Memory and History

Inspired by the passage from Plutarch quoted below.

Memory[i] and history are inextricably linked, the latter having its origin in the former.  With their typical perceptiveness the Greeks recognized this lineage, all the arts descend from memory and the God.  Hesiod:

[The muses] in Pieria[ii] did Mnemosyne (Memory), who reigns over the hills of Eleuther, bear of union with the father, the son of Cronos, a forgetting of ills and a rest from sorrow. For nine nights did wise Zeus lie with her, entering her holy bed remote from the immortals. And when a year was passed and the seasons came round as the months waned, and many days were accomplished, she bare nine daughters, all of one mind, whose hearts are set upon song and their spirit free from care, a little way from the topmost peak of snowy Olympus. There are their bright dancing-places and beautiful homes, and beside them the Graces and Himerus (Desire) live in delight. And they, uttering through their lips a lovely voice, sing the laws of all and the goodly ways of the immortals, uttering their lovely voice. Then went they to Olympus, delighting in their sweet voice, with heavenly song, and the dark earth resounded about them as they chanted and a lovely sound rose up beneath their feet as they went to their father. And he was reigning in heaven, himself holding the lightning and glowing thunderbolt, when he had overcome by might his father Cronos; and he distributed fairly to the immortals their portions and declared their privileges.

Hesiod, Theogony

The eldest daughter of Memory and Zeus was Clio, the muse of history.  First among her sisters, she commemorates the great deeds of men. It is for this commemoration that the Achaeans and Trojans fought on the plains of Ilium. 

The fragility of this remembrance is the brilliant ambiguity at the heart of the epic, revealed by the one who questions the worth of this remembrance, the exception, the best of the Achaeans, Swift-Footed Achilles.

Unlike the rest, Achilles knows his fate, [iii] and thus has that most precious of things: a choice.  He can fight under the walls of Troy, achieve eternal glory, and die, or he can return home to bucolic Phthia and die unremembered after a long and happy life.[iv]

Knowledge of his choice leaves Achilles deeply conflicted; in particular because he is himself half-divine yet, despite his demigoddery, condemned to die.[v]  Given the opportunity by Agamemnon’s slight, he abdicates choice all together and goes off to sulk on the beach, leaving his companions to be slaughtered as his internal turmoil rages.[vi]

In the end, he does not choose to fight for the sake of eternal glory, but for love.[vii]  Over the course of the poem, the locus of his rage shifts, from Agamemnon to his fate and, therefore, himself.[viii]  Patroclus, his blood brother, is struck down, unfairly, by the gods and by Hector while standing in for Achilles–leading Achilles’s men, wearing Achilles’s armor, with the fighting prowess of his blood-brother.[ix]  Only then does Achilles storm into the fray, the murder of his friend and the murder of himself co-mingled, love of self and love of his brother twisted into god-like anger.[x]

Ultimately, the resolution of this anger comes only through divine intervention and sacrificial propitiation.[xi] This triggers the recognition of his father’s grief in Priam’s grief for Hector, allowing him to accept that he will, like his mortal father and unlike his sea-goddess mother, die, leaving only the fragile immortality of remembrance.[xii]

And this immortality is a small comfort indeed, no use to the dead, as we see in the Odyssey: when summoned from the land of shades, Achilles tells Odysseus that glory is worthless to the dead, better to be a living slave then a dead hero. 

In the Iliad itself, there is the haunting image of the long-dead tree, the turning point of the chariot race run in the funeral games of Patroclus:

Now, the turn itself-it’s clear, you cannot miss it.
There’s a dead tree-stump standing six feet high.
it’s oak or pine, not rotted through by the rains,
and it’s propped by two white stones on either side.
That’s your halfway mark where the homestretch starts
and there’s plenty of good smooth racing-room around it
it’s either the grave-mound of a man dead long ago
or men who lived before us set it up as a goal.

Iliad, Book XXIII


Either an honored grave or a marker of a game long forgotten.  Think of the sheer casualness with which the observation is made, the ease with which they’ve forgotten.  What the heroes lack in this moment, though it is present at many other points in the epic is the moral duty to remember, for it is only because of this duty that glory is possible at all.[xiii] 

Most obviously, this is manifest throughout the Iliad in the emphasis on lineage.  Homer spends just as much if not more time speaking about the “sons of Atreus” as Agamemnon and Menalaus.  All men live in the shadow of their fathers.[xiv] The living embodiment of the previous generation is Nestor, never failing to remind those around him of the deeds of the dead and their superiority to the living.[xv]

The spirit of Nestor lives on in the historians: 

I, Herodotus of Halicarnassus  am here setting forth my history, that time may not draw the color from what man has brought into being, nor those great and wonderful deeds, manifested by both Greeks and barbarians, fail of their report, and, together with all this, the reason why they fought one another. 

Herodotus, Histories

The duty of the historian, therefore, first emerges from the moral duty to commemorate the dead, to prevent their images from being lost to time.[xvi]  We hold this duty not only to men of the past but to the other residents of memory, those in the future (see footnote 1) including our future selves.  Witness Herodotus’s adversary, and general stick-in-the-mud, Thucydides’s insistence that his history is useful:

Thucydides, an Athenian, wrote the history of the war between the Peloponnesians and the Athenians, beginning at the moment that it broke out, and believing that it would be a great war and more worthy of relation than any that had preceded it. This belief was not without its grounds. The preparations of both the combatants were in every department in the last state of perfection; and he could see the rest of the Hellenic race taking sides in the quarrel; those who delayed doing so at once having it in contemplation. Indeed this was the greatest movement yet known in history, not only of the Hellenes, but of a large part of the barbarian world- I had almost said of mankind. For though the events of remote antiquity, and even those that more immediately preceded the war, could not from lapse of time be clearly ascertained, yet the evidences which an inquiry carried as far back as was practicable leads me to trust, all point to the conclusion that there was nothing on a great scale, either in war or in other matters….

The absence of romance in my history will, I fear, detract somewhat from its interest; but if it be judged useful by those inquirers who desire an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the interpretation of the future, which in the course of human things must resemble if it does not reflect it, I shall be content. In fine, I have written my work, not as an essay which is to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time.

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, 1

And the dead, properly commemorated serve as guides to the future, see Patroclus’s ghost, Anchises in Elysium, Virgil and the innumerable counselors Dante meets in the underworld, examples multiply. 

