Blogs >> Experiencing Schumacher in Ireland by Jonathan Dawson

Experiencing Schumacher in Ireland by Jonathan Dawson

A growing number of organisations around the world are knocking on the door here at the College seeking to develop some form of partnership, wanting to explore how the distinctive Schumacher educational model could be made more accessible to people in their countries. This whole area is one that we will be devoting a lot of attention to over the next year – my colleague Julie Richardson is currently on secondment, exploring what such partnerships could look like.

One of these prospective partners is the estimable John Woods, a freelancer with links to the Law School at Queens University, Belfast. Last month, he convened a Schumacher College Summer School in the Glencraig Camphill community http://www.glencraig.org.uk/index.php just outside Hollywood, east of Belfast, under the title From crisis to resilience: rethinking Ireland’s economic future There is a strong tradition of summer schools in Ireland, popular as occasions for copious conversation, philosophizing and alcohol consumption. In the event, the Schumacher College event was far richer in the first two than in the third.

It was invigorating to take the well-worn Schumacher College daily routine, so familiar after 21 years at the Old Postern – from early morning meditation, morning meeting and workgroups right through to more informal, creative sessions in the evening – out into a new and fresh context.

Especially vibrant were the morning meetings. These can be rather tame affairs at the College, and are often done and dusted within 20 minutes or so, allowing plenty of time for the work groups to do the morning chores. In Glencraig, the morning meetings unfolded into celebratory performance spaces, where poem followed song followed story. Here was one of my favourite cultural offerings from the week, especially poignant in the context of a country still seeking a positive and enlarged sense of identity following decades of trouble and strife.

Lovers on Aran
The timeless waves, bright, sifting, broken glass,
Came dazzling around, into the rocks,
Came glinting, sifting from the Americas

To possess Aran. Or did Aran rush
to throw wide arms of rock around a tide
That yielded with an ebb, with a soft crash?

Did sea define the land or land the sea?
Each drew new meaning from the waves’ collision.
Sea broke on land to full identity.
Seamus Heaney

I get great pleasure sitting in on other presenters’ sessions, especially if they cover similar ground to my own interests. I am ever on the look out for astute answers to questions that have left me tongue-tied. I was especially taken with the elegance of the reply given by one of my fellow presenters at Glencraig, Peadar Kirby, to a question I have struggled with in the past – ‘what form of enterprises would exist in a post-capitalist world?’ Peadar’s answer was simplicity itself – to paraphrase: did farms and butchers and bakers shops not exist in every town in the country before the advent of globalised capitalism, but embedded in social relations within the communities which they served and of which they were an integral part. Why should it not be so again?

This takes into the language of the common sense layman the great truth at the heart of the message of the great Hungarian philosopher, Karl Polanyi: ‘The control of the economic system by the market is of overwhelming consequence to the whole organisation of society: it means no less than the running of society as an adjunct to the market. Instead of the economy being embedded in social relations, social relations are embedded in the economic system.’

In this kind of simple, clear and elegant phrasing lies the path out of the current economic insanity that we find ourselves currently entrapped. May Schumacher College in all its guises and partnerships be a vehicle for the transmission of such elegance and truth-telling.

Jonathan Dawson is co-Head of Economics at Schumacher College and teaches on the MA Economics for Transition

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