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Cartoon and reflection




Ernst Friedrich Schumacher and His Ideas about AT

He founded the "Intermediate Technology Development Group" in 1965 at a time when the terms Intermediate Technology or Appropriate Technology were almost unknown. Ernst Friedrich Schumacher, who died in September 1977 at the age of 66, is the individual in question. He was born in Bonn (FRO) in 1911, the son of the economist Hermann Albert Schumacher. Ernst Friedrich Schumacher also studied economics, in Bonn, Berlin, Oxford and New York.

This is not the place to go into the whole story of E. F. Schumacher's life and work. We are only concerned here-with the ideas which led to the creation of AT.

Schumacher's suggestions for the Third World are centred on the necessity to provide work and jobs for the poverty-stricken masses who are not part of the industrial sector of these countries' two-sector-economies. To Schumacher, any work, even the most modest task, seems preferable to unemployment. Such jobs must, naturally, be cheap to maintain, correspond to the basic needs of the rural population and, like all aid, capable of being managed at a decentralized level and in accordance with the prevailing regional and local conditions in each case. Schumacher gave a great deal of thought to the types of workplace suited to the Third World.

They must be created where the people to fill them live. It must be possible to create them at minimal cost so that a large number of them can be offered. The production processes employed must be relatively simple, requiring only a minimum of skilled work. Production must be on the spot and involve mainly local materials. As a consequence of his conviction that not only material poverty but also the lack of organization, discipline and education must be overcome, Schumacher demonstrates that intellectual aid is the best help we can give. In other words: education adapted to the regional and personal conditions, education that does not put people off by seeming to be a foreign body, that does not arouse mistrust but that is organically grafted onto the existing structures of life.

Schumacher makes a clear distinction between the method of production that seems to him most suited to the poor masses of the Third World and the rapacious, wasteful, environmentally destructive production methods of industrial countries. A new method of production should, in his opinion, emerge from what he calls Buddhist Economics. A simple, non-violent production method that is kind to the environment, one which aims not at the stimulation and satisfaction of superfluous material needs but at securing basic human needs, which does not elevate material welfare to the be-all and end-all of life but which aims at reforming human character and strives to achieve this goal with as little economic effort as possible.

As consumption is but one method of achieving well-being, the aim should be to achieve an optimum of well-being with a minimum of funds. This is a meta-economic way of thinking. Schumacher always urged that our modern economic and production methods should be done away with and, if possible, not even be introduced to Third World countries. In this context he puts the case for "production by the masses, making use of the best modern knowledge and the latest experience . . .". He was convinced that this would lead to decentralisation, would be compatible with the laws of ecology and conserve raw materials in short supply, and, most important of all, aid mankind instead of subjugating mankind to machines.

Ernst Friedrich Schumacher was a believing Christian: "No civilization can survive without a belief in purpose and values that transcends an utilitarianism aimed only at creature comforts and survival - in other words, without religious beliefs." And his sister Edith Kuby writes of this self-confessed Christian: "Fritz is the only man of my generation whom I ever saw go down on his knees."