Tools for Conviviality is a book by Ivan Illich about the proper use of technology. It was published only two years after Deschooling Society. In this new work Illich generalized the themes that he had previously applied to the field of education: the institutionalization of specialized knowledge, the dominant role of technocratic elites in industrial society, and the need to develop new instruments for the reconquest of practical knowledge by the average citizen. He wrote that "[e]lite professional groups 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. Tools for Conviviality attracted worldwide attention.

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Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work.

Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavour are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend on allocating more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question. Ivan Illich Deschooling Society 9. Ivan Illich — rose to fame in the s with a series of brilliant, short, polemical, books on major institutions of the industrialized world.

Institutions like schooling and medicine had a tendency to end up working in ways that reversed their original purpose. Illich was later to explore gender, literacy and pain. However, his work was the subject of attack from both the left and right.

In the case of the former, for example, his critique of the disabling effect of many of the institutions of welfare state was deeply problematic. From the s on he became something of a forgotten figure, although there were always a number of writers and practitioners in the fields he wrote about who found significant possibility in his analysis.

In this piece we examine his legacy. Ivan Illich was born in Vienna. His father, Ivan Peter, was a civil engineer. This meant that Ivan Illich, along with his younger, twin brothers were able to live comfortably, attend good schools and travel extensively in Europe Smith and Smith Illich was a student at the Piaristengymnasium in Vienna from to, but was expelled by the occupying Nazis in because his mother had Jewish ancestry his father was a Roman Catholic.

From this point on Ivan Illich became something of a wandered — travelling the world and having the minimum of material possessions. He completed his pre-university studies in Florence, and then went on to study histology and crystallography at the University of Florence. At this point Ivan Illich decided to enter and prepare for the priesthood. Her went to study theology and philosophy at the Gregorian University in Rome In he completed his PhD at the University of Salzburg an exploration of the nature of historical knowledge.

One of the intellectual legacies of this period was a developing understanding of the institutionalization of the church in the 13th century — and this helped to form and inform his later critique. He was there until His congregation was largely Irish and Puerto Rican. He had become fluent in Spanish and several other languages during his life he was to work in 10 different languages. From the start he wanted the institution to be based in Latin America — and after walking and hitchhiking several thousand miles he decided on Cuernavaca, Mexico.

The critical and questioning stance of the Centre, and its freewheeling ways of work in began to cause some concern amongst key elements of the Catholic hierarchy. Illich was not one to mince his words:. Upon the opening of our centre I stated two of the purposes of our undertaking. The first was to help diminish the damage threatened by the papal order.

Through our educational programme for missionaries we intended to challenge them to face reality and themselves, and either refuse their assignments or — if they accepted — to be a little bit less unprepared. Illich b: Ivan Illich was ordered by the Vatican to leave CIDOC, but he managed to hold out — eventually resigning all offices and church salaries, and then leaving the priesthood in The Centre had broadened its appeal considerably — and became known for explorations of the many the themes that have become identified with Illich.

He went on to apply his critique to energy consumption Energy and Equity — , and memorably to medical treatment in Medical Nemesis — Throughout he infused his work with an ecological understanding. Interest in his ideas within education began to wane. Invitations to speak and to write slackened, and as the numbers of missionaries headed for Latin America fell away, CIDOC began to fade.

At a time when there was increasing centralized control, an emphasis on nationalized curricula, and a concern to increase the spread of the bureaucratic accreditation of learning, his advocacy of deinstitutionalization deschooling and more convivial forms of education was hardly likely to make much ground. The pieces in Toward a History of Needs and Shadow Work largely look to the economics of scarcity, i.

However, as Carl Mitcham has argued, his thought and life have had an influence on a small, but close circle of friends see Ivan Illich Studies below. Rediscovering Community. True to his thinking as expressed, for example, in Medical Nemesis he insisted on administering his own medication. He was able to finish a history of pain which will be published in French in A critique of the process of institutionalization.

Modern societies appear to create more and more institutions — and great swathes of the way we live our lives become institutionalized. A critique of experts and expertise.

The case against expert systems like modern health care is that they can produce damage which outweigh potential benefits; they obscure the political conditions that render society unhealthy ; and they tend top expropriate the power of individuals to heal themselves and to shape their environment op. Experts and an expert culture always call for more experts.

Finally, experts control knowledge production, as they decide what valid and legitimate knowledge is, and how its acquisition is sanctioned. A critique of commodification.

Ivan Illich put it this way:. Schooling — the production of knowledge, the marketing of knowledge, which is what the school amounts to, draws society into the trap of thinking that knowledge is hygienic, pure, respectable, deodorized, produced by human heads and amassed in stock….. A thing that can be amassed and measured, the possession of which is a measure of the productivity of the individual within the society. That is, of his social value. Furthermore, and echoing Marx , Ivan Illich notes the way in which such scarcity is obscured by the different forms that education takes.

