Small is Still Beautiful: Economics as if Families Mattered

ISBN: 1933859059
ISBN 13: 9781933859057
By: Joseph Pearce

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About this book

A Third of a century ago, E. F. Schumacher rang out a timely warning against the idolatry of giantism with his book Small Is Beautiful. Few books before or since have spoken so profoundly to urgent economic and social considerations. Humanity was lurching blindly in the wrong direction, argued Schumacher. Its obsessive pursuit of wealth would not, as so many believed, ultimately lead to Utopia but more probably to catastrophe.Schumacher's greatest achievement was the fusion of ancient wisdom and modern economics in a language that encapsulated contemporary doubts and fears about the industrialized world. He saw that we needed to relearn the beauty of smallness, of human-scale technology and environments. In Small Is Still Beautiful, Joseph Pearce revisits Schumacher's arguments and examines the multifarious ways in which they matter now more than ever. Bigger is not always best, Pearce reminds us, and small is still beautiful.About the Author:Joseph Pearce is currently editor of the Saint Austin Review and Writer in Residence and Associate Professor of Literature at Ave Maria University

Reader's Thoughts


Joseph Pearce gives us a very helpful book that covers such topics as: philosophy of economics, critiques of capitalism, socialism and communism, the abuse of land and historical examples that both support the ideas he is proposing and affirm the criticisms he is making. The book, to its credit and as the title implies, leans very heavily on E.F. Schumacher's "Small is Beautiful." It has introduced me several new ideas and, I think Pearce would accept this, offers a very nice introduction to economic philosophy of distributism.


This was a really interesting book. I haven't read the original Small is Beautiful and probably if I had, I'd have a better sense of how Mr. Pearce updated and expanded that book, though he does quote extensively from Schumacher's book, so I didn't feel at a disadvantage. I liked how Pearce went through and looked at how small is beautiful in all the different aspects of human society: in democracies, in business, in our relationship to the earth, etc. I loved that some of the examples that Pearce talks about, of people's reactions to globalization or these huge multinational corporations have been things I have observed in my own day to day life. For instance, I remember growing up that there were only a few beer makers out there: Budweiser, Anheiser-Busch and Miller were very dominant. Then somehow in the late 80's, early 90's all these other ales and such came onto the market and microbreweries were suddenly popping up everywhere. Well, that market shift was actually triggered by a few friends in England who longed for some good beer, like they had in the old days before a few big corps. dominated the market. So they started an organization to encourage and support locally made beer. And over the years it took off! The other example I've witnessed is the phenomenal rise of organic food. That also was a grassroots response to factory farming and all the unhealthy practices that agri-business brought into the world.Much of what Mr. Pearce says makes so much sense. However, the end of the book kind of fell apart for me. He went into great detail about case studies of people creating co-ops to make the workplace more human-scaled or 'small' and then in the last chapter or so he seemed to rush to get the rest of his thoughts out. The pacing of the book seemed to change. Another thing I really found refreshing about this book is the way Pearce does not look at issues through the lense of 'binary American Politics' as I've seen it put. Being an environmentalist didn't mean you are 'liberal' being suspicious of big business doesn't mean you are 'liberal.' I liked that the book didn't break down into American conservative vs. liberal think, which frankly I am sick to death of. It is so inaccurate and unhelpful to think that way. But because Mr. Pearce is British he took most of his case studies from England and also cites examples from other parts of the world, as well as the U.S.One thing I am thrilled about is the timing of my reading of this book. I feel it has primed me to read and understand better Pope Benedict's latest encyclical Caritas in Veritate (sp?).


The basic premise of this book is that there is no such thing as a purely economic problem because economics deals with human beings and a world with finite resources. Economic problems cannot be solved using purely economic methods. Material wealth cannot compensate humans for (in Tawney's words) "arrangements which insult their self-respect and impair their freedom," nor can it fix irreparable harm done to the world we need to sustain us. All good points!That said, this is not well written. This is basically a series of quotes, some several pages long, linked by Pearce's hamhanded* prose. The quotes themselves were part of the problem for me: for any one economics professor or real world example, there are two quotes from Catholic popes or GK Chesterton. To give Pearce some credit, I'm clearly not the target audience for this book. He makes few arguments of his own, but these few are all based entirely on Catholic doctrine, which I don't care about. And his points about economics not counting the true impact and cost of industry, the harm of the the WTO, IMF, and World Bank's neocolonialism, big businesses influencing governments and people instead of the other way round--I already knew all of this, generally with far more nuance and depth than he presented. I assume this book is for the Catholics out there who haven't yet done any research or thought into economics. For everyone else, this isn't useful or, for that matter, all that readable.*Here's one I just came across: "[Mansholt's Plan] has begotten the desert it deserves. The soul of the soil has been sold for cash, and farmer Faustus is left to reap the bitter harvest."


As much as I wanted to like this book, I couldn't. I think it mostly had to do with Mr. Pierce not being a compelling writer. He incorporates too many statistics making it hard to read and the only thing I got out of the book is that everything causes cancer.I'm currently reading the original Schumacher book. It's a lot more readable but I agree with it less - though I can see where he's coming from.


This book helps work through some practical attributes of distributism. Pearce does a good job of making the reader think. At first I was turned off by the amount of environmentalism seemingly portrayed by the author, but upon further thought the point of the environmental talk is not that the world is more important than people, but that people are stewards of the world and it is unjust for one group of people to consume and damage the world for others. Love thy neighbor includes not throwing garbage in their yard. Breaking the economy down into smaller pieces; placing the responsibility in the hands of the individual and family will restore economics to its proper place: that of being in service to the human person.


Eye opening approach to economics. Let's hear it for Distributism!

Suzanne Horton

a perception changing read that my very perception changing philosophy prof required in his class. It speaks of the need for conservation and the ass-backward way we exploit our resources without regard. Full of stats and a bit dry at times, but poignant none the less.


Thought-provoking and approachable book on economics!

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