- Mar 2021
I've come across about 20 reference for Ivan Illitch over the past month. Not sure what is driving it. Some mentions are coming out of educator circles, others from programmers, some from what I might describe as "knowledge workers" (digital gardeners/Roam Cult/Obsidian crowds). One tangential one was from someone in the hyperlink.academy crowd.
Here's a recent one from today that popped up within a thread shared in IndieWeb chat:
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Ivan Illich continues to be even more more relevant than he was at the height of his New Left popularity. Conviviality in the digital tools we use has continued to wither https://t.co/D88V6KL7Ez pic.twitter.com/OFDYTjXyCn— Count Bla (@123456789blaaa) March 15, 2021
Deschooling Society and Tools for Conviviality look very interesting. Perhaps they've distilled enough that their ideas are having a resurgence?
He wrote that "[e]lite professional groups ... have come to exert a 'radical monopoly' on such basic human activities as health, agriculture, home-building, and learning, leading to a 'war on subsistence' that robs peasant societies of their vital skills and know-how. The result of much economic development is very often not human flourishing but 'modernized poverty', dependency, and an out-of-control system in which the humans become worn-down mechanical parts." Illich proposed that we should "invert the present deep structure of tools" in order to "give people tools that guarantee their right to work with independent efficiency."
the need to develop new instruments for the reconquest of practical knowledge by the average citizen.
This fits into the idea of older knowledge and memory systems of indigenous peoples
Particularly striking in 1971 was his call for advanced technology to support "learning webs": The operation of a peer-matching network would be simple. The user would identify himself by name and address and describe the activity for which he sought a peer. A computer would send him back the names and addresses of all those who had inserted the same description. It is amazing that such a simple utility has never been used on a broad scale for publicly valued activity.
His first book, Deschooling Society, published in 1971, was a groundbreaking critique of compulsory mass education. He argued the oppressive structure of the school system could not be reformed. It must be dismantled in order to free humanity from the crippling effects of the institutionalization of all of life. He went on to critique modern mass medicine. In the pre-Internet age, Illich was highly influential among intellectuals and academics. He became known worldwide for his progressive polemics about how human culture could be preserved and expand, activity expressive of truly human values, in the face of multiple thundering forces of de-humanization.
A fairly reasonable summary of his thinking?
- tools for conviviality
- tools for thought
- personal learning networks
- Catholic church
- industrial tools
- Deschooling Society
- learning webs
- Ivan Illich
- May 2020
risque de pensée unique
The progressive homogenization of personalities and personal relationships cannot be stemmed without a retooling of society.
— Ivan Illich, _Tools for Conviviality, 1973, p. 28