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Small Is Beautiful – An alternative take on COVID-19

In the year 1973 EF Schumacher’s seminal book titled Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered was released. When COVID-19 has left the entire globe reeling under its impact, analyses made by him about half-a-century ago may help us appreciate deeper reasons triggering the pandemic.

Schumacher had observed, “Already the environment is trying to tell us that certain stresses are becoming excessive. As one problem is being ‘solved’, ten new problems arise as a result of the first ‘solution’. … the new problems are not the consequences of incidental failure but of technological success.” If we are to believe that COVID-19 is a man-made virus,then cannot it not be attributed to technological success which has gone wrong? The above statement calls for deep introspection. Superficial arguments will only obfuscate what is obvious.

He went on to add further, “The developments of science and technology over the last hundred years have been such that the dangers have grown even faster than the opportunity.” Unless we are opinionated it should not be difficult to appreciate that unbridled technological innovation has brought upon humanity unfathomed uncertainty along with material comfort as a mere palliative. Hence, Schumacher cautioned about the need for a conscious and fundamental change in the direction of scientific effort. What is it resulting in?

He contended, “Every increase of needs tends to increase one’s dependence on outside forces over which one cannot have control and therefore increases existential fear.” Can there be a better example than a sense of collective fear overpowering us today? We are mortally scared about our very survival as the threat of from an invisible enemy is making us feel so helpless.

Amidst all this the Nature, in its own way, is offering us a chance to recalibrate our fast-paced lives, an opportunity to slow down and a glimpse of simple living (and perhaps high thinking). After all this is over, mankind will probably emerge wiser and more humbles.


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