Austrian philosopher and theologist
- People need new tools to work with rather than new tools that work for them.
- Tools for Conviviality (1973), p. 10
- In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.
- Tools for Conviviality (1973), Ch. 3
- The habitual passenger cannot grasp the folly of traffic based overwhelmingly on transport. His inherited perceptions of space and time and of personal pace have been industrially deformed. He has lost the power to conceive of himself outside the passenger role. Addicted to being carried along, he has lost control over the physical, social, and psychic powers that reside in man's feet. The passenger has come to identify territory with the untouchable landscape through which he is rushed. He has become impotent to establish his domain, mark it with his imprint, and assert his sovereignty over it. He has lost confidence in his power to admit others into his presence and to share space consciously with them. He can no longer face the remote by himself. Left on his own, he feels immobile.
The habitual passenger must adopt a new set of beliefs and expectations if he is to feel secure in the strange world where both liaisons and loneliness are products of conveyance. To "gather" for him means to be brought together by vehicles. He comes to believe that political power grows out of the capacity of a transportation system, and in its absence is the result of access to the television screen. He takes freedom of movement to be the same as one's claim on propulsion. He believes that the level of democratic process correlates to the power of transportation and communications systems. He has lost faith in the political power of the feet and of the tongue. As a result, what he wants is not more liberty as a citizen but better service as a client. He does not insist on his freedom to move and to speak to people but on his claim to be shipped and to be informed by media. He wants a better product rather than freedom from servitude to it. It is vital that he come to see that the acceleration he demands is self-defeating, and that it must result in a further decline of equity, leisure, and autonomy.
- "Energy and Equity" (1974)
- Modern medicine is a negation of health. It isn’t organised to serve human health, but only itself, as an institution. It makes more people sick than it heals.
- Medical Nemesis (1976)
- Jesus was an anarchist savior. That's what the Gospels tell us.
Just before He started out on His public life, Jesus went to the desert. He fasted, and after 40 days he was hungry. At this point the diabolos, appeared to tempt Him. First he asked Him to turn stone into bread, then to prove himself in a magic flight, and finally the devil, diabolos, "divider," offered Him power. Listen carefully to the words of this last of the three temptations: (Luke 4,6:) "I give you all power and glory, because I have received them and I give them to those whom I choose. Adore me and the power will be yours." It is astonishing what the devil says: I have all power, it has been given to me, and I am the one to hand it on — submit, and it is yours. Jesus of course does not submit, and sends the devilcumpower to Hell. Not for a moment, however, does Jesus contradict the devil. He does not question that the devil holds all power, nor that this power has been given to him, nor that he, the devil, gives it to whom he pleases. This is a point which is easily overlooked. By his silence Jesus recognizes power that is established as "devil" and defines Himself as The Powerless. He who cannot accept this view on power cannot look at establishments through the spectacle of the Gospel. This is what clergy and churches often have difficulty doing. They are so strongly motivated by the image of church as a "helping institution" that they are constantly motivated to hold power, share in it or, at least, influence it.
- Churches also have their problems with a Jesus whose only economics are jokes. A savior undermines the foundations of any social doctrine of the Church. But that is what He does, whenever He is faced with money matters. According to Mark 12:13 there was a group of Herodians who wanted to catch Him in His own words. They ask "Must we pay tribute to Caesar?" You know His answer: "Give me a coin – tell me whose profile is on it!." Of course they answer "Caesar's."
The drachma is a weight of silver marked with Caesar's effigy.
A Roman coin was no impersonal silver dollar; there was none of that "trust in God" or adornment with a presidential portrait. A denarius was a piece of precious metal branded, as it were, like a heifer, with the sign of the personal owner. Not the Treasury, but Caesar coins and owns the currency. Only if this characteristic of Roman currency is understood, one grasps the analogy between the answer to the devil who tempted Him with power and to the Herodians who tempt Him with money. His response is clear: abandon all that which has been branded by Caesar; but then, enjoy the knowledge that everything, everything else is God's, and therefore is to be used by you.
