2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 23 January 2014
Ivan Illich's name surfaces from time to time: as a radical educationalist, alongside folk like John Dewey and Paolo Freire, or as an influence on the early 70s hackers of the Homebrew Computer Club who were central to the origins of the home computer and eventually the web. But for much of the 1970s, he occupied a position of intellectual celebrity comparable to that of Slavoj Zizek today. A slow rediscovery of his work has been underway in the past few years and hopefully this collection will further that.
There are two particularly useful things about this book. The first is the introduction from Sajay Samuel, a pupil and friend of Illich, which orients the reader to the world in which Illich was writing and draws out the continuing relevance of his arguments to the world in which we find ourselves, several decades later. The second is that three of the four texts republished here were written in the period after Illich's fame had begun to wane, when he had the time to deepen his analysis of how we found ourselves here.
His aim was to uncover the hidden assumptions on which modern industrial societies had been built - and to illuminate the underside of economic development, giving us tools for thinking about those aspects that go conveniently unmeasured and those that elude measurement. In pursuit of this, he can be demanding of the reader, asking us to follow him far into the back alleys of history. On other occasions, the insights arising from his own explorations are encapsulated in an aphoristic observation, capable of detonating what we think we know: 'All through history, the best measure for bad times was the percentage of food eaten that had to be purchased.'
There has been no simple answer to the question, "Where should I start with reading Illich?" This collection fills that gap.