But representations of the human face, like that face itself, are subject to decay and dissolution, whereas the essence of man’s mind is something everlasting, which you cannot preserve or express in material wrought by another’s skill, but only in your own character.  All that we loved and admired in Agricola abides and shall abide in the hearts of men through the endless procession of the ages; for his achievements are of great renown.  With many it will be as with men who had no name or fame: they will be buried in oblivion.  But Agricola’s story is set on record for posterity, and he will live.

Tacitus, Agricola, 99

In memory these shades can live, albeit as mere images, recalling the past, shaping the future and ameliorating the pains of the present.[xvii]

It was for the sake of others that I first commenced writing  biographies; but I find myself proceeding and attaching myself  to it for my own; the virtues of these great men serving me as  a sort of looking-glass, in which I may see how to adjust and  adorn my own life. Indeed, it can be compared to nothing but daily living and associating together; we receive, as it were,  in our inquiry, and entertain each successive guest, view —

  ” Their stature and their qualities,”  

and select from their actions all that is noblest and worthiest to know.  

” Ah, and what greater pleasure could one have? ”  

or what more effective means to one’s moral improvement?  Democritus tells us we ought to pray that of the phantasms  appearing in the circumambient air, such may present themselves to us as are propitious, and that we may rather meet  with those that are agreeable to our natures and are good  than the evil and unfortunate; which is simply introducing  into philosophy a doctrine untrue in itself, and leading to  endless superstitions. My method, on the contrary, is, by the  study of history, and by the familiarity acquired in writing, to  habituate my memory to receive and retain images of the best  and worthiest characters. I thus am enabled to free myself  from any ignoble, base, or vicious impressions, contracted from  the contagion of ill company that I may be unavoidably engaged  in ; by the remedy of turning my thoughts in a happy and calm  temper to view these noble examples. Of this kind are those  of Timoleon the Corinthian and Paulus Aemilius, to write  whose lives is my present business; men equally famous, not  only for their virtues, but success; insomuch that they have  left it doubtful whether they owe their greatest achievements  to good fortune, or their own prudence and conduct. In us, they can live again and that is, it seems, why we at least in part, write history. [xviii] 

Plutarch, Life of Timoleon

[i] Memory is a far more expansive and powerful capacity than we typically think.  It’s not merely the storehouse of past ideas and impressions but a vast landscape in which those fragments are assembled into wholes.  The present is a product of memory, the intersection of past remembrances and future expectations extrapolated from these remembrances (themselves, therefore, both extant only in memory).  We live suspended, therefore, between memories.

[ii] The birthplace and resting place of Orpheus as well, surely this is no accident.

[iii] Hector, too, has an intuition of his doom.  Though, befitting his inferior status in comparison, he cannot seem to fully grasp it, alternatively acknowledging and ignoring his destiny in the same moment.  One second bemoaning the inevitable destruction of his city, the enslavement of his wife; the next proclaiming that his son—who will die cruelly at the hands of his killer’s son—will be a greater man than he. 

[iv] It is easy to forget that it is in fact a true prophecy.  Achilles did fight, did die, and did attain eternal glory.  Even in our culturally benighted age we know the name of Achilles, while the images of innumerable others have faded to dust, even the best of them. Diomedes fought the gods themselves, yet who today remembers Diomedes?

[v] Any complaint that Homer lacks psychological realism shatters against the character of Achilles.

[vi] That Agamemnon’s offense is not truly what motivates Achilles to refuse to return to battle is seen clearly in his contradictory responses to the embassy in Book IX.  Notice also whose argument comes closest to swaying him, Ajax who appeals to friendship. 

And what is Achilles doing when the ambassadors arrive: Reaching the Myrmidon shelters and their ships,

they found him there. delighting his heart now,
plucking strong and clear on the fine lyre
beautifully carved, its silver bridge set firm
he won from the spoils when he razed Eetion’s city.
Achilles was lifting his spirits with it now,
singing the famous deeds of fighting heroes …

Iliad, Book IX

And who is the muse of the lyre?  Clio, of course. 

[vii] A deep bond of friendship, not erotic love, as certain later commentators whose stunted imaginations are incapable of recognizing that a deep friendship between men does not require fucking.

[viii] Rage over our fate is ultimately sourced in rage at our place within the cosmos, our own finite and limited nature.  This is, incidentally, the rage of the primordial revolt, the rage of Satan.

[ix] Patroclus in his aresteia is capable of storming Troy himself, though it is Achilles who is destined to conquer Troy by killing its embodiment, Hector.  He will, of course, die before the city is finally destroyed, that task being largely accomplished by the near psychotic rage of Neoptolemus, motivated by the memory of his lost father. 

[x] Divine wrath is, of course, founded in love, cf. the inscription Dante finds over the gates of Hell: “MY MAKER WAS DIVINE AUTHORITY,/AND THE PRIMAL LOVE” (Inferno, Canto 3)

[xi] cf. David Malouf’s Ransom for a poignant treatment.

[xii] It’s fucking beautiful.

[xiii] Remember though before you judge them too harshly for this lack that the order of society has been terribly disrupted by the eruption of Achilles’s rage and not yet restored by these games and the sacrificial self-offering of Priam, itself deeply bound up in the relation between father and son. 

[xiv] I almost wrote, “save Achilles,” but Achilles lives more in the shadow of his father, a father he is doomed to surpass and pre-decease, than anyone.  That’s the whole problem.   

[xv] Surely in the background here we should also keep Fustel de Coulanges’s contentions about the centrality of ancestor-worship to the Greeks in mind.

[xvi] Compare Jewish history, not of men but God, whose image only emerges in negative space, between and behind the lines, as famously described by Auerbach in “Odysseus’s Scar.”  It’s not an accident that the memory’s place in the trinity of our mind most closely corresponds to God the Father, and that history is one of the dominant genres of the Old Testament. 

[xvii] “The living do not have a constitutive need to speak as much as to hear themselves spoken to, above all by the ancestor.  We lend voice to the dead so that they may speak to us from their underworld–address us, instruct us, reprove us, bless us, enlighten us, and in general alleviate the historical terror and loneliness of being in the world.” (Robert Pogue Harrison, Dominion of the Dead, 151)

[xviii] What happens next is, of course, the collision with and assimilation of Jewish history into this model, a topic for another day.