They, thus, approach learning as a form of acquisition. Knowledge become a possession to be exploited rather than an aspect of being in the world. The principle of counterproductivity. Counterproductivity is the means by which a fundamentally beneficial process or arrangement is turned into a negative one.

It is an idea that Ivan Illich applies to different contexts. The lines of this critique and argument with respect to schooling when set out like this are reasonably clear. Gajardo goes on to suggest that this may explain the limited acceptance of his educational theories and proposals. It may well be that the way in which he presented his critique was taken as condemning the school out of hand Gajardo Illich is not against schools or hospitals as such, but once a certain threshold of institutionalization is reached, schools make people more stupid, while hospitals make them sick.

And more generally, beyond a certain threshold of institutionalized expertise, more experts are counterproductive — they produce the counter effect of what they set out to achieve. While not rigorously linked to data, nor fully located in its theoretical traditions, it does nevertheless draw some important lines for exploration and interrogation; and provides us with some means by which to make judgments about the impact of institutions and experts.

I believe that a desirable future depends on our deliberately choosing a life of action over a life of consumption, on our engendering a lifestyle which will enable us to be spontaneous, independent, yet related to each other, rather than maintaining a lifestyle which only allows to make and unmake, produce and consume — a style of life which is merely a way station on the road to the depletion and pollution of the environment. The future depends more upon our choice of institutions which support a life of action than on our developing new ideologies and technologies.

Illich a: He argued for the creation of convivial, rather than manipulative institutions and saw conviviality as designating the opposite of industrial productivity. He continues:. I consider conviviality to be individual freedom realized in personal interdependence and, as such, an intrinsic ethical value. Illich In many respects, Ivan Illich is echoing here the arguments of earlier writers like Basil Yeaxlee who recognized the power of association and the importance of local groups and networks in opening up and sustaining learning.

However, he takes this a stage further by explicitly advocating new forms of formal educational institutions. Learning webs — new formal educational institutions. In Deschooling Society Ivan Illich argued that a good education system should have three purposes: to provide all that want to learn with access to resources at any time in their lives; make it possible for all who want to share knowledge etc.

He suggests that four possibly even three, he says distinct channels or learning exchanges could facilitate this. These he calls educational or learning webs. Educational resources are usually labelled according to educators curricular goals. I propose to do the contrary, to label four different approaches which enable the student to gain access to any educational resource which may help him to define and achieve his own goals:.

Reference services to educational objects — which facilitate access to things or processes used for formal learning. Some of these things can be reserved for this purpose, stored in libraries, rental agencies, laboratories and showrooms like museums and theatres; others can be in daily use in factories, airports or on farms, but made available to students as apprentices or on off-hours.

Skill exchanges — which permit persons to list their skills, the conditions under which they are willing to serve as models for others who want to learn these skills, and the addresses at which they can be reached.

Peer-matching — a communications network which permits persons to describe the learning activity in which they wish to engage, in the hope of finding a partner for the inquiry.

Reference services to educators-at-large — who can be listed in a directory giving the addresses and self-descriptions of professionals, paraprofessionals and freelances, along with conditions of access to their services.

Such educators… could be chosen by polling or consulting their former clients. Such an approach to educational provision found some enthusiastic proponents within non-formal education see, for example, the work of Paul Fordham et.

More recently, such themes have appeared in a somewhat sanitized form in some policy pronouncements around lifelong learning and the so-called learning society. However, there can be a cost in this. Without a full realization of the political and ethical dimensions of conviviality, what can happen is not so much de-schooling but re-schooling.

The activities of daily life become more deeply penetrated by commodification and the economic and social arrangements it entails. Learning becomes branded Klein and our social and political processes dominated by the requirements of corporations Monboit Informal education — changing the character of other institutions and formations. Ivan Illich argues for changes to all institutions so that they may be more convivial for learning.

A radical alternative to a schooled society requires not only new formal mechanisms for the formal acquisition of skills and their educational use. A deschooled society implies a new approach to incidental or informal education….


Ivan Illich: deschooling, conviviality and lifelong learning

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Ivan Illich

Read on to learn more about the key ideas explored in Tools for Conviviality. Illich argued that people do not just need the ability to obtain things, they also need the ability to make the things that surrounded them. By influencing the tools and processes of production, people were then able to shape the objects, technology and systems according to their tastes and needs. Illich believed that people could then put these things to use in caring for and about others. Conviviality is a process defined in opposition to industrial production. Tools become convivial when they allow people to make and learn things in a personalised way that is in alignment with their interests and abilities. Such tools could include physical things such as hammers, paintbrushes and scissors as well as cognitive tools such as language and knowledge of institutional systems.


Ivan Illich’s Tools for Conviviality

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,


Ivan Illich on tools that support conviviality

Ellen Illich traveled to Vienna to be attended by the best doctors during birth. Ivan's father was not living in Central Europe at the time. When Ivan was three months old, he was taken along with his nurse to Split, Dalmatia, to be shown to his paternal grandfather. There he was baptized on December 1,

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