Andrea Gibbons 2 Comments Tools for Conviviality took a lot of work, it looked so inviting, so thin. But the text was dense and the words strangely denser. It repays effort though, and writing this post has helped immensely. Why I write them I suppose. Illich argues that there have been two watersheds in modern times. The first is crisp,

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Andrea Gibbons 2 Comments Tools for Conviviality took a lot of work, it looked so inviting, so thin. But the text was dense and the words strangely denser. It repays effort though, and writing this post has helped immensely. Why I write them I suppose. Illich argues that there have been two watersheds in modern times. The first is crisp, We reached the point in Western medicine where a patient had a better than chance that trained doctors would provide better treatment than anyone else.

Medicine and our expanding knowledge grew in leaps and bounds, and improvements resulted in corresponding improvements in health. The second watershed? More amorphous, that point at which we shifted to keeping people alive longer, without worrying about quality. The point at which as treatment has become further and further professionalised, removed from the control of patients and their families and removed from ideas of community and environmental connectedness.

The point at which it actually becomes increasingly less effective. This rather than acknowledging all that can be gained through improving our environment and creating a just society, eradicating poverty, encouraging a sense of worth and connectedness to others. The Marmot Review is only my favourite of these to date. These watersheds exist for many professions. I think this is a key point: science and technology with their panoply of elite controlled knowledge and procedures have brought us so far, but cannot take us much further.

They are, in fact, damaging as we approach crisis. As tools they suppress other ideas and systems of knowledge and concentrate control over knowledge and its power in the hands of a few.

Partly for this very reason, partly due to their internal logics, they can only provide a limited and very unsatisfactory set of answers to questions of how we can live full meaningful lives, and how we can save our planet. They have, in fact, managed to alienate human beings and bring us to the brink of destruction, while shutting down our ability to work towards or even imagine a better world. The pooling of stores of information, the building up of a knowledge stock, the attempt to overwhelm present problems by the production of more science is the ultimate attempt to solve a crisis by escalation.

All of these things created that we are told make us happy, all of these processes and knowledges and machines are actually created to encourage us to consume and be forever unsatisfied. This is what needs to shift: The hypothesis was that machines can replace slaves.

The evidence shows that, used for this purpose, machines enslave men. Neither a dictatorial proletariat nor a leisure mass can escape the dominion of constantly expanding industrial tools.

We need to be able to control these tools and processes, the means of production, so that they can used in harmony with our environment to give us a genuine sense of fulfillment. I believe that society must be reconstructed to enlarge the contribution of autonomous individuals and primary groups to the total effectiveness of a new system of production designed to satisfy the human needs which it also determines. In fact, the institutions of industrial society do just the opposite.

I intend it to mean autonomous and creative intercourse among persons, and the intercourse of persons with their environment; and this in contrast with the conditioned response of persons to the demands made upon them by others, and by a man-made environment. The proponents of this idea overlook the fact that anticonvivial and manipulative tools can fit into a socialist society in only a very limited measure.

The price for a convivial society will be paid only as the result of a political process which reflects and promotes the society-wide inversion of present industrial consciousness. This political process will find its concrete expression not in some taboo, but in a series of temporary agreements on one or the other concrete limitation of means, constantly adjusted under the pressure of conflicting insights and interests.

In this volume I want to offer a methodology by which to recognize means which have turned into ends. My subject is tools and not intentions. Highways, hospital wards, classrooms, office buildings, apartments, and stores look everywhere the same. In a society in which power—both political and physical—is bounded and spread by political decision there is place not only for a new flowering of products and characters, but also for a variety in forms of governance.

Certainly, new tools would provide new options. Convivial tools rule out certain levels of power, compulsion and programming, which are precisely those features that now tend to make all governments look more or less alike. But the adoption of a convivial mode of production does not of itself mean that one specific form of government would be more fitting than another… What is fundamental to a convivial society is not the total absence of manipulative institutions and addictive goods and services, but the balance between those tools which create the specific demands they are specialized to satisfy and those complementary, enabling tools which foster self-realization.

Only secondarily does the question arise whether private control of a potentially useful tool is in the public interest. It is capable of shifting within flexible by finite parameters. People can change, but only within bounds. In contrast, the present industrial system is dynamically unstable. The ideology of an industrial organization of tools and a capitalist organization of the economy preceded by many centuries what is usually called the Industrial Revolution.

Speed is one of the means by which an efficiency-oriented society is stratified. Fostered addiction to speed is also a means of social control. He writes: The knowledge-capitalism of professional imperialism subjugates people more imperceptibly than and as effectively as international finance or weaponry. Political debate must now be focused on the various ways in which unlimited production threatens human life. The overprogramming of man for the new environment deadens his creative imagination.

New levels of productivity threaten the right to participatory politics. Enforced obsolescence threatens the right to tradition… Pervasive frustration by means of compulsory though engineered satsifaction… I so loved this, the basis for conviviality: The only solution to the environmental crisis is the shared insight of people that they would be happier if they could work together and care for each other.

I think it highlights the need for a complete transformation to be free of racism, sexism and all isms. It does not matter for what specific purpose minorities now organize if they seek an equal share in consumption, an equal place on the pyramid of production, or equal nominal power in the government of ungovernable tools.

As long as a minority acts to increase its share within a growth-oriented society, the final result will be a keener sense of inferiority for most of its members. Movements that seek control over existing institutions give them a new legitimacy, and also render their contradictions more acute.

Changes in management are not revolutions. I wanted more postcolonial analysis, but I suppose that is for us to bring to the table. A majority agitating for limits to growth is as ludicrous as one demanding growth at all cost. Majorities are not created by shared ideologies. They develop out of enlightened self-interest. The most that even the best ideologies can do is interpret this interest.

As part of the lack of analysis around race and empire and larger global patterns of exploitation and consumption responsible for environmental disaster, I also really hated some of the rhetoric on population control.


Tools for Conviviality

Toynbee , a subject to which he would return in his later years. While working on his doctorate, he returned to Italy where he studied theology and philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome , as he wanted to become a Catholic priest. He was ordained in In , he traveled throughout South America on foot and by bus. The bishops also started their own rival Catholic party. As a theologian, I believe that the Church must always condemn injustice in the light of the Gospel, but never has the right to speak in favor of a specific political party.


Ivan Illich’s Tools for Conviviality



Ivan Illich




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