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Challenges of Ivan Illich, The

A Collective Reflection

Lee Hoinacki, Carl Mitcham

Publication Year: 2002

This unique collection examines the man Utne Reader has called “the greatest social critic of the twentieth century.” The essays—all by people Illich has influenced personally—discuss how his life and thought have affected conceptualization, study, and practice of psychotherapy, notions about education, ideas concerning the historical development of the text, perceptions of technology, as well as other topics. All of Illich’s books are discussed and his ideas on education, theology, technology, anarchism, and society are examined in relationship to those of René Girard, Karl Polanyi, Emmanuel Levinas, and Jacques Ellul. Illich’s previously unpublished paper offering a new view of conspiracy in European history is included.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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pp. v-vi

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

This book had its genesis on the occasion of Ivan Illich’s seventieth birthday in 1996 when a small group of friends at Pennsylvania State Universit y sought to ref lect on the implications of his work. We took as our theme the phrase “No Easy Answers” because that was precisely our state of mind. In many ways it still is. A year later we...


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1. Reading Ivan Illich

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pp. 1-8

On various occasions, I have set out on the perilous enterprise of attempting to interpret Ivan Illich. One day an astute questioner angered me, blurting out, “Oh, so you produce Cliffs Notes!”1 After calming down I thought about her comment and concluded that, Yes, I did indeed want to do something like that; I believed this could be an honest work. After nearly fort y years of knowing Illich...

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2. The Challenges of This Collection

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pp. 9-32

This collective ref lection on the life and work of Ivan Illich is both less and more than a Festschrift. It is less, because it is not primarily an offering of professional scholarly contributions inspired by the work of a professor. It is more, because it goes beyond scholarship, attempting to engage both professional...


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3. Ivan Illich as We Knew Him in the 1950s

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pp. 35-42

Ivan Illich embarked on his New York Cit y career as a young assistant priest at Incarnation Parish in upper Manhattan where, in a few short years, he became the beloved priest of a quite varied gathering of parishioners. It was also in this position that he began to exercise an extraordinary inf luence over the administration and...

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4. The Adventure of Publishing Ivan Illich

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pp. 43-48

Ibecame a publisher in 1960 by buying 50 percent of an existing publishing house that eventually changed its name to Calder & Boyars. Young people fort y years ago had an indomitable belief in their power to make an impact on the world to better it. I don’t think many young people in their twenties, except perhaps the very...

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5. On Ivan Illich and His Friends

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pp. 49-52

It has been three decades since I first met Ivan Illich at his gathering place in Cuernavaca, Mexico, the Centro Intercultural de Documentaci

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6. Ivan Illich at the Wissenschaftskolleg

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pp. 53-58

Sunday night, October 1981, Berlin-Grunewald. The first Fellows of the Wissenschaftskolleg, eighteen of them, including two women, gather for the opening dinner with the rector and to meet the staff over a glass of wine afterward. I have just begun my job as the librarian of this newly founded Institute for Advanced...

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7. In the Shadow of Jerome

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pp. 59-70

Iwant to comment on some autobiographical passages to be found in the volume, Ivan Illich in Conversation.1 I would like to elucidate and synthesize the words of the text and, moreover, to explain why, in this case, having reached a certain interpretation and integration, I am obliged to pause at a critical point. In...


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8. Economy, Subsistence, and Psychological Inquiry

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pp. 73-88

Ivan Illich’s thought has been a genuine challenge to some of my basic presuppositions. My early work attempted to redress the alienating power of objectified accounts of the body by discovering the lived- or ensouled-body in anatomy and physiology.1 I had neglected to consider that these alienating accounts arose as discursive

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9. ABC Redux: Or Literacy Matters. And How!

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pp. 89-100

Ihave accepted Lee Hoinacki’s invitation to step back and “revise and clarify” some of Ivan Illich’s ideas. Such a task I undertake with great trepidation. How easy to criticize, how unfair, especially when a person, Ivan, has provided so many of us with such a potent, apophatic way of seeing. I am comforted in the know...