The message is so simple: Jesus jokes about Caesar. He shrugs off his control. And not only at that one instance… Remember the occasion at the Lake of Capharnaum, when Peter is asked to pay a twopenny tax. Jesus sends him to throw a line into the lake and pick the coin he needs from the mouth of the first fish that bites. Oriental stories up to the time of Thousand Nights and One Night are full of beggars who catch the fish that has swallowed a piece of gold. His gesture is that of a clown; it shows that this miracle is not meant to prove him omnipotent but indifferent to matters of money. Who wants power submits to the Devil and who wants denarri submits to the Caesar.
- The Educational enterprise in the Light of the Gospel (13 November 1988)
- Homo economicus was surreptitiously taken as the emblem and analogue for all living beings. A mechanistic anthropomorphism has gained currency. Bacteria are imagined to mimic "economic" behavior and to engage in internecine competition for the scarce oxygen available in their environment. A cosmic struggle among ever more complex forms of life has become the anthropic foundational myth of the scientific age.
Deschooling Society (1971)Edit
- Universal education through schooling is not feasible. It would be no more feasible if it were attempted by means of alternative institutions built on the style of present schools. Neither new attitudes of teachers toward their pupils nor the proliferation of educational hardware or software (in classroom or bedroom), nor finally the attempt to expand the pedagogue's responsibility until it engulfs his pupils' lifetimes will deliver universal education. The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring. We hope to contribute concepts needed by those who conduct such counterfoil research on education — and also to those who seek alternatives to other established service industries.
- Introduction (November 1970)
- I intend to discuss some perplexing issues which are raised once we embrace the hypothesis that society can be deschooled; to search for criteria which may help us distinguish institutions which merit development because they support learning in a deschooled milieu; and to clarify those personal goals which would foster the advent of an Age of Leisure (schole) as opposed to an economy dominated by service industries.
- Introduction (November 1970)
- Most learning is not the result of instruction. It is rather the result of unhampered participation in a meaningful setting. Most people learn best by being "with it," yet school makes them identify their personal, cognitive growth with elaborate planning and manipulation.
- Ritualization of Progress
Silence is a Commons (1982)Edit
- Address at the "Asahi Symposium Science and Man - The computer-managed Society," Tokyo, Japan (21 March 1982); as published in The CoEvolution Quarterly (Winter 1983)
- Machines which ape people are tending to encroach on every aspect of people's lives, and that such machines force people to behave like machines. The new electronic devices do indeed have the power to force people to "communicate" with them and with each other on the terms of the machine. Whatever structurally does not fit the logic of machines is effectively filtered from a culture dominated by their use.
The machine-like behaviour of people chained to electronics constitutes a degradation of their well-being and of their dignity which, for most people in the long run, becomes intolerable. Observations of the sickening effect of programmed environments show that people in them become indolent, impotent, narcissistic and apolitical. The political process breaks down, because people cease to be able to govern themselves; they demand to be managed.
- Electronic management as a political issue can be approached in several ways. I propose, at the beginning of this public consultation, to approach the issue as one of political ecology. Ecology, during the last ten years, has acquired a new meaning. It is still the name for a branch of professional biology, but the term now increasingly serves as the label under which a broad, politically organized general public analyzes and influences technical decisions.
- I will clarify a distinction that I consider fundamental to political ecology. I shall distinguish the environment as commons from the environment as resource. On our ability to make this particular distinction depends not only the construction of a sound theoretical ecology, but also — and more importantly — effective ecological jurisprudence.
