TagIvan Illich

Deschooling Revisited


When I discovered Deschooling Society in my mid-twenties, it gave words to things we’d known instinctively a decade earlier. There is an innate human capacity for learning, we are not dependent on learning transmitted from professionally accredited teachers, and the primary social function of the schooling system is to shape us for and assign us a place within the existing social order of the...

The Friendly Society: On Cooperation, Utopia, Friendship & the Commons


We are looking at a photograph from Amsterdam, 1868, thirty or so men in black and white. Even in the flesh, they would be black and white: black overcoats with blacker collars, faces pale as November and framed by various symmetries of facial hair, top hats like a row of chimneys. Despite what the hats might suggest, these men are workers, craftsmen, dressed in their Sunday clothes, outside a...

The Limits to Measurement: A Conversation With Christopher Brewster


These days, people talk a lot about ‘the art of hosting’, but that is only one half of the dance of hospitality: there is an art of guesting, too. I can say this with conviction, because I have been a lousy guest, in my time, and lately I’ve had the luck to live with someone who teaches me to notice the things that make a person easy to have around: the moments at which an artful guest steps...

When Promises of Progress Fail Us


Published in Resurgence: Issue 289. A review of two books that grew out of conversations among the friends and collaborators of Ivan Illich: Grassroots Postmodernism: Remaking the Soil of Cultures by Gustavo Esteva and Madhu Suri Prakash, and The Future of Development: A Radical Manifesto by Gustavo Esteva, Salvatore Babones and Philipp Babcicky. When I hear the word ‘postmodernism’ outside of a...

Excavating Buried Assumptions


Order a second-hand copy of one of Ivan Illich’s books over the internet, and it will more than likely come with the insignia of a university library and a stamp confirming that it has been ‘Withdrawn’. This says something about the trajectory followed until recently by the reputation of this deeply radical thinker – but the publication of a new collection of four of his most insightful essays...

Commoning in the City


In the architecture museum on the island of Skeppsholmen, in the heart of Stockholm, eleven of us have been brought together to spend two days thinking aloud around the theme of Commoning the City. The human rights researcher Saki Bailey provides a forensic analysis of the foundations of property law. The artist Fritz Haeg tells us what happened when he opened his home in Los Angeles to the...

Dealing With Our Own Shit: A Conversation With Gustavo Esteva


Published in Dark Mountain: Issue 4. There were eagles riding the air overhead as we took the backroad out of San Pablo Etla to the Casa Esteva. The taxi driver had left us at the crossroads: at ease in the highspeed free-for-all of the highway, he had no desire to risk his exhaust on the unpaved road ahead, so a young man from one of the neighbouring households drove down to collect us. It was...

Words Which Matter to People


It is the second day of my journey around Europe, a journey in search of resilience, and I am in a park near the centre of Helsinki, asking the locals whether they can help me understand the meaning of sisu, a word that is said to be central to Finnish culture and impossible to translate.