Beyond Economics and Ecology: The Radical Thought of Ivan Illich
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tax or extortion of interest payments. None of these words would comprehend what we call ‘work’. For the last three decades, the Ministry for Language Development in Djakarta tried to impose the one term bekerdja in lieu of half a dozen others used to designate productive jobs. Sukarno had considered this monopoly of one term a necessary step for creating a Malay working class. The language planners got some compliance from journalists and union leaders. But the people continue to refer to what
acquaintance or walk through the park on the way to work. Extremes of privilege are created at the cost of universal enslavement. An elite packs unlimited distance into a lifetime of pampered travel, while the majority spend a bigger slice of their existence on unwanted trips. The few mount their magic carpets to travel between distant points that their ephemeral presence renders both scarce and seductive, while the many are compelled to trip farther and faster and to spend more time preparing
to the passenger class. Their claim to power is derived from the value their employers place on acceleration. Social scientists can build a computer model of traffic in Calcutta or Santiago, and engineers can design monorail webs according to abstract notions of traffic flow. Since these planners are true believers in problem solving by industrial design, the real solution for traffic congestion is beyond their grasp. Their belief in the effectiveness of power blinds them to the
reality. In many places you cannot move any longer without wheels, you cannot eat without a refrigerator, you choke unless you turn on the air conditioner. Thus the need for energy – and not only for jobs – became morally obvious: part of that civic religiosity which lies far beneath the political oppositions in a modern society. Now, quite suddenly, society is running out of work. Simultaneously, the terms most frequently associated with energy are crisis and scarcity or, more ominously, atom
describes how, during the seventeenth century, natural philosophers began to banish life conceptually from the cosmos, and how they minimized the role of women in conception. Step by step, they succeeded to declare matter pure, inert nature – agitated by the vis viva. They succeeded to reduce matter to pure mater, the amorphous mother of things, a pure womb in formless readiness for the conception of paternal powers; a mere framework within which virile force could give rise to all things.