AND HIS SON, ARTHUR CLEVELAND COXE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WESTERN NEW YORK, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant E. F. Schumacher,

to work for justice among people and nations, to the glory of your name,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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