Monday, 10 September 2007

Illich - where to start?

Since I started this blog, I've name-checked Ivan Illich fairly regularly. His writing style takes a little getting used to, but his books and the various uncollected essays scattered across the web are pretty much all worth tracking down.

One question I get asked a lot is where someone who's new to his work should start. The long answer is, it depends on where you're coming from and what it is that most troubles you about the world in which we find ourselves - whether it is education or energy, health or work. Those looking for policy recipes were dismayed by his increasing withdrawal from that game, and mistake this for despair - but I find later texts, such as 'The Cultivation of Conspiracy', to be among the most genuinely (unillusionedly) hopeful responses to our times.

That's the long answer! The short answer is to try this little film, a reflection on 'Deschooling Society', which I discovered via Bricoleuse.


SimplyTim said...


Great video. I just love Pinky's laugh/giggle towards the very end of the video.

Could be a wonderful promo for the School of Everything.

Yes, Illich is very very dense in his writing. But I always feel rewarded when I stay with it.

My favorite (and only) book by him is (u)Convivial Tools(/u) originally published by Harper & Row. My copy is a paperback by same publisher, 1973.

Dougald Hine said...

Hi Tim,

'Dense' is definitely the word! A couple of his books - Gender and In the Vineyard of the Text - I've started but put aside for later. Not because they were unrewarding, but because they deserved a level of attention that's hard to sustain when you do most of your reading during the daily commute...

Interestingly, his speaking style seems to have been quite different - his last book, The Rivers North of the Future, was edited together from a series of interviews conducted by David Cayley, and has more of a storyteller's flow to it. Definitely a recommended read - it's where he gets into the thinking underlying his other writing on conviviality, education, health and so on.

By the way, thanks for posting about that Ran Prieur essay - I've been reading my way through a lot of the other stuff on his website and I'm sure I'll be blogging about this soon. It's rare to come across someone who's work is quite so thought-provoking.

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