It's a fictional streetscape we wander, here, a metropolis whose buildings, boulevards, and back alleys are in a constant state of flux. This is every place, and yet, no place at all - a city of dreams and a dream of a city.

Here, we explore the life and work of Ivan Illich and his circle of collaborators. There's no comprehensive index to the articles published, but we invite you to use the Search box, to the left, and to explore the Archive links that appear at the bottom of each page. Comments are welcomed.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ivan Illich and Jacques Ellul

Jacques Ellul (1912-1994) is a thinker who often gets mentioned in the same breath as Ivan Illich. An historian, sociologist, philosopher, Christian theologian, and social critic, Ellul is perhaps best known for a book called The Technological Society. A generation of activists and others concerned with the perils of industrial society viewed this book (published in English in the early 1960s) and Illich's Tools for Conviviality (along with a number of titles by Lewis Mumford) as key texts for understanding the history and nature of technology and its impact, symbolic and otherwise, on society and humanity.

In 1993, in Bordeaux, France (a city that Ellul once served as mayor), Illich gave an address in honor the Frenchman, expressing "my gratitude to a master to whom I owe an orientation that has decisively affected my pilgrimage for forty years." Illich's address is well worth reading, if only for its sly humor in a certain passage concerning the Church and its views on contraception.

We're pleased to have discovered just now that the International Jacques Ellul Society has made available on its website a seemingly complete collection of back issues of its newsletter. We've subscribed to this newsletter off and on for several years, now, but here we find many issues we've missed. And among them are several that feature essays by and about Illich.

The Ellul Studies Forum for January, 1992 (PDF), for instance, offers a collection of seven pieces on "Illich's critique of technology and its theological implications." As guest editor, Carl Mitcham chose to include several pieces by Illich himself, two by Lee Hoinacki, and one by David B. Schwartz. Also included is an interview conducted with Illich in 1990, in Berlin.

The Spring 2003 issue, partially devoted to "remembering Ivan Illich," includes essays by several of his collaborators.

July, 1996's issue offers a review of Illich's In the Vineyard of the Text.

The issue for July, 1994, "In Memory of Jacques Ellul," includes Illich's Bordeaux address.

We look forward to exploring this rich trove of material.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Illich's resting place

A few days after Ivan Illich died on Dec. 2, 2002, friends gathered for a funeral mass at a local Bremen church, St. Johann. A Roman Catholic church built by the Franciscans in 1380, St. Johann is located in Bremen's Schnoor, a district of tiny streets dating back to the 10th century. This is St. Johann:

616px StJohann 01

Illich was buried, though, at another church, also called St. Johann but unrelated. This church, located in a part of the Bremen city-state called Oberneuland, is Protestant. There is, we gather, no Catholic burial ground in Bremen. Barbara Duden has told how she had to make a special appeal to this church to get permission for Illich, a Catholic and non-German citizen, to be buried there. There is a tradition, or rule, she learned, that makes special provisions for those are traveling far from home when they die.

This is St. Johann in Oberneuland, as seen in the winter of 2003; we walked there from the center of town, which took most of an hour:


Illich is buried in the yard behind the church. His grave is marked by a well-constructed wooden cross and, when summer arrives, by sunflowers.


Wolfgang Palaver, a speaker in Oakland

One of the speakers at the upcoming Illich event in Oakland will be Wolfgang Palaver, a professor at the University of Innsbruck, in Austria. His name being new to us, we did some quick research:

Prof. Palaver is Professor of Catholic Social Thought and Chair of the Institute for Systematic Theology at Innsbruck. Early this year, his book René Girard's Mimetic Theory (Studies in Violence, Mimesis, & Culture) was published in English. YouTube offers a short interview with him about Girard, with whom he has worked closely. Evidently, he also has lectured on Illich's ideas about the roots of modernity.

UPDATE: Prof. Palaver has written (see Comments below) to point out that in addition to a piece in German about Illich, he has reviewed -- in English, no less -- The Rivers North of the Future. The review appears in a newsletter called The Bulletin of the Colloquium on Violence & Religion, which "explores, criticizes, and develops Girard's mimetic model of the relationship between violence and religion in the genesis and maintenance of culture."

