EF Schumacher: Is Small the Next Big?

Is small the next big? Are the visionary ideas of E F Schumacher, cult author of the 1970s classic Small is Beautiful, about to hit the mainstream?

"An ounce of theory," wrote Schumacher, "is worth a ton of practice". In this programme, Leo Johnson goes on a search to see if the ideas of E F Schumacher are working on the ground. Are they delivering on the pressing economic and social challenges confronting us?

It's a tour of the landscape of the possible that takes us from the most successful bank share in the world - a bank with a quasi-mystical obsession with staying small - to the Brixton pound, complete with Brixton's local lad David Bowie on the £10 note. We go from SIM-enabled solar lights targeting the Kenyan poor, via the Maker Movement - pioneers of distributed manufacturing - at Technoport in Norway, and finally to the bewilderingly salad-loving children of Bristol's Ashton Vale primary school.

What emerges is a blueprint for a different economy - where banks can lend to small businesses, where local communities re-form, where decentralised renewable energy delivers lower cost power, and where work forms us not as tools adapted to our machines but as beings connected to the people and place around us. It's a vision of an economy in transition towards the small - from mass towards micro-production, from fossil fuels towards local renewables, from centralised to distributed organisations - and where our own role shifts from consumer to producer and citizen.

It's a glimpse of economics, as Schumacher put it, "as if people mattered".

But is it heading for the big time?

Written and presented by Leo Johnson

A Reel Soul Movies production for BBC Radio 4.

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28 minutes

Last on

Wed 11 May 2016 11:00

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