Tag Archives: Schumacher

What have we really lost?

During his meditation on eduction and the separation between ‘know-how’ and fundamental metaphysical knowledge, Schumacher’s discussion of Shakespeare and the second law of thermodynamics struck a chord with me.  I’ve certainly borne witness to the third and fourth generational effects of educational systems that are dependent on the centrality of relativity and know-how to their pedagogy. So while I want to react to Schumacher with a similar sort of almost embarrassingly reactionary conservatism (you can’t just /stop/ progress!) as I’ve witnessed myself myself leap to in the reading of works from Gandhi and Illich, it is essential to note that I am myself situated entirely within the pedagogical approach which he here decries.

In particular, Schumacher’s urgings for the re-establishment of a clear hierarchical organization of the universe drew my attention.  To be frank, I agree here with Schumacher, as I did with Tagore, some essential experience of life that may be foregone with the compartmentalization of life into discretized, compartmentalized, and relatively unordered spaces, as technology and modern science have so efficiently allowed for.  I certainly was not educated with any sort of cosmic hierarchy in mind, and so I often find myself unconsciously scoffing at the protestations of philosophers who urge us to “higher” pursuits, or more “whole” understandings of the world.  That isn’t to say that I don’t recognize the nuances or even the possible boons of such world-views; merely that it is one thing to understand a belief or a perspective in the abstract, and entirely another to hold it.

I worry that I may simply have fallen into a relativist trap.  “What makes a world-view that incorporates such beliefs any better than one that does not?” I, almost involuntarily, ask.  How do you sort out whether, as Darwin claims and Schumacher supports, a life wherein the enjoyment of Shakespeare has been stymied in favor of data-processing is a bad thing?  It seems almost a ridiculous question to ask – of course being able to meaningfully understand one’s place in the world and appreciate the nuance of literature is a good thing.  But still, somewhere, I struggle.  Many of the arguments against the rise of modern technology have pointed toward the loss of some element which has made us somehow less essentially human.  But this seems too easy to me.  Have we truly lost some piece of our humanity, or has what it means to be human simply changed?

2 Questions from the Schumacher Reading

I really engaged with Schumacher, possibly more than any other author we’ve read this semester. Here are 2 questions I conjured up while reading.

1) Can we decouple economic growth from ecological devastation? Schumacher talks much about the impact of economic growth, as quantifiably measured in terms of GDP, on the environment. He seems certain that these two are inextricably linked, which is partly why he advocates against universal prosperity as a goal, and advocates for Buddhist economics. Are they so linked? I really don’t know the answer to this question and am looking for guidance from other disciplines besides my own. I might argue that Moore’s Law provides evidence that decoupling is possible; that we can produce more output with less power over time. Or maybe that’s just my myopic vision of technology and progress given my background?

2) I couldn’t help thinking about John Perkins and his book, “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”, while reading Schumacher on development. Especially when Schumacher references econommetrics. Perkins claims that econometrics was an intentional creation, a sort of rhetorical modeling device, to further a neo-colonial development model focused on indebting third world countries and enriching large western corporations. Perkins’ main claim is that the legislative arbitrage that occurs domestically in the USA, and that we call pork barrel legislation, was intentionally exported to developing countries using bribes, intimidation, and sometimes assassination. Schumacher directly addresses the intent question, and decides that the neo-colonials have no ill intent.(page 134, 2nd paragraph)

I’m curious what people think of this. In one of the Manning Wikileak leaks the Nigerian country manager for Shell boasts that Shell had completely infiltrated the Nigerian government and its policies. How do people perceive the current state of neo-colonialism in the world? Are there corporate overlords pulling the strings, or are their intentions usually benevolent, and only the affect often malevolent?