(For anyone not familiar with Rene Girard's mimetic model, we heartily recommend listening to David Cayley's 5-hour radio series about this important thinker. "The Scapegoat: René Girard's Anthropology of Violence and Religion" is available for streaming on the Web. It is just as compelling and fascinating as Cayley's two in-depth programs about Illich. Our advice: Run, don't walk.)

Jean-Pierre Dupuy in Oakland

We're excited to learn about a last-minute addition to the agenda for this week's Illich symposium in Oakland: Jean-Pierre Dupuy of the École Polytechnique and Stanford University will be speaking there on Saturday Aug. 3. He will be part of Sat. evening's program devoted to Illich's thoughts on politics and religion.

Prof. Dupuy has been associated with Illich for many years, starting in the 1970s when he began visiting CIDOC. He contributed to the The Challenges of Ivan Illich (2002) an essay about the intersection of Illich's and Rene Girard's thinking. He also collaborated with Jean Robert on a 1976 book, La trahison de l'opulence (The Treason of Opulence) and another, Les Chronophages (1978), which both elaborated on Illich's arguments in Energy & Equity. Prof. Dupuy also has written extensively about, among other topics, nanotechnology, cognitive science, and cybernetics.

Friday, July 26, 2013

'Beyond Economics and Ecology' to be available in Oakland

Those attending the upcoming Illich symposium in Oakland next week (Aug. 1-3) will be able to purchase the newly-published book of Illich's essays, Beyond Economics and Ecology. Copies of the book, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, who has contributed the book's preface, will be on sale at the event. This will be the book's first availability. The 128-page paperback, released by Illich's longtime publisher Marion Boyars, reprints four of Illich's most incisive essays:

Energy & Equity (1974) -- After Deschooling Society, this is the most widely-quoted of Illich's works, shining a penetrating light on industrial society's addiction to fossil fuels. Intensive consumption of energy, Illich shows, inevitably leads to social inequity: While a few get to enjoy jet travel, the majority is forced to wait for the bus.

Shadow Work (1981) -- Here, Illich looks at industrial society's need for a "bifurcation of work," an "apartheid" much like what was then the norm in South Africa: While much effort, generally paid for, goes into producing commodities, much additional effort is required to make those commodities useful. And this latter, which he calls shadow work, draws on unpaid labor that is largely provided by women -- the housewife, in particular. A key essay in his effort to write a history of scarcity, "Shadow Work" is where we see Illich getting started on the far-ranging analysis and research that culminated a few years later in Gender.

War Against Subsistence (1981) -- In which Illich relates the story of how Elio Antonio de Nebrija in 1482 urged Queen Isabella of Spain, fresh from seeing Columbus off at the dock, to enforce on her subjects a taught "mother tongue" -- a key chapter in the history of compulsory schooling and of the determined eradication of vernacular ways.

The Social Construction of Energy (1983) -- Here, Illich looks closely at how the meaning and connotation of the words energy and work have expanded and morphed, particularly in the 19th century as Marx formulated his theories concerning the "labor force." The energy that Einstein famously equated with matter is not, for instance, the same energy that today we are all urged to conserve or harvest from alternative sources. This essay, not available until now in English book form, offers some of Illich's most trenchant thinking about the computer and automation, as well.

Here is an excerpt from Sajay Samuel's introduction to the new book:

Forty years ago, Ivan Illich (1921-2002) foresaw the coming crises. He then argued that the industrialized societies of the mid-twentieth century, including communist Russia and capitalist USA, were already burdened by too much employment and too much energy. Arguing that habituation to paid work frustrates and destroys self-reliance, and that the increasing power of machines deepens the dependence on them, he warned against those whose misunderstanding of ‘crisis’ would perversely bring on what they sought to avoid. Even though that is precisely what they have wrought, politicians and scientists continue to stubbornly insist that the ‘economic crisis’ is a matter of not enough jobs and the ‘ecological crisis’ is a matter of not enough clean energy. ‘Not enough jobs’ channels attention to producing more employment by expanding the economy, just as ‘not enough clean energy’ confines debate to getting more of it through techniques that reduce carbon emissions. This persistent fixation on more employment and more energy has now found expression in dreams of a so-called ‘green economy’, which at one stroke is expected to wipe out unemployment and renew the environment. The fixation blinds us, Illich then noted, to recognizing the thresholds beyond which useless humans will have to occupy uninhabitable environments.

