Shadow Work by Ivan Illich
(Open Forum Series)

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In five essays, followed by extensive notes and bibliographies, Ivan Illich embarks on a major historical and sociological analysis of modern man's economic existence. He traces and analyzes options which surpass the conventional political 'right-left' and the technological 'soft-hard' alternatives and presents the concept of the 'vernacular' domain: " name those acts of competence, lust or concern that we want to defend from measurement by Chicago Boys or Socialist Commissars...the preparation of food and the shaping of language, childbirth and recreation, without implying either a privatized activity akin to the housework of modern women, a hobby or an irrational and primitive procedure." Illich deals provocatively with the controlling uses of language and science and the valuation of women and work. Drawing on unfamiliar historical sources, he lays bare the roots of much of the social ordering which affects industrial man: his own creation, but one which, at the same time, connives at his own oppression.

About Ivan Illich

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Born in Vienna in 1926, Ivan Illich grew up in Europe. He studied theology, philosophy, history, and natural science. During the 1950s he worked as a parish priest among Puerto Ricans in the Hell's Kitchen section of New York City and then served as rector of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico. During the 1960s he founded centers for cross-cultural communication, first in Puerto Rico and then in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Since the late 1970s, he has divided his time among Mexico, the United States, and Germany. He is also a professor of Science, Technology, and Society at Penn State University. Illich's radical anarchist views first became widely known through a set of four books published during the early 1970s---Deschooling Society (1971), Tools for Conviviality (1973), Energy and Equity (1974), and Medical Nemesis (1976). Tools is the most general statement of Illich's principles; the other three expand on examples sketched in Today in order to critique what he calls "radical monopolies" in the technologies of education, energy consumption, and medical treatment. This critique applies equally to both the so-called developed and the developing nations but in different ways. Two subsequent collections of occasional pieces---Toward a History of Needs (1978) and Shadow Work (1981)---stress the distorting influence on society and culture of the economics of scarcity, or the presumption that economies function to remedy scarcities rather than to share goods. Toward a History of Needs also initiates a project in the history or archaeology of ideas that takes its first full-bodied shape in Gender (1982), an attempt to recover social experiences of female-male complementarity that have been obscured by the modern economic regime. H2O and the Waters of Forgetfulness (1985) extends this project into a history of "stuff." ABC:The Alphabetization of the Popular Mind (1988) carries Illich's project forward into the area of literacy, as does his most recent book, In the Vineyard of the Text (1993). In the Mirror of the Past (1992) is a collection of occasional essays and talks from the 1980s, linking his concerns with economics, education, history, and the new ideological meaning of life. Illich himself is a polymath who speaks at least six languages fluently and who writes regularly in three of these (English, Spanish, and German); his books have been translated into more than 15 other languages.
Published January 1, 1981 by Marion Boyars. 152 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, Political & Social Sciences, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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Ivan Illich has a penchant for coining phrases—sometimes without making sure the path is clear for his new vocabulary.

Mar 26 1981 | Read Full Review of Shadow Work (Open Forum Series)

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