Between the ‘Hand-Loom’ and the ‘Samson Stripper’: Fritz Schumacher’s Struggle for Intermediate Technology.

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For twenty years, during which time he started to promote Intermediate Technology abroad and began writing Small is Beautiful (1973), E. F. Schumacher was an economist with the National Coal Board. As such, he led what he called a ‘double-life’. On the one hand, his work at the coal board involved colossal plant, pollution and brute human labour, the difficulty of which could be alleviated only by the adoption of heavy coal-extracting machinery. As time went on, Schumacher became deeply involved in managing and defending the declining coal sector, through the rationalisation and further mechanisation of its production activities. On the other hand, through his personal involvement in the Soil Association, his reading of the Gandhian literature and his exploration of Buddhism and other esoteric interests, he increasingly sought to promote a non-violent approach to economics, based on appropriate technology and gentle, labour-intensive methods, especially in the so-called developing countries. This paper tells the story of Schumacher’s growing struggle to reconcile these contrasting spheres of his life, until such time as he could finally leave the coal board, give himself completely to Intermediate Technology and begin writing his influential book.

This content has been updated on 25 November 2022 at 9 h 48 min.