- "Commons" is an Old English word. According to my Japanese friends, it is quite close to the meaning that iriai still has in Japanese. "Commons," like iriai, is a word which, in preindustrial times, was used to designate certain aspects of the environment. People called commons those parts of the environment for which customary law exacted specific forms of community respect. People called commons that part of the environment which lay beyond their own thresholds and outside of their own possessions, to which, however, they had recognized claims of usage, not to produce commodities but to provide for the subsistence of their households. The customary law which humanized the environment by establishing the commons was usually unwritten. It was unwritten law not only because people did not care to write it down, but because what it protected was a reality much too complex to fit into paragraphs. The law of the commons regulates the right of way, the right to fish and to hunt, to graze, and to collect wood or medicinal plants in the forest.
An oak tree might be in the commons. Its shade, in summer, is reserved for the shepherd and his flock; its acorns are reserved for the pigs of the neighbouring peasants; its dry branches serve as fuel for the widows of the village; some of its fresh twigs in springtime are cut as ornaments for the church — and at sunset it might be the place for the village assembly. When people spoke about commons, iriai, they designated an aspect of the environment that was limited, that was necessary for the community's survival, that was necessary for different groups in different ways, but which, in a strictly economic sense, was not perceived as scarce.
- The enclosure of the commons inaugurates a new ecological order: Enclosure did not just physically transfer the control over grasslands from the peasants to the lord. Enclosure marked a radical change in the attitudes of society towards the environment. Before, in any juridical system, most of the environment had been considered as commons from which most people could draw most of their sustenance without needing to take recourse to the market. After enclosure, the environment became primarily a resource at the service of "enterprises" which, by organizing wage-labor, transformed nature into the goods and services on which the satisfaction of basic needs by consumers depends. This transformation is in the blind spot of political economy.
- The appropriation of the grassland by the lords was challenged, but the more fundamental transformation of grassland (or of roads) from commons to resource has happened, until recently, without being subjected to criticism. The appropriation of the environment by the few was clearly recognized as an intolerable abuse. By contrast, the even more degrading transformation of people into members of an industrial labour force and into consumers was taken, until recently, for granted. For almost a hundred years the majority of political parties has challenged the accumulation of environmental resources in private hands. However, the issue was argued in terms of the private utilization of these resources, not the distinction of commons. Thus anticapitalist politics so far have bolstered the legitimacy of transforming commons into resources.
- Enclosure, once accepted, redefines community. Enclosure undermines the local autonomy of community. Enclosure of the commons is thus as much in the interest of professionals and of state bureaucrats as it is in the interest of capitalists. Enclosure allows the bureaucrats to define local community as impotent — "ei-ei schau-schau!!!" — to provide for its own survival. People become economic individuals that depend for their survival on commodities that are produced for them. Fundamentally, most citizens' movements represent a rebellion against this environmentally induced redefinition of people as consumers.
- As enclosure by the lords increased national productivity by denying the individual peasant to keep a few sheep, so the encroachment of the loudspeaker has destroyed that silence which so far had given each man and woman his or her proper and equal voice. Unless you have access to a loudspeaker, you now are silenced.
- The issue which I propose for discussion should therefore be clear: how to counter the encroachment of new, electronic devices and systems upon commons that are more subtle and more intimate to our being than either grassland or roads — commons that are at least as valuable as silence. Silence, according to western and eastern tradition alike, is necessary for the emergence of persons. It is taken from us by machines that ape people. We could easily be made increasingly dependent on machines for speaking and for thinking, as we are already dependent on machines for moving.
- A transformation of the environment from a commons to a productive resource constitutes the most fundamental form of environmental degradation. This degradation has a long history, which coincides with the history of capitalism but can in no way just be reduced to it. Unfortunately the importance of this transformation has been overlooked or belittled by political ecology so far. It needs to be recognized if we are to organize defense movements of what remains of the commons. This defense constitutes the crucial public task for political action during the eighties. The task must be undertaken urgently because commons can exist without police, but resources cannot. Just as traffic does, computers call for police, and for ever more of them, and in ever more subtle forms.
By definition, resources call for defense by police. Once they are defended, their recovery as commons becomes increasingly difficult. This is a special reason for urgency.
