Matthew Henry John Bartlett

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Wednesday 24 March, 02004

Schumacher/Small is Beautiful

by Matthew Bartlett @ 10:20 am

The extent to which modern technology has taken over the work of human hands may be illustrated as follows. We may ask how much of “total social time” — that is to say, the time all of us have together, twenty-four hours a day each — is actually engaged in real production. Rather less than one-half of the total population of this country is, as they say, gainfully occupied, and about one-third of these are actual producers in agriculture, mining, construction, and industry. I do mean actual producers, not people who tell other people what to do, or account for the past, or plan for the future, or distribute what other people have produced. In other words, rather less than one-sixth of the total population is engaged in actual production; on average, each of them supports five others beside himself; of which two are gainfully employed on things other than real production and three are not gainfully employed. Now, a fully employed person, allowing for holidays, sickness, and other absence, spends about one-fifth of his total time on his job. It follows that the proportion of total social time spent on actual production — in the narrow sense in which I am using the term — is, roughly, one-fifth of one-third of one-half; i.e. 3-1/2 per cent. The other 96-1/2 per cent of “total social time” is spent in other ways, including sleeping, eating, watching television, doing jobs that are not directly productive, or just killing time more or less humanely.

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6 responses to “Schumacher/Small is Beautiful”

  1. Alan says:

    That’s an interesting argument. However, the structure of economics today as described has resulted in the living standards and technology we have at our command today. Hearken back to a time when far more of society’s effort was directed towards ‘real’ production. It was justly called the ‘Dark Ages’.

  2. Deb says:

    Yes, but many people these days feel alienated from their work, and it’s final product, this being a result of new technologies, new division and quantification of labour etc. So there’s something in us that drives us to find part of our value, or at least strive to spend our time in productive production.

    Older, non-neoclassical schools of economics conceptualise man not as homo economicus (sp?): calculating, rational man – but as homo faber: man made to fabricate, to manufacture – to create.

    I had a lecturer once who argued that tertiary industries (services) contributed only marginally to economic growth, as it’s only primary (agriculture, mining etc) and secondary (manufacturing) that actually produce and create things, and add to an economy’s productive potential.

  3. Deb says:

    That said, I do enjoy my high living standards. But sometimes I have trouble seeing how my part-time job in retail is contributing or producing anything.

  4. Matty says:

    Do you know waht really galls me, sharebrokers. Infact the whole share market. How do people make money? Buying and selling little bits of nothing when it all comes down to it. Completely unproductive and yet such a major part of the economy. Bring back Buck.

  5. Digitaleus says:

    it’s not sharebrokers so much as speculators – you can be a speculator in property, shares, foreign currencies – whatever it is you’re still buying something and selling it later, it the hopes that it’ll be worth more later.

  6. dan says:

    I concur.
    I felt next-to-no fulfilment in my job as an IT systems administrator. Most of what I did bore no real outcome, and hence no satisfaction.
    What gave me the biggest kick was when I had to design the occasional user interface for a database, and just to hear the client say ‘Thats exactly what I wanted’ or some other exclamation of appreciation.

    I current have no job, and am really feeling the need to produce something.

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