A Brief Note on Method

Socrates: I cannot help feeling, Phaedrus, that writing is unfortunately like painting; for the creations of the painter have the attitude of life, and yet if you ask them a question they preserve a solemn silence. And the same may be said of speeches. You would imagine that they had intelligence, but if you want to know anything and put a question to one of them, the speaker always gives one unvarying answer. And when they have been once written down they are tumbled about anywhere among those who may or may not understand them, and know not to whom they should reply, to whom not: and, if they are maltreated or abused, they have no parent to protect them; and they cannot protect or defend themselves.

Phaedrus: That again is most true.

Socrates: Is there not another kind of word or speech far better than this, and having far greater power-a son of the same family, but lawfully begotten?

Phaedrus: Whom do you mean, and what is his origin?

Socrates: I mean an intelligent word graven in the soul of the learner, which can defend itself, and knows when to speak and when to be silent.

Phaedrus: You mean the living word of knowledge which has a soul, and of which written word is properly no more than an image?

Socrates: Yes, of course that is what I mean.

Plato, Phaedrus 275d-276a

For I am covetous of something better, the possession of which I frequently enjoy within me before I commence to body it forth in intelligible words: and then when my capacities of expression prove inferior to my inner apprehensions, I grieve over the inability which my tongue has betrayed in answering to my heart. For it is my wish that he who hears me should have the same complete understanding of the subject which I have myself; and I perceive that I fail to speak in a manner calculated to effect that, and that this arises mainly from the circumstance that the intellectual apprehension diffuses itself through the mind with something like a rapid flash, whereas the utterance is slow, and occupies time, and is of a vastly different nature, so that, while this latter is moving on, the intellectual apprehension has already withdrawn itself within its secret abodes.

Augustine, On the Catechism of Unlearned 2.3

Small is Beautiful, pt. 6

My final post on Small is Beautiful. Other posts on Schumacher can be found here.

Schumacher includes another section, on Social Organization, that I won’t survey in detail, primarily because I found it to be the least interesting in the book. I imagine there’s quite a bit of sophistication that I missed, therefore, and don’t want to shortchange him. Schumacher was himself the director of some very large-scale and successful organizations, and he almost certainly offers quite a bit of insight into the subject. Just one more reason for you to check out the book for yourself.

The guiding principle behind Schumacher’s ideal social organization is the venerable principle of subsidiarity, that matters (politial, social, etc.) ought to be handled by the smallest, most local, or least centralized competent authority. Things generally ought to be handled by those who are closest to the situation at hand yet who have enough power to properly deal with the situation. Whenever possible, power ought not be assumed by higher powers unless absolutely necessary. In these cases, the burden of proving their unique capability to handle a given problem lies with the higher power:

they  have to prove that the lower level is incapable of fulfilling this function satisfactorily and that the higher level can actually do much better.

Small is Beautiful, 261 (emphasis his)

Moreover, when the higher power steps in, this must be recognized as an exception, not a rule. So, if a higher power is required to deal with the stresses put on a local system that outstrip that locale’s capacities, the nature of the exception and the scope of the higher power’s intervention needs to be clearly delineated and limited. For example, if the federal government is required to dramatically intervene in the governance of individual states to repair the damage, social and economic, of some natural disaster or social unrest, that intervention ought not be permanent. The aftermath of disaster is not an excuse to destroy subsidiary authority, but to support it until the crisis has passed. At which point, the higher should cede control back to the lower. The fact that this essentially never happens is one of the great problems of modern governance.1

Subsidiarity is, of course, one of the core planks of Catholic Social Teaching, and it was one of the gateways which led to Schumacher’s own conversion. So much for his discussion of social organization. Again, I encourage you to check out the whole book, he’s got a lot more to say.

We’ll thus wrap up our discussion of Small is Beautiful with some quotes from the book’s conclusion.

First, an identification of the central problem the book confronts:

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.  If only there were more and more wealth, everything else, it is thought, would fall into place.  Money is considered to be all-powerful; if it could not actually buy non-material values, such as justice, harmony, beauty or even health, it could circumvent the need for them or compensate for their loss.  The development of production and the acquisition of wealth have thus become the highest goals of the modern world in relation to which all other goals, not matter how much lip-service may still be paid to them, have come to take second place.

Small is Beautiful, 313

Note, the book was published more than 45 years ago. The problem has only gotten worse.

Next, the recognition that the problem is not one of technical incapacity or inadequate allocation of resources but a philosophical and spiritual one that can only be resolved, therefore, by philosophical and spiritual transformation:

We shrink back from the truth if we believe that the destructive forces of the modern world can be “brought under control” simply by mobilizing more resources–of wealth, education, and research–to fight pollution, to preserve wildlife, to discover new sources of energy, and to arrive at more effective agreements on peaceful coexistence.  Needless to say, wealth, education, research, and many other things are needed for any civilization, but what is most needed today is a revision of the ends which these means are meant to serve.

Small is Beautiful, 314-5

How might we begin this spiritual transformation?

Everywhere people ask: “What can I actually do?” The answer is simple as it is disconcerting: we can, each of us, work to put our own inner house in order.  The guidance we need for this work cannot be found in science or technology, the value of which utterly depends on the ends they serve; but it can still be found in the traditional wisdom of mankind. 

Small is Beautiful, 318

The solution lies in the virtues:

Out of the whole Christian tradition, there is perhaps no body of teaching which is more relevant and appropriate to the modern predicament than the marvelously subtle and realistic doctrines of the Four Cardinal Virtues–prudentia, justitita, fortitudo, and temperantia.

Small is Beautiful, 316

Cultivate the virtues in yourself and seek to build the structures that will enable others to do the same. It is this, not AI, not “more education”, not “green” technology, that will save you and, with you, us.

Small is Beautiful, pt. 5

An attempt to get back to writing regularly here, perhaps futile.

My last post on Schumacher was in January, so I’ve lost the thread a bit, please bear with me.

Previous posts can be found here.

One of the things I most appreciate about Schumacher is that he takes the challenge of technology seriously. The lack of serious engagement with technology is one of the great blindspots of anti-modern thought, which tends to ignore the catastrophic effects of technological advancement on the traditional world-view and the role of technology in sustaining the (otherwise unsustainable) edifice of modernity.1

If we wish to advocate for reform, we must therefore confront the challenge of technology head-on. Schumacher:

The modern world has been shaped by its metaphysics, which has shaped its education, which in turn has brought forth its science and technology.  So, without going back to metaphysics and education, we can say that the modern world has been shaped by technology.  It tumbles from crisis to crisis; on all sides there are prophecies of disaster and, indeed, visible signs of breakdown.

