Does anyone know where - or even if - Ivan Illich actually wrote the following? It is quoted here and there on the Web, with explicit attribution to Illich, primarily on sites relating to the Slow Food movement, which takes Illich's concept of conviviality as one of its touchstones and the snail - soon to be escargot? - as its mascot:
The snail constructs the delicate architecture of its shell by adding ever increasing spirals one after the other, but then it abruptly stops and winds back in the reverse direction. In fact, just one additional larger spiral would make the shell sixteen times bigger. Instead of being beneficial, it would overload the snail. Any increase in the snail’s productivity would only be used to offset the difficulties created by the enlargement of the shell beyond its preordained limits. Once the limit to increasing spiral size has been reached, the problems of excessive growth multiply exponentially, while the snail’s biological capability, in the best of cases, can only show linear growth and increase arithmetically.
We've looked but we cannot find an authoritative source for this piece of text. It certainly sounds like something Illich might have written, possibly in a discussion of the kinds of topic that he picked up from Leopold Kohr: scale, morphology, proportionality. But where?
[UPDATE: As described in the comments appended to this item, we have the answer: Illich wrote about the snail, in slightly different words, on page 82 of his 1983 book Gender. Thanks so much to those who answered our query!]
Illich's inspiration on Slow Food is noted here, in a 2008 notice of a conference about "the spirituality and sacredness of food":
The moderator was Carlo Petrini and the speakers were Enzo Bianchi, prior of the monastic community of Bose in Piedmont, Italy, and Satish Kumar, friend and disciple of Gandhi, founding director of the Schumacher College in Dartington (UK) and editor of Resurgence magazine.
Bianchi and Kumar were both friends of Ivan Illich, the Austrian philospher, theologist and anarchist social critic who, combining spirituality and social commitment, created the concept of ‘conviviality’ in opposition to productivity.
It's at another Slow Food page that we read Serge Latouche quoting Illich on the snail. Latouche is a contributor to The Development Dictionary - he contributes an essay about the concept of "standard of living" - which we recently wrote about here, and his brief Slow Food piece is quite interesting. It begins:
The idea of an autonomous economical society, implicit in the concept of degrowth, is not something that developed yesterday. But you do not need to go back to the utopias of early socialism or the anarchic traditions of situationism: the idea of degrowth was formulated in a similar form to ours at the end of the 1960s by André Gorz, François Parlant, Cornelius Castoriadis and, in particular, by Ivan Illich. The failure of development in poor countries and feelings of disconnectedness in richer countries led various thinkers to revive debate about the consumer society and its illusions, progress, science and technology. Realization of the developing environmental crisis has brought about a new attitude in which a society based on growth is not only undesirable but not even sustainable. So we have to change, and the sooner the better.
In the degrowth project, autonomy is understood in a strong sense with its etymological meaning (autos–nomos: issuing its own laws), in contrast to the heteronomy of the market’s invisible hand and the dictates of science and technology in our (over)modern society. Criticizing modernity does not imply a pure and simple rejection but aims to evolve beyond it. It is through our emancipation as a result of the Enlightenment and the construction of an autonomous society that we can now denounce the failure of this model, so arrogantly and triumphantly controlled by financial markets. The conviviality that Ivan Illich borrows from the great 18th-century French gastronome, Brillat-Savarin (The Physiology of Taste: Or, Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy), aims to recreate the social linkages that have been broken by ‘economic horror’ (Rimbaud). Conviviality reintroduces the spirit of giving to social relations alongside the law of the jungle, and re-establishes philia, Aristotelian friendship. […]