Ivan Illich


Ivan Illich was born in Vienna in 1926, and lived in various countries of Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America, and in the United States. He published several books, in each of which an attentive reader can find insights and arguments that speak directly to the interests and issues facing individuals living in Oakland today.

Some persons are moved to ask: What is my basic stance? and, How do I move in the world? Illich addresses such questions in different writings, for example, in the essay, "The Rebirth of Epimethean Man" (published in Deschooling Society), and in the book, Gender.

Others are concerned with questions of the public good, sometimes labeled as "public policy." Proposals far outside mainline opinion on such matters are discussed in Energy and Equity, Tools for Conviviality, and H2O and the Waters of Forgetfulness.

One can still be interested in the possibility of reading. Illich commented on an historical mode of reading that is, in effect, a mode of living, in his book, In the Vineyard of the Text. This book also raises questions associated with the appearance of the text as such that emerge from a study of print technology.

Throughout many of his books and essays he conceptualizes historically, and then analyzes in terms intelligible to contemporary inquirers, the dimensions of space: for example, he takes up the notion of commons, gendered space, social space, and the space of silence.

Later in his life, he devoted himself principally to a study of proportionality; he sought the sources of this concept and experience in areas such as architecture, music, the lived body, medicine, and Revelation. He was convinced that, as a gendered society was once definitively broken, so the sense of proportion was similarly lost.

Readers have discovered that he was precariously rooted in the foundation traditions of western sensibility and thought. This position and the living out of his personal vocation give his speech and writing a definite character: His expression often revealed an apophatic cast that reaches back at least to Pseudo-Dioynsius.

Ivan Illich died in Bremen, Germany, on December 2, 2002.

Selected Bibliography

Ivan Illich's Talk

Sept 2 2000: The Loudspeaker in the Classroom, in the Belfry & the Minaret

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