Here we describe the most important concepts used in Ivan Illich's book "Tools for Conviviality", first published in 1973, where he generalized the themes that he had previously applied to the field of education. The book's vision of tools that would be developed and maintained by a community of users had a significant influence on the first developers of the personal computer, notably Lee Felsenstein.
- the institutionalization of specialized knowledge - the dominant role of technocratic elites in industrial society - the need to develop new instruments for the reconquest of practical knowledge by the average citizen.
"[e]lite professional groups ... have come to exert a 'radical monopoly' on such basic human activities as health, agriculture, home-building, and learning, leading to a 'war on subsistence' that robs peasant societies of their vital skills and know-how. The result of much economic development is very often not human flourishing but 'modernized poverty,' dependency, and an out-of-control system in which the humans become worn-down mechanical parts."[Illich: ]
We should "invert the present deep structure of tools" and "give people tools that guarantee their right to work with independent efficiency." (Illich: )
In his Medical Nemesis, first published in 1975, also known as Limits to Medicine, Illich subjected contemporary Western medicine to detailed attack. He argued that the medicalization in recent decades of so many of life's vicissitudes—birth and death, for example—frequently caused more harm than good and rendered many people in effect lifelong patients. He marshalled a body of statistics to show what he considered the shocking extent of post-operative side-effects and drug-induced illness in advanced industrial society. He introduced to a wider public the notion of iatrogenic disease, which had been scientifically established a century earlier by British nurse Florence Nightingale (1820–1910). Others have since voiced similar views.
# Concepts - Counterproductivity The main notion of Ivan Illich is the concept of counterproductivity: when institutions of modern industrial society impede their purported aims. For example, Ivan Illich calculated that, in America in the 1970s, if you add the time spent to work to earn the money to buy a car, the time spent in the car (including traffic jam), the time spent in the health care industry because of a car crash, the time spent in the oil industry to fuel cars ...etc., and you divide the number of kilometres traveled per year by that, you obtain the following calculation: 10000 km per year per person divided by 1600 hours per year per American equals 6 km per hour. So the real speed of a car would be about 3.7 miles per hour.
- Specific diseconomy .. is a measure of the degree of institutional counterproductivity that is occurring—referring to the exact degree to which, for example, the medical industry induces illness, educational institutions induce ignorance, the judicial system perpetuates injustice, or national defense may make a nation less secure. When specific diseconomy is on the increase, this means an institution or industry is increasingly counterproductive to its original intentions.
- Radical monopoly He invented the concept of radical monopoly: when a technical medium is or appears to be more effective, it creates a monopoly which denies access to other media. The mandatory consumption of a medium which uses a lot of energy (for example motorised transportation) narrows the fruition of use value (innate transit ability).
By "radical monopoly" I mean the dominance of one type of product rather than the dominance of one brand. I speak about radical monopoly when one industrial production process exercises an exclusive control over the satisfaction of a pressing need, and excludes nonindustrial activities from competition." Ivan Illich
A tool may have many applications, some very different from its original intended use. A tool may be thought of as an expression of its user. The opposite of this is the machine, where humans become its servants, their role consisting only of running the machine for a single purpose.
I choose the term "conviviality" to designate the opposite of industrial productivity. I intend it to mean autonomous and creative intercourse among persons, and the intercourse of persons with their environment; and this in contrast with the conditioned response of persons to the demands made upon them by others, and by a man-made environment. I consider conviviality to be individual freedom realized in personal interdependence and, as such, an intrinsic ethical value. I believe that, in any society, as conviviality is reduced below a certain level, no amount of industrial productivity can effectively satisfy the needs it creates among society's members. Ivan Illich,