If that which has been shaped by technology, and continues to be so shaped, looks sick, it might be wise to have a look at technology itself.  If technology is felt to be becoming more and more inhuman, we might do well to consider whether it is possible to have something better–a technology with a human face.

Small is Beautiful, 155

Against the charge of technology being, as Schumacher describes it, inhuman and sickening, there are typically two knee-jerk responses. The first is a vague gesture towards the benefits of technology; medicine, transportation, smart phones.2 The second is an assertion of technology’s neutrality. In this defense, it is not the technology itself that is the problem, but the way we use it.

Note that these responses are inextricably linked. Both operate one step removed from the actual the problem. The (false) assumption here is that the development and operation of technology is an essentially uncontrolled process, an undirected power. Our response to technology is cast as a simple apprehension of and reaction to reality and not the product of a specific weltbild.3 Of course, this is rather obviously false as an even cursory examination (historical, philosophical, phenomenological, etc.) makes clear.

Recognizing that the technological mindset is not given, but rests upon a host of metaphysical claims, which are upon examination rather suspect, enables the possibility of questioning, discarding, and supplanting a view of the world, technological progress, and our relation to nature that, as Schumacher notes, is making us sick, spiritually and physically.

Of course, the defender of the technological mindset will challenge Schumacher’s assertion that said mind set is sickening or, if they are a bit more realistic, suggest that the spiritual and physical sicknesses technology does generate are necessary evils, “worth it” in comparison to the great benefits of technology.4

The response to this defense is simple, though difficult to accept. It is that the so-called advantages of technology in increasing productivity, health, happiness, etc. largely do not exist. While there are certainly technological achievements that have benefited man, antibiotics say, the vast majority add to our burdens, at best leading to the continual cluttering of our lives at worst actively enslaving and killing us.

I don’t have the space to demonstrate this in detail, perhaps I will write about it later.5 But, please, consider your own life : How many technologies truly make you more free, a better person, more productive? How many technologies add more responsibilities, require you to make more money to buy and maintain them, suck away all the small, still moments6 in your day, to how many are you addicted? Most importantly, how many make you a better person?

At the heart of our technological world lies a damning paradox:

The amount of real leisure a society enjoys tends to be in inverse proportion to the amount of labour-saving machinery it employs.

Small is Beautiful, 157

Moreover, the bounds of technology wrap ever tighter around us, tying us down to an endless proliferation of stuff and forcing us into an endless series of bullshit jobs to pay for that stuff (isn’t technology supposed to allow us to live lives of leisure? why in this time of supposed abundance do we work so much?).

The number of people who I’ve met who seem to do nothing at all, accomplish nothing, produce nothing. Is this what the pinnacle of industrial society looks like? Pushing paper? Why are we so miserable? This, among other things, leads to a profound sense of alienation and dislocation.

We say, therefore, that modern technology has deprived man of the kind of work that he enjoys most, creative, useful work with hands hands and brains, and given him plenty of work of a fragmented kind, most of which he does not enjoy at all.  It has multiplied the number of people who are exceedingly busy doing kinds of work which, if it is productive at all, is so only in an indirect or “rough-about” way, and much of which would not be necessary at all if technology were rather less modern. 

Small is Beautiful, 160

Schumacher’s solution: de-scaling and, most especially, technology with a human face. That is, technology that is fundamentally oriented towards humanity, that is human-scaled and human-directed–in what is perhaps the best distillation of the central thesis of the book, Schumacher writes:

Man is small, and, therefore, small is beautiful.

Small is Beautiful, 169

Technology and our relation to it ought to be designed towards helping us achieve actual happiness, eudaimonia. Of course, this requires recognizing that we have ends, that those ends are knowable and shared, that technology can inhibit or advance those ends, that there is no neutral. And this is intolerable to the modern mind.

1. The category into which I’ve assigned this and similar posts speaks to this latter point. Think of the vast amounts of energy exerted everyday to blot out the light of the stars, such a thing is only possible thanks to the tremendous technological achievements of the past two hundred years. Without the ability to exert this energy so freely, we’d be forced to consider the stars and to confront the consequences of that consideration. Technology thus acts as the instrument of our (pseudo)willful blindness to the reality of things. And where does causation ultimately lie? Do we control technology or does it control us? Do we blot out the stars because it is our wish or because we’ve given ourselves no other choice? To whom have we delegated the power of deciding?

2. they rarely gesture toward incinerated corpses in Nagasaki

3. This yet another iteration of the great modern lie, of the possibility of valueless, metaphysically neutral judgment about anything whatsoever. It is rooted in a failure to recognize that metaphysical judgments are prior to all others and cannot be bracketed.

The truth of this principle is demonstrated by the desperate hand-waving of those attempting to ignore metaphysics when confronted with the impossibility of their position. It all boils down to, “well, what if we just pretend that we can suspend judgment on, say, whether God exists?” But all we’re doing is pretending (at best, at worst, we’re deliberately obfuscating perhaps from ourselves. If, for example, the world is a creation, rather than a semi-random accumulation of matter spewed out by some purposeless cosmic explosion, isn’t that the single most important fact about the world? If God became man and died on the Cross, is not all history, all reality colored (indeed, re-created) by that moment? How can we bracket these questions, then? We must proceed under the assumption that these propositions are either true or false, they touch every aspect of our thought, our lives. We cannot do otherwise.

4. If they’re feeling polemical, as those who are long accustomed to seeing their mindset as neutral and default often are (wittingly and unwittingly), there’s often a veiled or explicit accusation of luditism embedded in their defense. “So you want us all to become Amish?” “Oh, so we should just all go back to living in mud huts and dying of the plague?” These are, of course, not actually arguments, mere emotional outbursts, and don’t truly deserve a rational response, though we received rather eloquent one long ago: “For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?” 

5. If you’re interested, see for example Ivan Illich’s writings on the true cost of cars (His work on medicine is well worth reading as well) or see Kunstler on how widespread automobile usage (something possible only through the mass practice of usury by the way) and designing our living space around cars has resulted in the destruction of American communities. Or look at the correspondence of smartphones with the increasing social dissolution among younger generations. Think about what mass media has done to society, what it does to your brain, about environmental devastation, and so on and so on.