We the People interview (1996)Edit
- During the late sixties I had a chance to give a dozen addresses to people who were concerned with education and schooling. I asked myself, since when are people born needy? In need, for instance, of education? Since when do we have to learn the language we speak by being taught by somebody? I wanted to find out where the idea came from that all over the world people have to be assembled in specific groups of not less than fifteen, otherwise it's not a class, not more than forty, otherwise they are underprivileged, for yearly, not less than 800 hours, otherwise they don't get enough, not more than 1,100 hours, otherwise it's considered a prison, for four-year periods by somebody else who has undergone this for a longer time. How did it come about that such a crazy process like schooling would become necessary? Then I realized that it was something like engineering people, that our society doesn't only produce artifact things, but artifact people. And that it doesn't do that by the content of the curriculum, but by getting them through this ritual which makes them believe that learning happens as a result of being taught; that learning can be divided into separate tasks; that learning can be measured and pieces can be added one to the other; that learning provides value for the objects which then sell in the market.
And it's true. The more expensive the schooling of a person, the more money he will make in the course of his life. This in spite of the certainty, from a social science point of view, that there's absolutely no relationship between the curriculum content and what people actually do satisfactorily for themselves or society in life.
- The latent function of schooling, that is, the hidden curriculum, which forms individuals into needy people who know that they have now satisfied a little bit of their needs for education, is much more important... The idea that people are born with needs, that needs can be translated into rights, that these rights can be translated into entitlements, is a development of the modem world and it's reasonable, it's acceptable, it's obvious only for people who have had some of their educational needs awakened or created, then satisfied, and then learned that they have less than others. Schooling, which we engage in and which supposedly creates equal opportunities, has become the unique, never-before-attempted way of dividing the whole society into classes. Everybody knows at which level of his twelve or sixteen years of schooling he has dropped out, and in addition knows what price tag is attached to the higher schooling he has gotten. It's a history of degrading the majority of people.
- Increasingly people live in an artifact and become artifacts themselves, feel satisfied, feel fit for that artifact insofar as they themselves have been manipulated.
- Inevitably modern technology has polarized society. It has polluted the environment. It has disabled very simple native abilities and made people dependent on objects... Like an automobile which makes the world inaccessible, when actually in Latin "automobile" means "using your feet to get somewhere." The automobile makes it unthinkable. I was recently told, "You're a liar!" when I said to somebody I walked down the spine of the Andes. Every Spaniard in the sixteenth, seventeenth century did that. The idea that somebody could just walk! He can jog perhaps in the morning, but he can't walk anywhere! The world has become inaccessible because we drive there.
- Traditionally the gaze was conceived as a way of fingering, of touching. The old Greeks spoke about looking as a way of sending out my psychopodia, my soul's limbs, to touch your face and establish a relationship between the two of us. This relationship was called vision. Then, after Galileo, the idea developed that the eyes are receptors into which light brings something from the outside, keeping you separate from me even when I look at you. People began to conceive of their eyes as some kind of camera obscura. In our age people conceive of their eyes and actually use them as if they were part of a machinery. They speak about interface. Anybody who says to me, "I want to have an interface with you," I say, "please go somewhere else, to a toilet or wherever you want, to a mirror." Anybody who says, "I want to communicate with you," I say, "Can't you talk? Can't you speak? Can't you recognize that there's a deep otherness between me and you, so deep that it would be offensive for me to be programmed in the same way you are."
- The two of us haven't seen each other for a year now, and when we saw each other we bowed in front of each other. This very idea of bowing — you don't bow in front of a screen. It's made impossible, or very difficult, for people who constantly see non-persons on the screen.
- I want to just go back to a great rabbinical and also, as you see, monastic, Christian development beyond what the Greeks like Plato or Cicero already knew about friendship. That it is from your eye that I find myself. There's a little thing there. They called it pupilla, a "puppet" of myself which I can see in your eye. The black thing in your eye.
