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Customer Review

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still worth reading, 8 Nov. 2003
This review is from: Good Work (Paperback)
Dr. Schumacher, author of "Small is Beautiful" and "A Guide for the Perplexed", was one of the wise men of the last fifty years. In this collection of six talks given in America during the mid-1970s one of his themes is that the purpose of work is threefold: to produce necessary and useful goods and services; to enable us to use and perfect our gifts and skills; and to collaborate with other people so as to liberate ourselves from our inborn egocentricity. A job in which there is no personal satisfaction destroys the soul. He maintained that we need a new worldview - a new paradigm - and his 1962 report for the government of India proposed using small, simple tools and equipment with low capital cost and low impact on the environment was the start of the new paradigm. Considering the centrality of work in human life, the choice of technology is critical. Poor countries need intermediate technologies to ensure that the rural masses can work themselves out of poverty and thus raise their standard of living.
While Chief Economist at the National Coal Board, Schumacher devoted time to three projects which became his great passion. The first was the Soil Association to develop organic farming. The second was the Scott Bader company which had no owners or employees - only co-owners and co-employees. The third was his new paradigm - intermediate technology. In one of his essays the author provides helpful insights: "The third organization I am concerned with is one that I started with a handful of friends in 1965: the Intermediate Technology Development Group. Now you have the company, charity status, no money, maybe somebody has let you share an office, but what do you want to do? You want to create and systematize this intermediate technology, but how do you set about doing this? All I can say at this early stage is, beware of the planners. There are all sorts of impatient people who will say, you must have a five-year plan and a ten-year plan. Quite useless. You must realize your nonknowledge, what you don't know. The inner attitude if you think you know is quite different from the attitude when you know you don't know. You're much more observant, more alert. And it happened that we heard that a British trade mission was going to Nigeria, and we thought, my goodness, what are they going to flog in Nigeria? Certainly not the stuff the Nigerians really need. What if we made, very rapidly, a catalogue of hand- and animal-propelled agricultural equipment obtainable in Britain? We had only a few weeks to do it, and under this pressure we found that our society is very highly organized. You have only to find out how to touch the network; the network already exists. When the mission went to Nigeria, they were most astonished. This thing was torn out of their hands by people who said, 'For the first time you bring us something that is of interest.'"
Most of what Schumacher had to say thirty years ago is just as valid today. He had a very perceptive mind and a lifetime of experience in a big industry. That is what turned him off the western style of development and doing business. With this book you can have the ideas of a very wise, practical and foresighted person who spent his later years thinking out of the box and fighting the system that he had grown to abhor. Many of his ideas were before their time and only in recent years has the world caught up. This is an author whose books are certainly worth reading.
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