The E. F. Schumacher Society

The E. F. Schumacher Society:
"named after the author of Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered, is an educational non-profit organization founded in 1980. Our programs demonstrate that both social and environmental sustainability can be achieved by applying the values of human-scale communities and respect for the natural environment to economic issues.

Building on a rich tradition often known as decentralism, the Society initiates practical measures that lead to community revitalization and further the transition toward an economically and ecologically sustainable society."

Overview of the Society

The E. F. Schumacher Society in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, was founded in 1980 by Robert Swann and a group of Schumacher’s American friends and colleagues. A lifelong pacifist and advocate of decentralism, Swann was drawn to Schumacher’s ideas through reading his articles in Resurgence magazine. In 1967 he went to England to meet Schumacher and suggested to him that these articles be published in book form. This led directly to the collection of essays that became Small Is Beautiful. Swann subsequently organized Schumacher’s 1974 North America tour to promote the book, a trip that was also to have a catalytic effect on the sustainable energy movement in the United States. At the end of the tour Schumacher suggested that Swann establish a United States-based group to work at the interface of economics, land use, and applied technology. Six years later, at the urging of Ian Baldwin, David Ehrenfeld, Hazel Henderson, Satish Kumar, and John McClaughry, Robert Swann took on the challenge, and the E. F. Schumacher Society came into being. With Susan Witt as executive director the Society has evolved programs that have grown increasingly effective in fulfilling the mission envisioned by Schumacher.

Fritz Schumacher and Robert Swann at the New Alchemy Institute on Cape Cod

The Annual E. F. Schumacher Lectures provide a public forum for scholars and activists working in the Schumacher tradition, and they are becoming recognized as a resource presenting knowledge too valuable to be forgotten.

The E. F. Schumacher Office and Library, located in the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts, has grown to a building housing a twelve-thousand volume, computer-indexed library of books, pamphlets, tapes, and specialized bibliographies. The subject matter focuses on decentralism, human-scale societies, regionally based economic systems, local currency experiments, and community land trusts. In 1995 Vreni Schumacher, Schumacher’s widow, bequeathed his entire library to the E. F. Schumacher Society. This asset infuses the Schumacher Library, according to board member Kirkpatrick Sale, with “the essence of the man himself, in all his dimensions. I was especially pleased to see that we have all his book reviews and articles (published, and often with typescript, sometimes with manuscript) and loads of his speeches (manuscript and mimeographed), none of which has ever been gone through systematically and some of which I think no one even knew about or remembered. Plus those notebooks-who knows what rich veins may be there.”

In addition to the resources of the Library, the annual lectures, seminars, and conferences, the Schumacher Society develops model programs that work to build sustainable local economies.

“Among material resources, the greatest, unquestionably,” wrote Schumacher, “is the land. Study how a society uses its land, and you can come to pretty reliable conclusions as to what its future will be.” One of the Society’s goals has been to create new institutional forms that provide access to land based on social and ecological objectives rather than market forces. The community land trust model developed by Robert Swann provides just such a vehicle for decommoditizing land and places stewardship in the hands of a democratically-structured, regional organization. The Schumacher Society, actively involved with its Berkshire community land trust, has published a handbook of legal documents that help others to organize community land trusts.

The legal documents for the Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires are available at the Society's web site ( together with material on the BerkShares local currency program, lectures, newsletters, and seminar and conference proceedings. Together these materials provide a rich testament to Schumacher's lasting legacy and the vitality of his ideas to inspire new work and application in communities seeking to build sustainable economies that link people, land, and community.

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