6. See 1 Kings 19:11-12

Small is Beautiful, pt. 4

[previous entries in the series: part 1, part 2, and part 3]

Not content to offer mere diagnosis, Schumacher dedicates considerable space in Small is Beautiful to concrete proposals for reform. Recognize the importance of education, technology, and social organization (here, he is primarily thinking of large scale organizations, corporations, government, etc.) to modern society, he focuses on those areas. We therefore begin with education:

If Western civilization is in a state of permanent crisis, it is not far-fetched to suggest that there may be something wrong with its education. No civilization, I am sure, has ever devoted more energy and resources to organized education, and if we believe in nothing else, we certainly believe that education is, or should be, the key to everything. In fact, the belief in education is so strong that we treat it as the residual legatee of all our problems. If the nuclear age brings new dangers; if the advance of genetic engineering opens the doors to new abuses; if commercialism brings new temptations–the answer must be more and better education.


Small is Beautiful , 84

I don’t think you need to be a particularly sophisticated reader to note the subtle critique here, but whether the modern fixation on education is ridiculous or not, serious reform is necessary. In another work, Christopher Dawson sums up the problem in terms I believe Schumacher would agree with:

In the modern world the average man can go through his whole education without becoming aware of the existence of this elementary and essential spiritual factor either in the individual psyche or in the life of civilization.. Whether he studies the liberal arts or science and technology he is given no inkling of the existence of any higher principle which can be known and which can influence individual behavior or social culture. Yet, as I have said, all the great historical civilizations of the past recognize the existence of some spiritual principles or ends of this kind and made them the key of their interpretation of reality and their concepts of moral order. Hence a system of education like that of the modern secular state which almost totally ignores the spiritual component in human culture and in the human psyche is a blunder so enormous that no advance in scientific method or educational technique is sufficient to compensate for it.


Small is Beautiful, 203

That final line is an important one and hearkens back to a point made by Schumacher and noted in the second post of this series. Namely, that one of the characteristic mistakes of our age is expecting a technical solution to solve a problem rooted in the illegitimate predominance of techne. In concrete terms, this means that reforms that propose to solve the problem of education by adding computers to the classroom or developing some innovative teaching method not only will not help the situation, but are in fact concrete manifestations of what’s gone wrong in the first place. It is precisely the idea that we need only to stumble upon the right method, some neutral set of processes, and then allocate the proper resources to it that is the problem. Endlessly tweaking the method is a waste of time at best and quite often an active harm as this tweaking saps the momentum of centuries in favor of novelty.


What education needs instead is a re-orientation toward what actually matters, namely how to live:

To do so, the task of education would be, first and foremost, the transmission of ideas of value, of what to do with our lives. There is not doubt also the need to transmit know-how but this must take second place, for it is obviously somewhat foolhardy to put great powers into the hands of people without making sure that they have a reasonable idea of what to do with them….More education can help us only if it produces more wisdom.


Small is Beautiful, 86 (my emphasis)

It’s remarkable how purposeless education is today. Think, what is the point of an education? To make it simpler, let’s restrict our focus to the university, what is the purpose of a college education? If it is to prepare you for a job, then it is a horribly constructed institution, imparting almost no practical skills and compartmentalizing career services into an optionally (and rarely) explored corner of campus. Those exalting the utility of the liberal arts for work conveniently ignore that this utility is entirely accidental. You might end up using some insight from Dante in your job at a fancy non-profit, but your study of Dante was certainly not directed toward that end.


Thus, education cannot be directed toward work (and if it is, ought to be wholly reconfigured and begun again), nor, thanks to the denial of spiritual ends noted by Dawson, can it be directed towards some moral or metaphysical purpose.1 A university education cannot be aimed at making you a better person (as in the classical conception of the liberal arts), because the possibility of moral truth is denied by virtually everyone. That this denial is contradictory nonsense, leading not to a neutral, tolerant system that facilitates the glorious free-flow of ideas, untrammeled by illogical prejudice, but rather a schizophrenic mush of objectively asserted and practiced moral claims that refuse to subject themselves to rationality under the guise of not being claims at all (and thus becoming far less tolerant and more totalitarian than anywhere that dogma is explicitly pronounced) is simply ignored.


So what’s the point? “Critical thinking”? What does that phrase, so often bandied about, even mean? And, come to think of it, how often are “thinking” skills actually taught? How often is a student required to read Aristotle on logic, Cicero on rhetoric, or any book that’s actually about how to persuade and argue rationally? Instead, students are expected to discern how to think critically by (best case) analyzing history and literature and writing papers about them. I confess, this doesn’t make much sense to me. To bring about any real reform, we need to actually articulate a purpose for education and work coherently toward that purpose, which, of course, requires rejecting the abandonment of metaphysics and attendant denial of human nature.


Examined from a different angle: There is no such thing as a neutral space of ideas, no education without some metaphysical grounding. Any assertion to the contrary is a flat lie that utterly destroys any possibility for true education (again, people today are generally only educated by accident and momentum). Moreover, since we are, at our very root, metaphysical beings, education without a coherent metaphysical grounding is profoundly anti-human. It is worse than pointless:

Whether the subjects taught are subjects of science or of the humanities, if the teaching does not lead to a clarification of metaphysics, that is to say, of our fundamental convictions, it cannot educate a man and, consequently, cannot be of real value to society.


Small is Beautiful , 98

Thus, we must, to reform education, abandon the pretense of neutrality, abandon the anti-human ideologies of the modern era, and re-orient education towards the metaphysical, recovering the true purpose of an education: to make us better.

Our reason has become beclouded by an extraordinary, blind and unreasonable faith in a set of fantastic and life-destroying ideas inherited from the nineteenth century. It is the foremost task of our reason to recover a truer faith than that.


Small is Beautiful , 98
  1. “The most powerful ideas of the nineteenth century, as we have seen, have denied or at least obscured the whole concept of “levels of being” and the idea that some things are higher than others. This, of course, has meant the destruction of ethics, which is based on the distinction of good and evil, claiming that good is higher than evil.” (Small is Beautiful, 105)
    Since Schumacher is worried a great deal about environmental degradation, recall that I’ve previously argued that any coherent environmental ethic must be predicated on a hierarchy of being.