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10. Ivan Illich’s Concept of "Rests”: Glimpses of a World Past

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pp. 101-112

We were out of water, again, so I packed up the jugs in the car and went to get some more. Years ago, when we had lived in the lake country of upstate New York, I used to drive dirt roads over the Hector Ridge to Texas Hollow. Texas Hollow was a long, sharp-sided valley whose steep hills were covered...

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11. Hospitality Cannot Be a Challenge

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pp. 113-126

Challenge is a term often used in our times to characterize such issues as unemployment, education, health, development, democracy, world peace, or sustainabilit y. But nothing is a provocation per se; there must be someone who feels offended or simply worked up: the person who confronts realit y as if it were a threat. Nowadays this happens in public as much as in private. World peace, for...


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12. The Mess We’re In: How Ivan Illich Revealed to Me That the American Dream Is Actually a Nightmare

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pp. 129-140

Reading the books and essays of Ivan Illich is a little like hearing an air-raid siren in the midst of a calm. “Why is this siren going off ?” one is tempted to ask. “We are not under attack, we are not in any danger; it must be a false alarm.” But the more one reads and thinks about what this man has to say, the more...

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13. A Letter on Studying with Master Illich

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pp. 141-152

...Your invitation to write for this book on Ivan Illich fills me with deep joy, anticipating delightful, even if difficult, conversations among his friends and pupils. A fabulous f low of abundance have I enjoyed at all Illich feasts, with their prodigious outpourings of ideas and thoughtfulness, of food and wine, of stories and histories. Equally, as I settle down to muse and meditate, remember and re-savor, I fear that my...

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14. From the Economy to Friendship: My Years Studying Ivan Illich

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pp. 153-162

One summer morning in 1973 Ivan Illich was conducting his seminar “Limits to Growth” in Cuernavaca, Mexico. He sat on a wall surrounding the veranda of the Casa Blanca, an old hacienda on the grounds of his alternative learning arrangement, the Center for Intercultural Documentation (CIDOC). I...

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15. Don Quixote in the Contemporary Global Tragicomedy

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pp. 163-174

The church provided a good starting point for me, as for many others of my generation, from which to launch into the critique of institutions. I was fortunate to have trained for the ministry in the 1960s because in that profession, at that particular time, contradictions in the church were becoming more and more obvious...


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16. Energy and the Mystery of Iniquity

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pp. 177-188

In 1973 the industrial world was shocked by the OPEC decision to drastically reduce oil exports until they could obtain better prices. Societies that had made themselves oil-dependent responded by taking provisional conservation measures. A few even proscribed the weekend use of private cars. This restriction was the occasion for another surprise. An official prohibition...

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17. Detour and Sacrifice: Ivan Illich and Ren

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pp. 189-204

Ihave been privileged in my life to encounter two great thinkers, whose thinking is at once powerfully analytic and powerfully prophetic. It seemed clear that both of them were saying things that were profound and true, and yet their messages appeared to be perfectly contradictory. On one side: Ivan Illich, with his radical critique of industrial societ y. On the other side: Ren

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18. Ivan Illich’s Break with the Past

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pp. 205-218

The idea of breaks in history plays a major role in Ivan Illich’s thinking. Referring to modernit y, Illich even speaks about a catastrophic break. In this chapter I want to elaborate on this break because, in my view, the concept must be qualified in order to avoid idealizing the past, and mistaking model for reality...

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19. The Quest for Past Somatics

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pp. 219-230

Again and again, for two long decades, I was irritated when Ivan Illich answered inquiries about the route that led to Medical Nemesis.1 He argued that the book was one more contribution to a critique of the service economy; that it was an attempt to say more about what he called “radical monopoly”; that...


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20. The Cultivation of Conspiracy

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pp. 233-242

On November 16, 1996, I arrived at the library auditorium of Bremen Universit y just in time for my afternoon lecture. For five years I had commented on old texts to trace the long history of Western philia, of friendship. This semester’s theme was the loss of the common sense for proportionalit y during the...


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pp. 243-248


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pp. 249-256

E-ISBN-13: 9780791488294
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791454213
Print-ISBN-10: 0791454215

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 1 line drawing
Publication Year: 2002