Doubtless, the fear and anxiety of a jobless life is palpable to the intern who must pay to work. So are the incomprehension and anger of the homeless family displaced by a hurricane. But even others, who may be luckier, now feel trapped between the pincers of shrinking paychecks and rising costs, whether of gas, heating oil, or food. For the increasingly many who must bear it, this feeling of vulnerability and precariousness need not lead to paralyzing despair. Instead, forced by their circumstances to acknowledge that widespread unemployment and a ravaged environment are likely here to stay, they may, with a flinty humor, reinvent ways to live well. And precisely because they have become scarce, it is perhaps now possible to begin this task by rethinking the once dearly held attachment to ‘employment’ and ‘energy’.

Selected from Illich’s many essays, pamphlets, and drafts, the four items reprinted here remain vitally important to that task. Though written between 1973 and 1983, they have an urgent relevance to those who must inhabit a world without secure employment or supportive environments. Employment is good’, ‘economic growth is necessary’, ‘technical innovations liberate’ -- these were thought obvious when Illich wrote these pages. Though not as obvious now, such notions still dimly maintain their hold on the popular imagination. Just as words on a page blur when a book is held too close, so also one must take sufficient distance to what one thinks obvious to better question it. This effort at distancing becomes all the more difficult when an assumption has been left unquestioned long enough to be taken for a certainty and to even congeal into the way the world is perceived. Unlike many of his time and later, Illich’s thought is radical in the sense of going to the roots of such modern perceptions. These still unsettling and disturbing pages are likely to be useful now to those who seek to find a way, for whatever reason, beyond economics and ecology.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Illich, birds, and astrology

Two months after Ivan Illich died in late 2002, more than 150 of his friends and colleagues gathered at Bremen University to celebrate his spirit. Barbara Duden describes this symposion (Greek for "drinking together," as Illich liked to point out) in a short paper.

She relates, among other things, how she herself had told the crowd of "Ivan's extraordinary astrological constellation which Annis Fromm, the widow of Erich Fromm, once had cast in an image."

Annis Fromm had seen Illich as "like a broad leaf-less bush with hundreds of birds squatting on its branches."

"So here they were," Ms. Duden continues, "Ivan's 'birds,' his lame ducks and migrant birds, tippet grebes, paradise birds, eagles and cranes. Nils Christie from Norway, Fjedor Shanin from Moscow, Uwe Pörksen from Freiburg, Christine von Weizsäcker from Bonn, Hanns Steger from Erlangen." And many more.

It was about one year after this event that we first heard Ms. Duden use this figure of speech, while speaking at a celebration of Illich held at Pitzer College. Illich's work, we took her to say, was such that thinkers in all sorts of other fields were able to use and build on it. Illich's explorations delved into many different branches of knowledge, from architecture to medicine, from sociology to economics, from history to theology, from linguistics to education.

We've never forgotten this image of birds gathering on the tree of Illich. We've always assumed it was something Ms. Duden had come up with, but having recently re-read her article about that long-ago symposion, we realize not. (It was only after we chose the graphical theme for this page, one of the stock themes offered by Google, that we noticed those birds up in the corner. A sign of some sort?)

At that same Pitzer College gathering, someone who'd known Illich told us something else quite interesting. It seems Illich's uncle was an astrologer of some renown and one of his clients was none other than Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian philosopher and social reformer who is perhaps best known for having created the Waldorf school program. Illich spent most of his childhood in Austria and it wouldn't be surprising if Steiner had been a family friend.