Pupil, puppet, person, eye. It is not my mirror. It is you making me the gift of that which Ivan is for you. That's the one who says "I" here. I'm purposely not saying, this is my person, this is my individuality, this is my ego. No. I'm saying this is the one who answers you here, whom you have given to him.
- I cannot come to be fully human unless I have received myself as a gift and accepted myself as a gift of somebody who has, as we say today, distorted me the way you distorted me by loving me.
- Friendship in the Greek tradition, in the Roman tradition, in the old tradition, was always viewed as the highest point which virtue can reach. Virtue, meaning here, "the habitual facility of doing the good thing," which is fostered by what the Greeks called politaea, political life, community life. I know it was a political life in which I wouldn't have liked to participate, with the slaves around and with the women excluded, but I still have to go to Plato or to Cicero. They conceived of friendship as a supreme flowering, of the interaction which happens in a good political society.
- I do not believe that friendship today can flower out — can come out — of political life. I do believe that if there is something like a political life to be — to remain for us, in this world of technology — then it begins with friendship.
Therefore my task is to cultivate disciplined, self-denying, careful, tasteful friendships. Mutual friendships always. I-and-you and, I hope, a third one, out of which perhaps community can grow. Because perhaps here we can find what the good is.
- While once friendship in our western tradition was the supreme flower of politics, I think that if community life exists at all today, it is in some way the consequence of friendship cultivated by each one who initiates it. This goes beyond anything which people usually talk about, saying each one of you is responsible for the friendships he/she can develop, because society will only be as good as the political result of these friendships.
- Here is the right word. Hospitality was a condition consequent on a good society in politics, politaea, and by now might be the starting point of politaea, of politics. But this is difficult because hospitality requires a threshold over which I can lead you — and TV, internet, newspaper, the idea of communication, abolished the walls and therefore also the friendship, the possibility of leading somebody over the door. Hospitality requires a table around which you can sit and if people get tired they can sleep. You have to belong to a subculture to say, we have a few mattresses here. It's still considered highly improper to conceive of this as the ideal moments in a day or a year. Hospitality is deeply threatened by the idea of personality, of scholastic status. I do think that if I had to choose one word to which hope can be tied it is hospitality. A practice of hospitality— recovering threshold, table, patience, listening, and from there generating seedbeds for virtue and friendship on the one hand — on the other hand radiating out for possible community, for rebirth of community.
- This breaking of the limitations of hospitality to a small in-group, of offering it to the broadest possible in-group, and saying, you determine who your guest is, might be taken as the key message of Christianity.
Then in the year 300 and something, finally the Church got recognition. The bishops were made into something like magistrates. The first things those guys do, these new bishops, is create houses of hospitality, institutionalizing what was given to us as a vocation by Jesus, as a personal vocation, institutionalizing it, creating roofs, refuges, for foreigners. Immediately, very interesting, quite a few of the great Christian thinkers of that time, 1600 years ago (John Chrysostom is one), shout: "If you do that, if you institutionalize charity, if you make charity or hospitality into an act of a non-person, a community, Christians will cease to remain famous for what we are now famous for, for having always an extra mattress, a crust of old bread and a candle, for him who might knock at our door." But, for political reasons, the Church became, from the year 400 or 500 on, the main device for roughly a thousand years of proving that the State can be Christian by paying the Church to take care institutionally of small fractions of those who had needs, relieving the ordinary Christian household of the most uncomfortable duty of having a door, having a threshold open for him who might knock and whom I might not choose.
- I can choose. I have to choose. I have to make my mind up whom I will take into my arms, to whom I will lose myself, whom I will treat as that vis-a-vis, that face into which I look, which I lovingly touch with my fingering gaze, from whom I accept being who I am as a gift.
The Cultivation of Conspiracy (1998)Edit
- "The Cultivation of Conspiracy" — expansion of an address delivered in Bremen, Germany, on receiving the Bremen Culture and Peace Prize (14 March 1998) (Online PDF text)
- Learned and leisurely hospitality is the only antidote to the stance of deadly cleverness that is acquired in the professional pursuit of objectively secured knowledge. I remain certain that the quest for truth cannot thrive outside the nourishment of mutual trust flowering into a commitment to friendship. Therefore, I have tried to identify the climate that fosters and the "conditioned" air that hinders the growth of friendship.
