Ivan Illich

Ivan Illich, born on the 4th September 1926 in Vienna, Austria, died on 2nd December 2002, in Bremen, Germany, was a theologian, philosopher, social critic and a Roman Catholic priest. He described himself as an “errant pilgrim”, and was notoriously known for his criticism of institutionalised learning; consumerism; industrialised society and modern medicine.

“Neither revolution nor reformation can ultimately change a society, rather you must tell a new powerful tale, one so persuasive that it sweeps away the old myths and becomes the preferred story, one so inclusive that it gathers all the bits of our past and our present into a coherent whole, one that even shines some light into the future so that we can take the next step… If you want to change a society, then you have to tell an alternative story.”

Ivan Illich

“We have failed…through our lack of responsible awareness…and thus added to suffering around the world. All of us are cripples-some physically, some mentally, some emotionally. We must, therefore, strive cooperatively to create a new world. There is no time left for destruction, for hatred, for anger. We must build, in hope and joy and celebration.”

Ivan Illich

‘Medical Nemesis’ See here

“Healthy people are those who live in healthy homes on a healthy diet; in an environment equally fit for birth, growth work, healing, and dying… Healthy people need no bureaucratic interference to mate, give birth, share the human condition and die.”

“The medicalization of early diagnosis not only hampers and discourages preventative health-care but it also trains the patient-to-be to function in the meantime as an acolyte to his doctor. He learns to depend on the physician in sickness and in health. He turns into a life-long patient.”

“The true miracle of modern medicine is diabolical. It consists in making not only individuals but whole populations survive on inhumanly low levels of personal health.”

“The new experience that has replaced dignified suffering is artificially prolonged, opaque, depersonalized maintenance.”

“Modern medicine is a negation of health. It isn’t organized to serve human health, but only itself, as an institution. It makes more people sick than it heals.”

‘Medical Nemesis’ See here

‘The Right to Useful Unemployment and its Professional Enemies’ See here

“Activity, effort, achievement, or service outside a hierarchical relationship and unmeasured by professional standards, threatens a commodity-intensive society.”

“Excessive forms of wealth and prolonged formal employment, no matter how well distributed, destroy the social, cultural, and environmental conditions for equal productive freedom.”

“The quality of a society and of its culture will depend on the status of its unemployed.”

“The first enslaving illusion is the idea that people are born to be consumers and that they can attain any of their goals by purchasing goods and services….What people do or make but will not or cannot put up for sale is as immeasurable and as invaluable for the economy as the oxygen they breathe.”

“Wherever the shadow of economic growth touches us, we are left useless unless employed on a job or engaged in consumption…We lose sight of our resources, lose control over the environmental conditions which make these resources applicable, lose taste for self-reliant coping with challenges from without and anxiety from within.”

“Unemployment means sad idleness, rather than the freedom to do things that are useful for oneself or for one’s neighbor. An active woman who runs a house and brings up children and takes in those of others is distinguished from a woman who ‘works’, no matter how useless or damaging the product of this work might be. Activity, effort, achievement, or service outside a hierarchical relationship and unmeasured by professional standards, threatens a commodity-intensive society. The generation of use-values that escape effective measurement limits not only the need for more commodities but also the jobs that create them and the paycheques needed to buy them.”

“In the late Middle Ages the stupefying simplicity of the heliocentric model was used as an argument to discredit the new astronomy. Its elegance was interpreted as naivete…Just as the legendary inquisitor refused to look through Galileo’s telescope, so most modern economists refuse to look at an analysis that might displace the conventional centre of their economic system.”

‘The Right to Useful Unemployment and its Professional Enemies’ See here

‘The Deschooling Society’ See here

“By the early seventeenth century, a new consensus began to arise: the idea that man was born incompetent for society and remained so unless he was provided with ‘education.”

“Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success. The pupil is thereby ‘schooled’ to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new.”

“School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is.”

“School prepares for the alienating institutionalization of life by teaching the need to be taught. Once this lesson is learned, people lose their incentive to grow in independence; they no longer find relatedness attractive, and close themselves off to the surprises which life offers when it is not predetermined by institutional definition.”

“The public school has become the established church of secular society.”

‘The Deschooling Society’ See here

‘The Tools for Conviviality’ See here

“I believe that a desirable future depends on our deliberately choosing a life of action over a life of consumption, on our engendering a lifestyle which will enable us to be spontaneous, independent, yet related to each other, rather than maintaining a lifestyle which only allows to make and unmake, produce and consume – a style of life which is merely a way station on the road to the depletion and pollution of the environment. The future depends more upon our choice of institutions which support a life of action than on our developing new ideologies and technologies.”

“In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves : the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.”

‘The Tools for Conviviality’ See here

‘The Dawn of Epimethean Man, and Other Essays’ See here

“Leadership does not depend on being right.”

“School has become the world religion of a modernized proletariat, and makes futile promises of salvation to the poor of the technological age.”

“The pupil’s imagination is ‘schooled’ to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work.”

“School is an institution built on the axiom that learning is the result of teaching. And institutional wisdom continues to accept this axiom, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”

‘The Dawn of Epimethean Man, and Other Essays’ See here

“The myth of unending consumption has taken the place of the belief in life everlasting.”

‘Schooling: The Ritual of Progress’ See here

‘Medical Nemesis’ See here

‘The Right to Useful Unemployment and its Professional Enemies’ See here

‘The Deschooling Society’ See here

‘The Tools for Conviviality’ See here

‘The Dawn of Epimethean Man, and Other Essays’ See here

‘Schooling: The Ritual of Progress’ See here

‘Shadow Work’ See here

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