(The same person who told us about the star-gazing uncle also recalled Illich saying that had he himself had children, he certainly would have had them attend a Waldorf school. Funnily enough, someone close to this same person told us of Illich having described Steiner's anthroposophical program, the basis of Waldorf schools, as humbug, or some such. Knowing Illich, he might easily have made both remarks.)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

House in Bremen

Here is a photo we made in Summer, 2008 of Kreftingstrasse 16, the home of Barbara Duden in Bremen, Germany. This is where Ivan Illich stayed while teaching at the University of Bremen over the years, where many people were his (and Ms. Duden's) guest, and where he died on Dec. 2, 2002.


A lecture in San Francisco, 1999

A lecture we'd like to have heard:

USF lecture series kicks off

San Francisco EXAMINER

Tuesday, October 5, 1999

IVAN ILLICH, philosopher and social critic, leads a series of lectures Thursday for the University of San Francisco's Louise Davies Forum, which runs through Dec. 9.

Illich, 72, will be speaking on de-institutionalizing society and his relationship with the Catholic Church. The lecture is set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Gershwin Theater on campus, 2350 Turk. Admission is free.

The lecture series, titled "Voice, Memory and Landscape," will be held every week through the beginning of December. It's hosted by Davies Professor Vijaya Nagarajan.

"The notion of landscape is a reference to our natural world and how it shapes the perception of memory and voice," said Nagarajan, who suggested that modern man is losing touch with the natural world.

"How do we re-embody our landscapes through the interwining [sic] of voice and memory?" she asked.

Nine speakers will attempt to answer that question, beginning with Illich. In the weeks that follow, scheduled speakers are essayist Rina Swetzell, Oct. 14; Arundhati Roy, best-selling author of "The God of Small Things," Oct. 28; Nicaraguan poet Daisy Zamora, Nov. 1; African American writer Melba Pattilo Beals, 1999 winner of the Congressional Gold Medal, Nov. 4; ecologist Bernie Krause, Nov. 11; novelist Peter Matthiessen, Nov. 18; Catherine Sneed, author of "The Garden Project," Dec. 2, and author Maxine Hong Kingston, Dec. 9.

Friday, July 19, 2013

John Holt on 'deschooling society,' 1971

Reason magazine, published by the libertarian, free-marketeers at The Cato Institute, has republished a piece from 1971 written by John Holt. His topic is "deschooling society," as put forth by Ivan Illich.

Holt was a close collaborator of Illich's and is widely recognized as the founding father of the home-schooling movement. In this piece, he sets out to interpret Illich's notion of deschooling. As Holt puts it, "we must dissolve the schools back into society. They seem to me to have precipitated or congealed—a little like a lump in a cream-of-wheat—and the thing we have to do is stir them back into the mix, so to speak." Holt also gives credit to Paul Goodman for informing his thinking.

'Osculatorium' and the 'conspiratio'

Anyone who has read or listened to Illich's last interviews with David Cayley will have encountered him discussing the conspiratio. This was one of two high points in early Christian celebrations, a sharing of the Holy Spirit through a mouth-to-mouth kiss. (The other was the comestio, a meal shared by all in attendance.) Conspiratio turns out to be a key element of Illich's intriguing explanation of modernity's origins.

This kiss signified "that each one of those present around the dining table contributed of his own spirit," Illich says, "or, if you want, the Holy Spirit, which was common to all, to create a spiritual community, a community of one spirit. … Slave and master, Jew and Greek, each contributed equally to making the community to which, through his contribution, he could then belong."

This ceremony, Illich goes on to say, "gave its participants the idea that community could come into existence outside of the community into which they were born, and in which they fulfilled their legal obligations -- a community in which all those who are present share equally in the act of its establishment."

By the high Middle Ages, however, this bodily contact and radical equality among all sorts of people was quite out of harmony with the "feudal ideal" of a strict social hierarchy, Illich states, and conspiratio's importance faded. Indeed, Illich explains, the bodily, mouth-to-mouth kiss was replaced by "an instrument … called an osculatorium, a kissing object. You can see it in museums, sometimes made of beautiful wood with precious stones. The priest would kiss it after kissing the altar and then hand it down to the community so that it could make its rounds through the church."

