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Islamic class of teachers and pupils.

Evolutionary Aid

If the primary causes of poverty are deficiencies in these three respects, [viz: education, organisation, and discipline] then the alleviation of poverty depends primarily on the removal of these deficiencies. Here lies the reason why development cannot be an act of creation, why it cannot be ordered, bought, comprehensively planned: why it requires a process of evolution.

Ernst Friedrich Schumacher (1973)


By the end of the 1960s, despite the apparent success of organisations like Oxfam, it was becoming clear that the aid being offered to developing countries was not having the hoped for effect. Turbulent river waters. Contrasting the then targeted problem of aid in our present global problems. Schumacher sees the problem as having roots in the then (and still) fashionable materialist outlook, Shafts of light on the landscape north of Sa Pa in Vietnam. An underpinning argument here is that we do not, in fact, live by or among particulars. one willing to assist the concrete Signpost with fractions showing down to an eighth. More on the tension between what is in front of us and what is intangible. while neglecting matters such as the development of organisations and education. In seeing this problem he is echoing, in the realm of sociology, a point made in metaphysics Man in blue robes watching male calligrapher. The philosophical background for the contrast of expression (or evolution) versus creation. and psychology which contrasts creation with emergence. An image which should puzzle at first glance. We come to our knowledge through emergence not through any sudden specific event. If one society is to aid another then the processes must be evolutionary; we have to help build from what is already there, towards the desired end. Importing a system, however good in itself, can never address the problems which inevitably run throughout the target society. ‘Creating from scratch’ destines projects to either wither, or have to be kept alive by another society. Maybe we understand the importance of evolution over creation better now? Maybe.

The quote is from Schumacher’s highly influential book Small is Beautiful, page 140 of the 1974 Abacus edition.

The photograph was taken in a small Islamic school set up in the vast illegal suburb of Chambur, which is on the outskirts of Bombay.

Above, hovering on blue introduces a link: click to go, move away to stay.


Saturday 24th June 2023

Murphy on duty to this site