Power and the Modern Age

I find myself reading a lot of diagnoses of the modern world-picture.1  There are perhaps too many of these, they all generally arrive at the same conclusions, of the sort we’ve recently explored in Schumacher, and you wish they said more about the cure than the disease.2  In any case, I tend to believe that the convergence of these diagnoses is a sign of their plausibility and when we step back we can see how each individual author is taking up a thread of a vast and multifaceted problem.  It’s therefore always interesting when an author offers a different perspective on things. Such is the case of Guardini’s The End of the Modern World. Like virtually everyone, he situates the roots of the modern weltbild in the late Medieval period—his “culprit” is Copernicus and the end of the medieval picture of the cosmos (a claim I only find mildly convincing)—and like many he also argues that the titular end has already come, sometime during or around the time of the two world wars.3

In the wake of this ending, Guardini understands the central question of the next phase of history to be man’s relation to power. What he means by power is not entirely obvious, something like “real energies capable of changing the reality of things, of determining their condition and interrelations” (End of the Modern World, 121). A definition that encompasses both what we might call material technology—atomic bombs, computers, bulldozers, and the like—and social technology—propaganda, mass education, mass media.

He’s weak on the latter sort of power. The specter of nuclear war very obviously lurks in the background here,4 yet it turns out that it is not in material technology that power has developed most insidiously in the decades since Guardini wrote.5  Nevertheless, his key worry remains legitimate, that modern man understands technology as an essentially natural force, detached from human choice

The use of power is accepted simply as another natural process; its only norms are taken from alleged necessity, from either utility or security. Power is never considered in terms of the responsibility for choice which is inherent in freedom.


End of the Modern World, 83

The worry is that control over power, which man has very deliberately seized, usurping God, to inaugurate the modern revolution in thought, has been abdicated in light of the horrors and exigencies of the World Wars and the attendant collapse of the modern world-picture that resulted (is resulting). Thus, power is now understood to progress as a consequence of some internal logic, rather than as something actualized by human agents.

Of even more significance, the development of power has created the impression that power objectifies itself; that is, power cannot really be possessed or even used by man; rather, it unfold independently from the continuous logic of scientific investigations, from technical problems, from political tensions. The conviction grows that power simply demands its own actualization.


End of the Modern World, 83

The very development of news sources of power, in other words, demands that this power be used. Atomic weapons are, as mentioned, the prototypical case. The fact that the hydrogen bomb can be built means it must be built. The fact that it has been built, means me must build bigger and bigger bombs and must build scores of them. The need to do so is not because the people, our leaders, have specifically chosen, but because political circumstances imagined as beyond the control of human agents, have necessitated it. Thus, they bear no moral agency for their choice to make ever more destructive weapons, not really.

Nuclear weapons are passe these days, but we can see this reasoning to other areas. The surveillance state is necessary because it is useful, how else will we prevent the terrorist attacks that are only possible because of the (apparently inevitable) choices made by policy makers in other areas? Globalization and corporate consolidation are necessary due to market forces, entirely distinct from the people we’ve appointed (or who have appointed themselves) to manage the markets. That these have disastrous effects, morally and materially, is simply an unfortunate natural by-product, no different than a natural disaster and certainly no one’s fault.

Guardini contends that this ostensible lack of agency is a colossal lie, the unfolding of the energies that control the world are not directionless. They cannot be.

There is no being without a master. As far as being is nature–or the non-personal creation–being belongs to God, Whose will is expressed in the laws by which this being, this nature, exists. As far as being is taken out of nature and into the sphere of human freedom, it belongs to man and man is responsible for it. If man fails in his responsibility and does not care for being as he should, it does not return to nature. To think that it does is a negligent assumption, one with which the contemporary world has consoled itself with more or less awareness. But being is not something which one can dispose of by putting it away in storage. When man fails in his responsibility toward the being which he has taken from nature, that being becomes the possession of something anonymous. 

End of the Modern World, 83-4

That (more properly, these) anonymous possessor(s) are demons. Guardini is not being metaphorical here, he means actual demons. Man in the slowly crumbling ruins of the modern age is given a choice. He can give himself over to unconsciousness, and the inhuman, demonic consciousness that will the vacuum,6 or he can master himself, something only possible (as the failure of the modern world-picture to do makes clear) through a proper awareness of our true relation to power and power’s real source, God:

If human power and the lordship which stems from it are rooted in man’s likeness to God, then power is not man’s in his own right, autonomously, but only as a loan, in fief. Man is lord by the grace of God, and he must exercise his dominion responsibly, for he is answerable for it to him who is Lord by essence. Thus sovereignty becomes obedience, service (134).

Guardini believes the choice between these two options, demonic and divine, will only become obvious as things progress. The crumbling of the modern world-picture reveals the stark reality of the struggle lying behind it. No longer will we be deceived by the mush of false sentimentalism masquerading as Christianity or the insistence, much derided by Nietzsche, that Christian values can be retained after their bedrock has been denied. He ultimately sees this as a good thing, though it will certainly not be a quiet and peaceful time. At least the lies of the modern age will hold less currency and, in collapse, awaken the possibility of something true taking their place. Meanwhile, each individual still faces the choice, as they always have, must make it and make it well.

  1. I think I’ve settled on this term, we might substitute condition, worldview, mindset, etc.
  2. The reason for this disparity is because the cure is rather simple, “cultivate virtue.” Simply stated, yet exceedingly difficult. Still, there ought to be more practical advice on attaining this life, particularly amidst the corrupting miasma of the modern world. To his credit, Schumacher outlines some high-level curatives that we’ll discuss in the next few posts.
  3. when dealing in meta-history, it’s all right to be vague about these things
  4. making me realize we never really talk about nuclear weapons anymore, when I was a child, living in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union, they were still very much on peoples’ minds. Odd how these things slip away.
  5. As an aside, there is a fairly strong argument that technological development has essentially stalled as of late, a troublesome development for a world-picture so dependent on continual technological advancement for its own self-justification.
  6. When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first.” (Luke 11:24-6). We might also thing of the terrifying consumption of Prof. Frost in That Hideous Strength as a metaphor for the modern described by Guardini (this should horrify you).

