Ivan Illich (1926 - 2002 )
Ivan Illich was born in Vienna in 1926. He studied theology and philosophy at the Gregorian University in Rome and obtained a PhD in history at the University of Salzburg. He came to the United States in 1951, where he served as assistant pastor in an Irish-Puerto Rican parish in New York City. From 1956 to 1960 he was assigned as vice-rector to the Catholic University of Puerto Rico, where he organised an intensive training centre for American priests in Latin American culture. He then became very critical of the workings of the Roman Catholic Church, leaving the priesthood in 1969. He founded the Centre for Intercultural Documentation (CIDOC) in Puerto Rico, initially to train American missionaries for work in Latin America. However, the centre broadened its appeal considerably when it moved to Mexico - and became known in the 1970s for explorations of the many themes that have become identified with Illich.
He first came to prominence for his work with Everett Reimer and others on "deschooling". His chronicling of the negative effects of schools and his development of a critique of the "radical monopoly" of the dominant technologies of education in Deschooling Society (1971) echoed concerns held well beyond libertarian and anarchist circles. He went on to apply his critique to energy consumption (Energy and Equity - 1974), and memorably to medical treatment (in Medical Nemesis - 1976). In Tools for Conviviality (1973) Illich provided a more general exploration of his concerns and critique and offered some possible standards by which to judge "development" (with an emphasis on mutuality, human-scale technology etc.). His later work has ranged across a number of areas - but has generally carried forward the central themes of his earlier work. Toward a History of Needs (1978) and Shadow Work (1981) largely look to the economics of scarcity, (i.e. that the predominant dynamic in both "developed" and "under-developed" economies lies in the desire to profit through the provision of goods and services in sectors where there is a scarcity, rather than the wish to share subsistence). Gender (1982) concerns the social experiences of female/male complementarity. In the mid- to late 1980s Illich turned to an exploration of literacy practices in ABC: The Alphabetisation of the Popular Mind (1988) and In the Vineyard of the Text (1993). His work has been translated into over 25 different languages. Since the 1980s he has divided his time between Mexico, the United States, and Germany. Currently he is a Visiting Professor of Philosophy and of Science, Technology, and Society at Penn State - and also teaches at the University of Bremen.