What does this osculatorium look like? We, for one, began to wonder. The Web provides a few images, though none seem to be as impressive as those Illich mentions. Here is one from Italy ca. 1550-1650, as explained by a page at James Madison University:


And here is another, from 18th-century Venice, as noted here:


Illich delves into the notion of conspiratio in some depth in a talk given in 1998 when he was awarded the city-state of Bremen's Culture and Peace Prize. (The talk is available from the Pudel site as "The Cultivation of Conspiracy.") "Community in our European tradition," Illich says, "is not the outcome of an act of authoritative foundation, nor a gift from nature or its gods, nor the result of management, planning and design, but the consequence of a conspiracy, a deliberate, mutual, somatic and gratuitous gift to each other."

Indeed, Illich sees conspiratio as the source of today's social contract. "During the period of the Gregorian reform," he tells David Cayley, "the attempt to establish, legalize, and formalize the conspiratio reached a high point." The Church attempted to establish a "worldly solidity and clarity and definition and to create, through legal, contractual means, a social body entitled to recognition as an equal by the Emperor and the civil law."

"In order to understand the general idea of corruptio optima quae est pessima [the corruption of the best is the worst] as it applies to the political, it is necessary to observe throughout history this fading of the conspiratio, and the monumental elaboration of the conjuratio, or contractual arrangement."

Restoring the commons of a Greek island

We're pleased to learn about a Greek project inspired by Ivan Illich 's work at CIDOC, in Mexico. It's called The Ikarian Documentation Pages, and it's a website that aims to serve as "a bank of knowledge and memory" relating to the Greek island of Ikaria. (Inhabited since 7000 BC, the island takes its name from Icarus, who fell into the sea nearby.)

The website (published in English and Greek) is closely related to the Ikarian Regeneration Project, which seeks to protect and revivify the island's commons in the face of the austerity programs imposed by the EU on Greece as a nation. This project, we're told, also has taken inspiration from Illich as well as from Trent Schroyer, a professor at Ramapo College in NJ. Schoyer writes about alternatives to economics. Schroyer also authored one of the more engaged reviews of The Rivers North of the Future, as noted here a few years ago.

"In this blog," the Ikarian Documentation Pages site states, "we will publish index catalogs of available documents that are housed in the Documentation, Research and Action Center of Ikaria and -soon hopefully- in the General Archives of the State, located in Ikaria. In addition, we will publish catalogs of photographic material, articles from the local press (from early 20th century), bibliographies, abstracts and reviews of books that are related to Ikaria."

Silence in the face of social media

An essay has appeared in First Monday, a peer-reviewed online journal about the Internet and its culture (for lack of a better description), that draws a good deal on Ivan Illich's thinking. In a nutshell, "Silence, delirium, lies?," by Caroline Bassett, argues that the best response to today's ubiquitous social media and its "monopoly" is simply to "stop communicating."

A call for "less communication," she writes,

at its most extreme a call for silence — is currently regarded as heretical in conditions of social media. But such a call should be made — because it can confront the fetishizing of the more associated with technological progress, when the latter is regarded as inseparable from progress in general — and when both are aligned with discourses that value growth as a social good. [emphasis in original]

Bassett is Reader in Digital Media and runs the Centre for Material Digital Culture, University of Sussex, UK. Her focus is on "digital transformation and cultural form, critical theories of new media."

Social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter are not what they purport to be, she writes. They actually don't amplify every individual's voice in the rising din of digital "conversation." More "communications" doesn't automatically produce "more freedom," as is widely assumed. "With this in mind," the abstract reads, "this paper asks if a media politics might be generated based on the potentials of silence, on speaking in tongues — and on relying on the resources of metaphorical language rather than on learning to speak or write in ways more amenable to code."

"The contract is very clear; social media demands personal data donation as the price for full engagement in those forms of communication that are becoming intrinsic to everyday life and that increasingly shape it. This exchange is the central component of what has emerged over at least a decade and a half as the standard model for the commoditized virtual community of all kinds … ."