Small is Beautiful, pt. 3

[Part 1], [Part 2]

Schumacher was an economist, and thus some of his most penetrating analysis comes in his section on economics and the evils attendant therein. First, in keeping with the materialistic orientation of the world discussed in the previous post, we see that, in a materialist world, the gravest error is to fail to be profitable:

If an activity has been branded as uneconomic, its right to existence is not merely questioned but energetically denied. Anything that is found to be an impediment to economic growth is a shameful thing, and if people cling to it, they are thought of as either saboteurs or fools. Call a thing immoral or ugly, soul-destroying or a degradation of man, a peril to the peace of the world or to the well-being of future generations; as long as you have not shown it to be “uneconomic” you have not really questioned its right to exist, grow, and prosper…something is uneconomic when if fails to earn an adequate profit in terms of money.

Small is Beautiful, 44

Of course, this is a downright stupid way to think about the world and about value, it’s ridiculousness so obvious that it hardly needs to be refuted, merely stated. It is, like the vision of Chesterton’s madman, cripplingly narrow:

The judgment of economics, in other words, is an extremely fragmentary judgment; out of the larger number of aspects which in real life have to be seen and judged together before a decision can be taken, economics supplies only one 


Small is Beautiful, 45

This narrowness, I have referred to it elsewhere (here and here) as flatness, is the defining characteristic of the modern mindset and the biggest reason why a world shaped by that mindset (and ours is everyday more so, though it resists1) is so deeply unsatisfying (in a profound metaphysical way, this is a dissatisfaction that destroys souls2).


To make matters worse:

Economists themselves, like most specialists, normally suffer from a kind of metaphysical blindness, assuming that theirs is a science of absolute and invariable truths, without any presuppositions


If I could destroy just one myth in the mind of my readers, it would be this presumption of neutrality. Economics, like all the bastard children of the “Enlightenment,” presumes to detach itself from its own practitioners (if you listen carefully, you can hear Kierkegaard screaming and kicking in the distance). Detached from men (who have already been detached from God), these practices become fundamentally anti-human and begin to devour.


A few concrete instances of how the economic world-picture has impoverished us. First, despite ostensibly being the science that describes work, economics fundamentally misunderstands the very nature of labor:

Now the modern economist has been brought up to consider “labour” or work as little more than a necessary evil. From the point of view of the employer, it is in any case simply an item of cost, to be reduced to a minimum if it cannot be eliminated altogether, say, by automation. From the point of view of the workman, it is a “disutility”; to work is to make a sacrifice of one’s leisure and comfort, and wages are a kind of compensation for the sacrifice. Hence the ideal from the point of view of the employer is to have output without employees, and the ideal from the point of view of the employee is to have income without employment. 


Small is Beautiful, 57


And today more and more people see their livelihoods sucked into the maw of automation, while an even greater number can find no joy in their work, their jobs having been designed in light of this mindset and thus deprived of joy in their very constitution. As Josef Pieper, the great theorist of work and leisure (see also Sayers and von Hildebrand), has pointed out the economic world-picture also drains the leisure and comfort that is supposedly the point of work of any true meaning. Leisure simply becomes the island of not doing anything amidst the grind of the day-to-day.


Many of the corruptions brought about by the economic world-picture (and of modern thought more generally) are obscured by technology’s shininess. Ignored, however, is the reality that this technology rarely makes us happier. Indeed it rarely even makes us more efficient or grants us more leisure.3

While people, with an easy-going kind of logic, believe that fast transport and instantaneous communications open up a new dimension of freedom (which they do in some rather trivial respects), they overlook the fact that these achievements also tend to destroy freedom, by making everything extremely vulnerable and extremely insecure, unless conscious policies are developed and conscious action is taken to mitigate the destructive effects of these technological development.

Do you have more or less time for yourself since you first bought an iPhone?
We, therefore, not only have emptied out work and leisure of any real significance, making the former especially onerous, but we’ve also dramatically increased the amount of time we spend at work in the name of becoming ever more efficient.


This process leads to ever greater social disconnection, especially as economic circumstances require the consolidation of people in urban areas (this is a huge topic, and I’ll thus only gesture towards it here).

The factor of footlooseness is, therefore, the more serious, the bigger the country. Its destructive effects can be traced both in the rich and in the poor countries. In the rich countries such as the United States of America, it produces, as already mentioned, the “megalopolis.” It also produces a rapidly increasing and ever more intractable problem of “drop-outs,” of people, who, having become footloose, cannot find a place anywhere in society. Directly connected with this, it produces an appalling problem of crime, alienation, stress, social breakdown, right down to the level of the family. In the poor countries, again most severely in the large ones, it produces mass migration into cities, mass unemployment, and, as vitality is drained out of rural areas, the threat of famine. The result is a “dual society” without any inner cohesion, subject to a maximum of political instability. 


Small is Beautiful, 75

America has always suffered from rootlessness of a sort (see Chateaubriand, for instance), but it has now reached, perhaps surpassed, the stage of crisis, and we can see this crisis manifest essentially everywhere if we have eyes to see.


Enough with the dour diagnosis, however. Next time, what is to be done!

  1. naturam expelles furca, tamen usque recurret. Horace, Epistles i. x. 24
  2. see here, for instance. On why this is the inevitable result, see here.  
  3. Remind me to write about this essay one day.  

Small is Beautiful, pt. 2

[part 1]

Been busy and only going to get more so through the month of November, so this series on Schumacher is likely to be pretty spread out.  Apologies.

One of Schumacher’s key insights is that the problem of the modern economic system is not simply a crisis in the distribution and use of resources, but is instead a fundamentally moral crisis.  It is not a technical problem with a technical solution.  The problem is our mindset, our worldview, specifically that:

modern man has built a system of production that ravishes nature and a type of society that mutilates man. If only there were more and more wealth, everything else, it is thought, would fall into place. Money is considered to be all-powerful; if it could not actually buy non-material values, such as justice, harmony, beauty or even health, it could circumvent the need for them or compensate for their loss. The development of production and the acquisition of wealth have thus become the highest goals of the modern world in relation to which all other goals, not matter how much lip-service may still be paid to them, have come to take second place.

Small is Beautiful, 313

The crisis of mindset begins with the enthronement of material ends as the highest good1 and is perpetuated by the collapse of thinking that attends such an enthronement.2

If human vices such as greed and envy are systematically cultivated, the inevitable result is nothing less than a collapse of intelligence. A man driven by greed or envy loses the power of seeing things as they really are, his very successes become failures. If whole societies become infected by these vices, they may indeed achieve astonishing things but they become increasingly incapable of solving the most elementary problems of everyday existence. The Gross National Product may rise rapidly: as measured by statisticians but not as experienced by actual people, who find themselves oppressed by increasing frustration, alienation, insecurity, and so forth. After a while, even the Gross National Product refuses to rise any further, not because of scientific or technological failure, but because of a creeping paralysis of non-cooperation, as expressed in various types of escapism on the part, not only of the oppressed and exploited, but even of highly privileged groups.

