Small is Beautiful Book Summary - Small is Beautiful Book explained in key points
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Small is Beautiful summary

E. F. Schumacher

A Study of Economics as if People Mattered

4 (67 ratings)
17 mins

Brief summary

Small Is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher advocates for sustainable economics that prioritize people and the environment over profit. The book challenges traditional economic models and offers alternatives that prioritize human happiness rather than material wealth.

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    Small is Beautiful
    Summary of 8 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 8

    The modern economic system relies on depleting the Earth's natural resources.

    Modern economic systems have brought great prosperity to the Western world; however, that prosperity came with a big price tag. Our lives are now so removed from nature that we constantly destroy it without compunction.

    For instance, thanks to the global industrial system, we squander a great deal of our precious natural resources – such as fossil fuels. The modern economy treats fossil fuels as income, a constant stream of goods, rather than capital, a finite supply of goods. To thus regard them is a way of justifying waste.

    If we viewed fossil fuels as capital rather than income we'd be much more concerned with their conservation. However, we use them as if they'll never run out – which, of course, they will.

    It's not possible for humans to manufacture or recycle fossil fuels, so once they're gone, they're gone. And running out of them too quickly would threaten the very foundation of our modern economy, which requires a steady energy supply.

    The modern economic system itself also threatens two types of natural capital: the tolerance margins of nature and the human substance.

    Since World War II, the world has seen a dramatic increase in industrial production, which threatens the tolerance margins of nature. Our actions are harming the environment at a rate much greater than its natural rate of regeneration.

    The economic system also devalues humans, who are reduced to little more than cogs in the economic machine. For instance, most people in the world don't find their work fulfilling and many spend their lives doing back-breaking labor.

    Such problems threaten the foundation of the modern economy, too, because they threaten society as a whole. The economic machine can't sustain itself if the people who run it can't live.

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    What is Small is Beautiful about?

    Small is Beautiful (1973) is a collection of essays by renowned British economist E. F. Schumacher outlining his critique of the Western economic system. First published in 1973, this classic collection, which is now considered to be one of the most influential books published since World War II, is as relevant today as it was in the ‘70s.

    Small is Beautiful Review

    Small is Beautiful (1973) explores the idea of sustainable development and challenges the conventional wisdom of unlimited economic growth. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It offers a thought-provoking critique of modern economics, highlighting the importance of human-scale technology and ecological balance.
    • With its vivid examples and compelling arguments, it presents an alternative vision for a more humane and sustainable society.
    • By advocating for a shift in values towards community, simplicity, and self-reliance, it provides readers with a fresh perspective on how to create a better future.

    Best quote from Small is Beautiful

    Radioactive pollution is an evil of an incomparably greater dimension than anything mankind has known before.

    —E. F. Schumacher
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    Who should read Small is Beautiful?

    • People interested in politics and economics
    • Mindful citizens who want to understand how our economic system affects the earth

    About the Author

    Ernst Friedrich Schumacher, the protégé of John Maynard Keynes, was a famed economist. From 1950 to 1970, he served as the Chief Economic Advisor to the UK National Coal Board.

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    Small is Beautiful FAQs 

    What is the main message of Small is Beautiful?

    The main message of Small is Beautiful is that we should prioritize human well-being and sustainability over economic growth.

    How long does it take to read Small is Beautiful?

    The reading time for Small is Beautiful can vary, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Small is Beautiful a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Small is Beautiful is worth reading for its insightful perspective on the flaws of modern economic systems and its emphasis on finding alternative solutions that prioritize people and the environment.

    Who is the author of Small is Beautiful?

    The author of Small is Beautiful is E. F. Schumacher.

    What to read after Small is Beautiful?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Small is Beautiful, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
    • PostCapitalism by Paul Mason
    • Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    • A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton G. Malkiel
    • Free Speech by Jacob Mchangama
    • 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang
    • Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell
    • The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff
    • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    • The Art of Living by Thich Nhat Hanh