- The impending loss of spirit, of soul, of what I call atmosphere, could go unnoticed.
Only persons who face one another in trust can allow its emergence. The bouquet of friendship varies with each breath, but when it is there it needs no name. For a long time I believed that there was no one noun for it, and no verb for its creation. Each time I tried one, I was discouraged; all the synonyms for it were shanghaied by its synthetic counterfeits: mass-produced fashions and cleverly marketed moods, chic feelings, swank highs and trendy tastes. Starting in the seventies, group dynamics retreats and psychic training, all to generate "atmosphere," became major businesses. Discreet silence about the issue I am raising seemed preferable to creating a misunderstanding.
Then… I suddenly realized that there is indeed a very simple word that says what I cherished and tried to nourish, and that word is peace. Peace, however, not in any of the many ways its cognates are used all over the world, but peace in its post-classical, European meaning. Peace, in this sense, is the one strong word with which the atmosphere of friendship created among equals has been appropriately named. But to embrace this, one has to come to understand the origin of this peace in the conspirator, a curious ritual behavior almost forgotten today.
- Speaking about pax in the proto-Christan epoch turned out to be a delicate matter, because around the year 300 pax became a key word in the Christian liturgy. It became the euphemism for a mouth-to-mouth kiss among the faithful attending services; pax became the camouflage for the osculum (from os, mouth), or the conspiratio, a commingling of breaths.
- The Latin osculum is neither very old nor frequent. It is one of three words that can be translated by the English, "kiss." In comparison with the affectionate basium and the lascivious suavium, osculum was a latecomer into classical Latin, and was used in only one circumstance as a ritual gesture: In the second century, it became the sign given by a departing soldier to a woman, thereby recognizing her expected child as his offspring.
In the Christian liturgy of the first century, the osculum assumed a new function. It became one of two high points in the celebration of the Eucharist. Conspiratio, the mount-to-mouth kiss, became the solemn liturgical gesture by which participants in the cult-action shared their breath or spirit with one another. It came to signify their union in one Holy Spirit, the community that takes shape in God's breath. The ecclesia came to be through a public ritual action, the liturgy, and the soul of this liturgy was the conspiratio. Explicitly, corporeally, the central Christian celebration was understood as a co-breathing, a con-spiracy, the bringing about of a common atmosphere, a divine milieu.
- The other eminent moment of the celebration was, of course, the comestio, the communion in the flesh, the incorporation of the believer in the body of the Incarnate Word, but communio was theologically linked to the preceding con-spiratio. Conspiratio became the strongest, clearest and most unambiguously somatic expression for the entirely non-hierarchical creation of a fraternal spirit in preparation for the unifying meal. Through the act of eating, the fellow conspirators were transformed into a "we," a gathering which in Greek means ecclesia. Further, they believed that the "we" is also somebody's "I"; they were nourished by shading into the "I" of the Incarnate Word. The words and actions of the liturgy are not just mundane words and actions, but events occurring after the Word, that is, after the Incarnation. Peace as the commingling of soil and waters sounds cute to my ears; but peace as the result of conspiratio exacts a demanding, today almost unimaginable intimacy.
The practice of the osculum did not go unchallenged; documents reveal that the conspiratio created scandal early on. The rigorist African Church Father, Tertullian, felt that a decent matron should not be subjected to possible embarrassment by this rite. The practice continued, but not its name; the ceremony required a euphemism. From the later third century on, the osculum pacis was referred to simply as pax, and the gesture was often watered down to some slight touch to signify the mutual spiritual union of the persons present through the creation of a fraternal atmosphere. Today, the pax before communion, called "the kiss of peace," is still integral to the Roman, Slavonic, Greek and Syrian Mass, although it is often reduced to a perfunctory handshake.
