Ivan Illich

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Ivan Illich
Western philosophy
Contemporary philosophy
Full name Ivan Illich
School/tradition Anarchism, Catholicism
Main interests Philosophy of education, Philosophy of technology

Ivan Illich (pronounced [ɪˈvɑn ˈɪlɪtʃ][1]) (Vienna, 4 September 1926Bremen, 2 December 2002) was an Austrian philosopher, social critic, and defrocked Roman Catholic priest. He authored a series of critiques of the institutions of contemporary western culture and their effects of the provenance and practice of education, medicine, work, energy use, and economic development.


[edit] Personal life

Illich was born in Vienna to a Croatian father and Sephardic-Jewish mother and had Italian, French and German as native languages.[2] He later learned Croatian, the language of his grandfathers, then Ancient Greek and Latin, in addition to Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, English, and other languages.[2] Thereafter, he studied histology and crystallography at the University of Florence (Italy) as well as theology and philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in the Vatican (from 1942 to 1946), and medieval history in Salzburg.[2]

He wrote a dissertation focusing on the historian Arnold J. Toynbee and would return to that subject in his later years. In 1951, he was assigned as an assistant parish priest in New York City[2] after which he was appointed in 1956, at the age of 30, as the vice rector of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico.[2] It was in Puerto Rico that Illich met Everett Reimer and the two began to analyze their own functions as "educational" leaders. In 1959, he traveled throughout South America on foot and by bus.[2]

In 1961, Illich founded the Centro Intercultural de Documentación (CIDOC, or Intercultural Documentation Center) at Cuernavaca in Mexico, ostensibly a research center offering language courses to missionaries from North America and volunteers of the Alliance for Progress program[2] initiated by John F. Kennedy. His real intent was to document the participation of the Vatican in the "modern development" of the so-called Third World. Illich looked askance at the liberal pity or conservative imperiousness that motivated the rising tide of global industrial development. He viewed such emissaries as a form of industrial hegemony and, as such, an act of "war on subsistence." He sought to teach missionaries dispatched by the Church to identify themselves instead as guests of the host country.[citation needed]

After ten years, critical analysis from the CIDOC of the institutional actions by the Church brought the organization into conflict with the Vatican. Illich was called to Rome for questioning, due in part to a report from the CIA.[2] In 1976, Illich, apparently concerned by the influx of formal academics and the potential side effects of its own "institutionalization," shut the center down with consent from the other members of the CIDOC. Several of the members subsequently continued language schools in Cuernavaca, of which some still exist. Illich himself resigned from the active priesthood in the late 1960s (having attained the rank of monsigneur), but continued to identify as a priest and occasionally performed private masses.

In the 1970s, Illich was popular among leftist intellectuals in France, his thesis having been discussed in particular by André Gorz. However, his influence declined after the 1981 election of François Mitterrand as he was considered too pessimistic at a time when the French Left took control of the government.[2]

In the 1980s and beyond, Illich traveled extensively, mainly splitting his time between the United States, Mexico, and Germany. He held an appointment as a Visiting Professor of Philosophy, Science, Technology and Society at Penn State. He also taught at the University of Bremen.

During his later years, he suffered from a cancerous growth on his face that, in accordance with his critique of professionalized medicine, was treated with traditional methods. He regularly smoked opium to deal with the pain caused by this tumor. At an early stage, he consulted a doctor about having the tumor removed, but was told that there was too great a chance of losing his ability to speak, and so he lived with the tumor as best he could. He called it "my mortality."[citation needed]

[edit] Deschooling Society

The book that brought Ivan Illich to public attention was Deschooling Society (1971), a critical discourse on education as practised in "modern" economies. Full of detail on then-current programs and concerns, the book's core assertions and propositions remain as radical today as they were at the time. Giving real-world examples of the ineffectual nature of institutionalized education, Illich posited self-directed education, supported by intentional social relations, in fluid, informal arrangements:

Universal education through schooling is not feasible. It would be no more feasible if it were attempted by means of alternative institutions built on the style of present schools. Neither new attitudes of teachers toward their pupils nor the proliferation of educational hardware or software (in classroom or bedroom), nor finally the attempt to expand the pedagogue's responsibility until it engulfs his pupils' lifetimes will deliver universal education. The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring. We hope to contribute concepts needed by those who conduct such counterfoil research on education--and also to those who seek alternatives to other established service industries.

Ivan Illich, [1]

The last sentence makes clear what the title suggests -- that the institutionalization of education is considered to tend towards the institutionalization of society, and conversely that ideas for de-institutionalizing education may be a starting point for a de-institutionalized society.

The book is more than a critique -- it contains positive suggestions for a reinvention of learning throughout society and throughout every individual lifetime. Particularly striking is his call (in 1971) for the use of 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.

Ivan Illich

[edit] Tools for Conviviality

Tools for Conviviality (1973) 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. 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."[3]

Tools for Conviviality attracted world-wide attention. A resume of it was published by French social philosopher André Gorz in Les Temps Modernes, under the title "Freeing the Future."[4] The book's vision of tools that would be developed and maintained by a community of users had a significant influence on the first developers of the personal computer, notably Lee Felsenstein.[5]

[edit] Medical Nemesis

In his Medical Nemesis, first published in 1975, also known as Limits to Medicine, Illich subjected contemporary western medicine to detailed attack. He argued that the medicalization in recent decades of so many of life's vicissitudes—birth and death, for example—frequently caused more harm than good and rendered many people in effect lifelong patients. He marshalled a body of statistics to show what he considered the shocking extent of post-operative side-effects and drug-induced illness in advanced industrial society. He was the first to introduce to a wider public the notion of iatrogenic disease. [6] Others have since voiced similar views, but none so trenchantly, perhaps, as Illich.[7]

[edit] List of works

[edit] Bibliography

  • Power in the Highest Degree : Professionals and the Rise of a New Mandarin Order by Charles Derber, William A. Schwartz, and Yale Magrass, Oxford University Press, 1990.
  • Silencing Ivan Illich : A Foucauldian Analysis of Intellectual Exclusion. Gabbard, D. A. New York: Austin & Winfield, 1993, ISBN 1880921170

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ See inogolo:pronunciation of Ivan Illich.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Thierry Paquot, The Non-Conformist, Le Monde diplomatique, January 2003 (English) (French version freely-available, and Portuguese and Esperanto translations available)
  3. ^ Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality (1973) ISBN 0-06-080308-8 ISBN 0-06-012138-6
  4. ^ <http://www.techno-science.net/?onglet=glossaire&definition=1048
  5. ^ Convivial Cybernetic Devices, From Vacuum Tube Flip-Flops to the Singing Altair, An Interview with Lee Felsenstein (Part 1), The Analytical Engine (Newsletter of the Computer History Association of California, ISSN 1071-6351), Volume 3, Number 1, November 1995, http://opencollector.org/history/homebrew/engv3n1.html
  6. ^ Illich Ivan (1974). Medical Nemesis. London: Calder & Boyars. ISBN 0714510963. OCLC 224760852. 
  7. ^ [[Neil Postman |Postman Neil]] (1992). Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. New York: Knopf. OCLC 24694343. 

[edit] External links

[edit] General

[edit] Obituaries

NAME Illich, Ivan
SHORT DESCRIPTION Austrian philosopher and anarchist social critic
DATE OF BIRTH September 4, 1926
DATE OF DEATH December 2, 2002
PLACE OF DEATH Bremen, Germany
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