So, Bassett urges, "find a way to resist terminal integration into expanding communicative circuits reaching far beyond the screen. There are various options: switch off, turn away, misspeak, refuse to play — or become silent. Don’t make the social noise that generates the exploitable signals."

She explicitly names Illich:

The work of the twentieth century activist and thinker Ivan Illich is key to the arguments developed here. Illich both analysed technologically based (social) monopolies (Illich, 1973) and in connected work explored silence as a response to earlier electronic media systems (Illich, 1983). As part of this he called for the establishment of the silent commons as a response to what he saw as the tyranny of the amplified voice and the evisceration of human relations within the electronically organized spaces such amplifications produced.

Illich was writing about television and associated media systems, but in this article I ask if a return to silence might enable new forms of common space to be created today — so that individual and collective voices might be heard again beyond the personalized enclosures of the commercial social media platforms. Something Illich’s thinking can open up is the sense that there are ways of thinking about language — perhaps in terms of volume, audibility/silence, voice, complexity, and polysemy — that provide the basis for a response to social media monopoly; for a communication politics that might, despite beginning in the symbolic, be able to spill over into something — some places — more material.

Bassett cites two of Illich's essays, "Silence is a commons" (1982), and Tools for Conviviality. Somewhat surprisingly, she doesn't mention his essay, "I Too Have Decided to Keep Silent" (1983), in which Illich suggests that people standing silently (and in public) is the best way of protesting the deployment of nuclear bombs. We look forward to reading this intriguing essay more closely.

An op-ed against egg harvesting cites Illich

Nancy Scheper-Hughes, a professor of anthropology at UC Berkeley whose work has been informed by Ivan Illich, has jointly written an op-ed appearing in the Sacramento Bee. It cites Illich in arguing against the idea that women should be paid for donating unfertilized eggs for research purposes. A bill in front of Gov. Jerry Brown, a friend of Illich's, would overturn California's current ban on such payments. Evidently, the medical industry is eager to see this ban lifted.

The "traffic" in new reproductive technologies," writes Scheper-Hughes and Diane Tober, associate executive director at the Center for Genetics and Society in Berkeley, "calls for a cautionary flashing signal, not red perhaps, but amber: beware of the propensity to regard the human body as a site for the expansion of medical, pharmaceutical and technological markets."

If [Calif. bill] AB 926 becomes law, we will witness a disturbing national trend. Women's research eggs become the hot new bio-product, increasing the profits of the multibillion-dollar-per-year infertility industry at the expense of women's health, safety and possibly, their future fertility. Is this the "equity" we want for ourselves, our sisters and our daughters?

The late historian of science and technology, Ivan Illich, warned against the processes of medical industries which "create new needs and control their satisfaction and turn human beings and their creativity into objects." Before this bill becomes law, we need publicly funded scientific studies to determine the risks of multiple egg donations by women who are being financially compensated.

The two authors relate the horrific experience one egg donor endured and denounce the idea that egg harvesting is "saving starving follicles" from dying (as supposedly put forth by one infertility specialist), as "a medical fairy tale." This notion, they write,

makes egg harvesting sound like a save-the-child campaign, as if follicles are proto-persons who could become babies in someone else's empty belly. There is no mention of the dangerous artificial stimulation needed to manipulate the endocrine system to produce many times the normal number of mature eggs. Women are taught to imagine their eggs as super-abundant (with medical help) and being 'wasted' when they could be put to better use.

Scheper-Hughes is known for, among other work, her investigations into the commodification of human organs and the global trafficking therein. In the book, Ivan Illich in Conversation, Illich touches on this subject, noting that the human body increasingly is perceived as just another a mechanism that may be fixed using spare parts.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Illich on Canadian radio

Mention Ivan Illich and Canadian radio in the same breath and immediately we think, David Cayley. After all, he's the one who conducted some marvelous interviews with Illich that resulted in several radio programs broadcast by the Canadian Boradcasting Corp. (CBC) and two key books, Ivan Illich in Conversation (1992) and The Rivers North of the Future (2005).