Small is Beautiful, 32

Sin makes you stupid, in other words.  And, as a consequence, we become more and more unable to rescue ourselves from the ever more stupefying morass into which we have fallen:

The neglect, indeed the rejection, of wisdom has gone so far that most of our intellectuals have not even the faintest idea of what the term could mean. As a result, they always tend to try and cure a disease by intensifying its causes. The disease having been caused by allowing cleverness to displace wisdom, no amount of clever research is likely to produce a cure.

Small is Beautiful, 40

No technological solution can solve a problem rooted in the technological mindset itself, in the mindset that imagines nature only as something to be dominated, exploited, controlled.

We shrink back from the truth if we believe that the destructive forces of the modern world can be “brought under control” simply by mobilizing more resources–of wealth, education, and research–to fight pollution, to preserve wildlife, to discover new sources of energy, and to arrive at more effective agreements on peaceful coexistence. Needless to say, wealth, education, research, and many other things are needed for any civilization, but what is most needed today is a revision of the ends which these means are meant to serve.

Small is Beautiful, 314-5

Thus, to save the world, we must first of all affect a change in our hearts and minds, must reorient ourselves to new ends.  Ultimately, Schumacher argues (to skip ahead quite a bite) this reorientation is nothing less than the reawakening of the virtues:3

Out of the whole Christian tradition, there is perhaps no body of teaching which is more relevant and appropriate to the modern predicament than the marvelously subtle and realistic doctrines of the Four Cardinal Virtues–prudentia, justitita, fortitudo, and temperantia.
Small is Beautiful, 316

Let’s continue our exploration in future posts of what this reawakening looks like in the realms of education, technology and social organization.

1. Something the students in my Introduction to World Religions courses never fail to notice is that this enthronement is condemned by every major religion on Earth.  There’s probably a reason for that condemnation, maybe even a good one.

2. I must cite this stunningly evil anecdote about Keynes, Schumacher’s mentor, that Schumacher recounts to show how this mindset was consciously adopted:

In 1930, during the world-wide economic depression, [Keynes] felt moved to speculate on the “economic possibilities for our grandchildren” and concluded that the day might not be all that far off when everybody would be rich. We shall then, he said, “once more value ends above means and prefer the good to the useful.”
“But beware!” he continued. “The time for all this is not yet. For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to every one that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still. For only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight.”
Small is Beautiful, 24

Doing evil so that good might result, an ever present and thoroughly wicked temptation (cf. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, ch. 3)

3. Striking how many brilliant thinkers independently arrive at this conclusion, isn’t it?

Small is Beautiful

Beginning another series of posts, this time concentrating on E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful.

Schumacher was a mid-20th century economist, a student of Keynes, who advised the British National Coal Board (a far bigger deal than the name alone indicates) for decades.  Influenced by his study of philosophy, particularly the traditional social thought of the Catholic Church,1 and his travels around the world as an economic consultant (particularly to Burma), he formulated an understanding of economics and technology that is a vital corrective to prevailing attitudes both in his day and our own.  His book was surprisingly popular, yet the problems Schumacher critiques are still very much with us and his solutions sadly unimplemented, at least on any mass scale.

By and large I believe that Schumacher is correct both in his diagnosis of what is wrong with modern economic systems and in his prescriptions to resolve the problem, and his writings have greatly informed much of the “what is to be done” aspect of my thought on the environment/economy.2

Schumacher suggests that the core problem is a philosophical one, an unwarranted confidence that material advances have eliminated the problem of production.  This false confidence is rooted in a materialistic techno-centric outlook3 that is, at its very core, false and will thus lead inexorably to collapse.  This outlook leaves us blind to the ravenous consumption/destruction of three irreplaceable resources :

This illusion, I suggested, is mainly due to our inability to recognizes that the modern industrial system , with all its intellectual sophistication, consumes the very basis on which it has been erected. To use the language of the economists, it lives on irreplaceable capital which it cheerfully treats as income. I specified three categories of such capital: fossil fuels, the tolerance margins of nature, and the human substance.

Small is Beautiful, 21

My eye is, of course, most drawn to the last of these, though Schumacher gives ample space to all three.

The problems related to the first are fairly obvious, no less so in our modern era of seemingly never-ending violent entanglement in the Middle East than in Schumacher’s own ecologically-troubled time.

The second points to the broader set of ecological stresses placed on the natural world by careless, over-scaled industrialization.  Conceive of the natural world as an exceedingly complex system that is, for the most part, able to absorb any number of shocks.  A single summer without much rain does not cause an ecosystem to collapse nor does an especially cold winter or even a more violent natural disaster, such as a hurricane.  However, these events do place pressure on the system and, if they accumulate dramatically, a point can be reached where the “safety margin” of they system’s resiliency is overcome, leading to rapid collapse.  Perhaps the most obvious case of this sort of thing is what happened to isolated island ecosystems after the arrival of man.  A population of only fifty people–who brought with them dogs, rats, etc.–was enough to guarantee the extinction of the Dodo in less than a hundred years.

The third category that is consumed by the modern industrial system is, to put it in even more severe terms than Schumacher, the human soul.  One needs to only think of the Satanic mills of industrial England, suicide nets outside iPhone factories, or the bleak dehumanizing horror of Soviet architecture, to say nothing of the terrible all-consuming atomization of modern America.  There is simply no point to industrial society if it deprives us of our humanity, and no point to any reform that does not confront this corruption/consumption head on.

In the next few posts, I’d like to continue this diagnosis, looking at both the moral character of the current crisis and the systems of thought that underlie it, before proceeding to Schumacher’s suggestions of how to fix these issues in the realms of education, technology, and, perhaps, social organization.

1. Schumacher eventually converted to Catholicism a few years before his death in 1977.

2. The two are, of course, inextricably linked.  One of the pervasive and obviously true contentions of Small is Beautiful is that economics cannot simply be an arena cordoned off from the rest of human activity.

3. Which I would define as the idea that the attitude towards nature of humanity is essentially one of control and domination