- Community in our European tradition 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. The prototype of that conspiracy lies in the celebration of the early Christian liturgy in which, no matter their origin, men and women, Greeks and Jews, slaves and citizens, engender a physical reality that transcends them. The shared breath, the con-spiratio are the "peace" understood as the community that arises from it.
- As a scholar I have been shaped by a monastic traditions and by the interpretation of medieval texts. Early on I took it for granted that the principal condition for an atmosphere that is propitious to independent thought is the hospitality cultivated by the host: a hospitality that excludes condescension as scrupulously as seduction; a hospitality that by its simplicity defeats the fear of plagiarism as much as that of clientage; a hospitality that by its openness dissolves intimidation as studiously as servility; a hospitality that exacts from the guests as much generosity as it imposes on the host. I have been blessed with a large portion of it, with the taste of a relaxed, humorous, sometimes grotesque fit among mostly ordinary but sometimes outlandish companions who are patient with one another.
The rivers north of the future (2005)Edit
- I believe that the Incarnation makes possible a surprising and entirely new flowering of love and knowledge. For Christians the Biblical God can now be loved in the flesh. Before I was limited by the people into which I was born and the family in which I was raised. Now I can choose whom I will love and where I will love. And this deeply threatens the traditional basis of ethics, which was always an ethnos, an historically given “we” which proceeds any pronunciation of the world “I”.
- The opening of this horizon is also accompanied by a second danger: institutionalisation. There is a temptation of trying to manage and, eventually, to legislate this new love, to create an institution that will guarantee it, insure it, and protect it by criminalising its opposite.
- The power is claimed first by the Church and later by the many secular institutions stamped from its mould. Wherever I look for the roots of modernity, I find them in the attempts of churches to institutionalise, legitimise and manage Christian vocation.
- The personal freedom to choose who will be my other has been transformed into the use of power and money to provide a service. This not only deprives the idea of the neighbour of the quality of freedom implied in the story of the Samaritan. It also creates an impersonal view of how a good society ought to work.
- Christ came to free us from the law, but Christianity allowed the legal mentality to be brought into the very heart of love.
- Tyranny of old was exercised over people who still knew how to subsist. They could lose their means of subsistence and be enslaved, but they could not be made needy. With the beginning of capitalist production in the spinning and weaving shops of the Florence of the Medicis, a new type of human being was being engendered: needy man, who has to organise a society, the principal function of which is to satisfy human needs. And needs are much more cruel than tyrants.
- In this new kind of world neither the vitality of nature nor the creative act of God makes things what they are. This birthright is withdrawn, and things come to be what they are because of their genetic code, as we would say today.
- For the simple Christian there was the requirement of going to Mass every Sunday – otherwise you go to hell – or of going to confession once a year. The elaboration of this legal organisation, and this legal imposition, which defined missing out on services a sin, immediately preceded the epoch in which the state, the new Church-like state, as I called it earlier, began to introduce its own rituals. And the easiest one to follow is education.
- I don’t want to speak further about education here but only to show how I personally proceeded in trying to discover the origin of this belief, unknown to other societies, that you need an organised institution to make people competent to understand what is good for them and their community, that knowledge does not come from living but from education, the milk of wisdom flowing from the breasts of an institution.
- The search for truth presupposes the growth of philia. This philia must find an atmosphere in which it can grow, and this atmosphere cannot be taken for granted as an out-growth of civic virtue.
- One of the hallmarks of modernity is the progressive replacement of the idea of the good by the idea of values. …. Something very fundamental gets lost when I observe myself against values rather than feel myself as a bundle of miseries, in pain, half crippled tired but bearing all this.
- God’s love is in the flesh, and the relationship between two people, the mystery of the Samaritan, is inevitably a mystery of the flesh. This becomes very difficult to explain, or even to say, in our generation, during which I believe an extraordinary process, and an extraordinary history of disinfleshment of our perceptions, our concepts and our senses has reached a high point.