But just now, we've stumbled across a program about Illich done for Canadian radio by someone other than David Cayley. In fact, it was broadcast last December 2nd, 10 years after Illich died, by Radio-Canada, the CBC's French-language division. The show, titled "Duo philo: De la pensée d'Ivan Illitch aux tableaux intelligents," or "The thought of Ivan Illich on intelligent tablets." Or, to quote a website blurb, does the iPad have a place in class? (Why the odd spelling of Illich, we don't know.)

The show is still available for listening online (here). It features Normand Baillargeon, a professor of education at the University of Quebec at Montreal, and Xavier Brouillette, who teaches philosophy at Cégep du Vieux Montréal, a pre-university and technical college. Baillargeon, born 1958, is described elsewhere as a "militant libertaire." He writes regularly for À Bâbord, an alternative magazine. One of his pieces, published in 2005, was about Illich's thoughts on the car and bicycles.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

More about the Oakland meeting Aug. 1-3

We've been informed that copies of the new book of Illich's essays, Beyond Economics and Ecology, will be available for purchase at the upcoming Illich event in Oakland, Calif. -- Aug. 1,2, and 3, as described here.

A number of these copies will be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, who has contributed a preface to the book. It would be much appreciated, the events' planners say, if those who plan to attend the Oakland event might purchase copies of the book there, rather than at Amazon, for instance.

It's likely there will be a small charge ($10 max) at the door to cover the cost of food being served each evening.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

New book of Illich's essays

Here is the cover of a book soon to be published that will contain four essays by Ivan Illich: "Energy & Equity," "The Social Construction of Energy," "War Against Subsistence," and "Shadow Work." The volume is edited by Sajay Samuel and includes a preface by Jerry Brown, the governor of California.

BeyondEconomics cover v1

Oakland event update

Here is the latest flyer concerning the upcoming Illich symposium in Oakland, Calif. A third speaker has been arranged for Friday evening, Trent Schroyer. Mr. Schroyer teaches sociology and philosophy at Ramapo College, in NJ. He has written several essays about Illich, including one of the few reviews of The Rivers North of the Future and this one, called "Secularisation and the Loss of the Feeling Self," which reflects on Ivan Illich's sense of the vernacular. He also has written a book about alternatives to Western economics.


Monday, July 01, 2013

An introduction to Ivan Illich, en français

We've just learned of a book published in France late last year, Introduction à Ivan Illich, written by Thierry Paquot. Mr. Paquot, a professor of urban studies and architecture in Paris, was a friend of Illich's and frequent interpreter of his work. Among other things, he wrote Illich's obituary for Le Monde Diplomatique.

His new book, 128 pages long, is published by La Découverte. More information is available here and a brief article (in French, by one Thomas Le Guennic) about the book is posted here.


Meanwhile, we've also come across a paper, "Penser Ivan Illich," (translated as 'Why to think “with” Ivan Illich?') presented by Mr. Paquot in Nantes, France, last April. Dedicated to "Barbara" (Duden, we assume), it considers how Illich thought about things and used language. "[Illich] thinks in order to exist," he concludes, "aware that friendship is a miracle to be cultivated. And, knowledge is a path with no known destination." The paper, in PDF, is here.

As an urban philosopher, Mr. Paquot likes to think about many subjects. A book of his called The Art of the Siesta, has been published in English translation by Marion Boyars, Illich's publisher for many years:

a series of vignettes on the importance of the siesta in paintings, literature, and sculpture. In Preliminary, we hear of the rhythm of sleep, including the fear babies have of going to sleep. In The Midday Demon, death in life and erotic dreams take form. The last vignette, The Siesta Fights Back, shows how the economic necessities of Western society are conquering the siesta.

This is a translation from the French of a book that helps reinstate the values that the siesta stands for, with reference to philosophy, art and music. From mosques, where guards sleep under the protection of Allah, to 'slow-food' restaurants in Berlin in 2001, it explores the part sleep plays in human life.

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Santa Rosa, California, United States
Writer, photographer, music fan; father and husband living in northern Calif.