Over the past couple of months, believing that Ivan Illich’s thought indeed spoke with renewed urgency to our moment, I’ve revisited two of his earliest and best known books, Tools for Conviviality and Deschooling Society. Three key themes caught my attention this time around and I thought it might be useful to discuss them here, even if only briefly.
Thank you, Michael. Reading through your dispatches kindles a longing for the kind of friendship and conversation which Illich et al. talk about, which I have myself experienced in all its glory, and which now (in middle age) is a rare treat. You have managed somehow to reconstruct this experience through the warmth of these newsletters, which have become, at least for me, a kind of sacramental participation in the convivial society.
Thanks for the great writing! The description of institutions and technology escalating in response to problems they create makes me think about the perception of stakes. Increasing stakes seems to drive a search for more powerful techniques and tools. Mostly, I think about schooling, where the stakes a presented as very high all the time, demanding more powerful techniques (e.g. best practices, more and more fine grained creation and collection of performance data) to produce the necessary outcomes. Illich makes me think about what would happen if schools remained low-stakes.
Perhaps in relation to focusing more on friendship and care would be a lowering of stakes. Are friendship and care work high stakes? If the stakes are lower, we don't search for techniques?