- Disembodiment is reaching a second level which I can only call algorithmization or mathematization. People annihilate their own sensual nature by projecting themselves into abstracta, into abstract notions. And this renunciation of intimate uniqueness through the introjection and self-ascription of statistical entities is being cultivated with extraordinary intensity by the way in which we live. This has to be explored. The consequence is an insensibility not only to myself but to you.
- The credibility of the world that based itself on citizenship, on responsibility, on power, on equality, on need, claim, and entitlement – the credibility of these as ideals to which it is worthwhile to consecrate your life is declining, and, in my opinion, very fast. I want to suggest the possibility of seeing this as the end of an epoch, just like the Roman Empire at the time of Augustine, and as an entirely new access/credibility/ease of moving into the world of conspiratio, knowing that it can’t be contractually insured, that it’s a renunciation of insurance.
Quotes about IllichEdit
- Illich’s essay, "Silence is a Commons", appeared in CoEvolution Quarterly in winter 1983, and I still marvel at how much wisdom he packed into that short piece. It was still the early days of the personal computer revolution, and Illich feared that “computers are doing to communication what fences did to pastures and cars did to streets.”
It’s too bad that he didn’t live to see the rise of the Internet, which in some ways has mitigated some of his fears (and in other ways, fulfilled his fears). In any case, his take on the commons and the threats to it are still worth considering.
- Illich was valued during his comparatively short period of fame for the destructive possibilities of his criticisms of almost all the institutions of industrial society, capitalist or communist, in books such as Deschooling Society (1971) and Medical Nemesis (1975) … My attitude to Illich was composed half of admiration, half of irritation. He had a distinctly prophetic quality, but he could also be very silly, and some of the things he said were destructive of civilization itself... He was a flawed figure as a man and as a thinker: but so, no doubt, are we all. And unlike the other radicals of the era such as Herbert Marcuse, he still repays reading. Being not easily pigeon-holed, he forces us to think.
- One of the world's great thinkers, a polymath whose output covered vast terrains. He worked in 10 languages; he was a jet-age ascetic with few possessions; he explored Asia and South America on foot; and his obligations to his many collaborators led to a constant criss-crossing of the globe in the last two decades. … His critique of modernity was founded on a deep understanding of the birth of institutions in the 13th century, a critical period in church history which enlightened all of his work, whether about gender, reading or materiality. He was far more significant as an archaeologist of ideas, someone who helped us to see the present in a truer and richer perspective, than as an ideologue.
- Andrew Todd and Franco La Cecla, in his obituary in The Guardian (8 December 2002)
- Illich lived frugally, but opened his doors to collaborators and drop-ins with great generosity, running a practically non-stop educational process which was always celebratory, open-ended and egalitarian at his final bases in Bremen, Cuernavaca and Pennsylvania.
His charisma, brilliance and spirituality were clear to anyone who encountered him; these qualities sustained him in a heroic level of activity over the last 10 years in the context of terrible suffering caused by a disfiguring cancer. Following the thesis of Medical Nemesis, he administered his own medication against the advice of doctors, who proposed a largely sedative treatment which would have rendered his work impossible.
- Andrew Todd and Franco La Cecla, in The Guardian (8 December 2002)
- Obituary in The Guardian (8 December 2002)
- Ivan Illich at Penn State: Continuing the Conversation (12 - 14 November 2004)
- An extensive set of Illich's writings and recordings
- We the People interview with Jerry Brown on We the People (22 March 1996) ~ Alternate transcription : "Land of Found Friends" as published in The Aisling Magazine Issue 22 (Bealtaine 1998)
- "A Turbulent Priest in the Global Village : Ivan Illich, 1926–2002" by Richard Wall (an essay with further links to online writings of Illich and others)
- A page on Illich on the WikiWikiWeb, with more links
- List of pointers to Illich's writings
- A partial bibliography