cayley on illich

david cayley on ivan illich via david bollier‘s podcast (dec 1 2021)

intro’d via nathan schneider‘s tweet:

Wow, my day is made. 

Frontiers of Commoning, with @davidbollier: David Cayley on Why Ivan Illich Still Matters

Original Tweet:

from david’s simplecast site:

David Cayley has written a magisterial synthesis and interpretation of his late friend and colleague, Ivan Illich (1926-2002), ‘Ivan Illich: An Intellectual Journey’, which reveals the ongoing relevance of Illich’s searing social critiques. Illich was a radical Christian, cultural historian and itinerant scholar who soared to international fame in the 1970s with such books as ‘Medical Nemesis,’ ‘Deschooling Society’ and ‘Tools for Conviviality,’ which criticized professional institutions for diminishing our humanity. Illich helped lay the intellectual foundations for the world of commoning by validating the power of “vernacular domains” in which we self-organize ourselves – the informal spaces where we perform the “shadow work” of commoning and caring that the mainstream economy and political culture ignores.

common\ing et al

notes/quotes from 47 min podcast:

bollier: intro – 4 min – who gets to define our sense of reality anyways – illich

7 min – cayley on deschooling.. he thought it was eminent.. friend john holt.. but not as influential as he thought..

1\ he believe in cultural revoltuion 2\ calling for disestablishment of ed.. not calling for dismissal of schools.. he didn’t question school as imparting something to somebody at some point in time.. he questioned the establishment..

oi.. there’s why not as influential.. not deep enough.. we need to let go of any form of m\a\p.. esp to this point.. the p for people telling other people what to do


1\ undisturbed ecosystem (common\ing) can happen

2\ if we create a way to ground the chaos of 8b legit free people

10 min – cayley: vernacular.. on terms of care.. his sense of revolution


11 min – cayley: if divide his work into phases: 1\ de church.. he was deeply part of catholic church/tradition in early 50s.. he always insisted that tradition and change were a pair.. that one w/o the other would always miscarry

13 min – cayley: he made many enemies in the church.. he believed it was a part of the old regime.. he tried to establish this character of the innovatist traditionalist.. he was for a new fearless christianity that didn’t make it

14 min – cayley: he did speak of the anarchist christ.. thought he spoke against traditional forms of catholicism he also cherished them.. he loved old practices.. but fearlessly open at the same time


15 min – cayley: i don’t think he was divided.. it was his view that the opposites have to be danced with .. not overcome.. he believed the two were a pair

16 min – cayley: he shocked me at end of interview on 1988.. 8 day interview long enough to make a book.. but at end he said he thought history of west could be summed up in the ‘corruption of the best is the worst’.. so.. whole history could be summed up in this and he’d never talked about it.. eventually in 2nd interview he says.. incarnation of god.. jesus.. can never be fully understood.. could only exist/remain as a surprise.. it’s what you can’t expect.. not a necessary event.. it just is.. what it is is the human face of god.. the charter to love one another w/o constriction.. once love becomes the law.. you have a social formation.. you have something that has never been before.. faith brought under power.. the ultimate horror for him

graeber unpredictability/surprise law et al

19 min – cayley: he felt modernity did not understand the gospel.. ie: sin is criminalized.. and that fundamentally mystifies sin and people want to cast it off.. to darkness.. for him.. it’s glorious .. that we are free/fearless..

20 min – bollier: he challenged the scarcity image of econ w enoughness et al

graeber stop at enough law

21 min – cayley: he was puzzled w how little he was understood and felt he needed to go deeper.. he came to conclusion that the certainty of certainties is scarcity.. in western econ.. everything by defn is scarce because we have unlimited desire.. so we can adjust these competing desires to a limited world.. and that we can fight that scarcity.. trying to get to grips w how scarcity if sounded.. he came to conclusions.. key move is from gender to sex.. sex is universal.. we all have sex.. gender is society is in parts.. society that is gendered will be unable to out grow its own size.. men and women are not interchangeable in traditional gender.. have own activities/words.. he tried to establish this is independent of patriarchy.. may occur under conditions of patriarchy or matriarchy.. their imagination possesses this fundamental duality of here/there.. i/you.. man/woman.. there’s something i can’t reach.. i can’t fully understand what is facing you.. only by imagination can i pass over into the other one..

scarcity is myth.. need to get back to grokking of graeber stop at enough law et al

24 min – cayley: in 1981.. he threw it all off in a book called gender.. lectures.. and scandalized a number of feminist profs.. and i think permanently changed illich’s reputation to a rise of a variety of social movements

25 min – cayley: in early pages of genders says 3 stages of critique: 1\ consumer econ 2\ services.. all goods become service 3\ common.. impressed/influenced by ‘the hippies’.. whole earth catalogue.. a school of political ecology ie: ef schumacher et al.. people trying to rebuild a convivial society and were seriously concerned w alts

27 min – cayley: i think he saw gender as a linchpin.. not just gender.. but a whole world where there are limits to knowledge.. 2 ways of conceiving duality: 1\ unbridgable.. ultimate between man/god.. but it cascades down to forms.. where limits every kind of hubris/ambition.. modernity unifies everything.. no limit.. and globalism is names final stage of it

29 min – cayley: issue is the econ.. econ is one universal entity.. everything belongs to it.. so if want equality in econ.. then idea of gender is frightening and smacks of discrimination.. the segregation of women.. illich is thinking of the common.. in the common there is no competition.. women are not at disadvantage in same way in that way of thinking.. so to me there was a deep misunderstanding

binary ness et al

30 min – cayley: i think you could take the reception of gender as a fundamental turning point in whole history of social movements since 60s.. illich was making a fundamental turn to a new society in which commons would be established.. so revolution (60-70) came to a dividing line.. what kind of revolution.. diversity? full equality for women? build new commons? i think that’s where the ways parted..

32 min – cayley: subsistence was a huge word in his thought.. to him.. the bare minimum.. radical thinking.. what can exist in itself by itself.. that fundamental independence.. and not to be org ing livelihood.. not dependent on market institutions.. limit tools in a way that they support conviviality.. always this idea of balance or moderation or as you say this virtue of enough ness.. which is difficult to find

garden-enough et al

35 min – cayley: he did say that political revolutions just change the chair arrangements and revert back.. the scale issue is absolutely central.. when things get too big can’t be manageable.. so scale issue absolutely crucial

gillis on small scale – we need a tool that handles/facils all the scales.. ie: tech as it could be

36 min – cayley: 1\ pro not pre scriptive thinker.. he didn’t think new social forms could/should be prescribed.. just rules of thumb to keep them in viable limits.. all he wanted to do.. 2\ on awareness.. if opposites ness true.. complementarity.. keeping things in balance is determining factor if we’ll make it .. can only be held in .. danced in.. awareness.. his answer.. this can never be institutionalized..

38 min – bollier: on some instramentalities/counter institutions needed to keep limits.. david flemming’s term ‘intermediary infras’.. one reason we can’t get to another .. regrettable necessities we have to keep feeding.. hard to address new platforms.. t

they become irrelevant s if we org around legit needs

we keep feeding non legit needs.. which never satiate

40 min – cayley: he didn’t think there didn’t need to be laws.. school.. et al

this is why not radical enough.. to legit change things..

41 min – bollier: we are part of system and take on logic/ethos of system.. *so any tools you develop become part of system and there’s no space.. it’s a totalizing set of institutions and systems of market/state techno reality.. it does leave us with open question of how we start to combat that.. t i like to think some of experiments in commons world are trying to carve out islands of possibility/space to resist the system and protect selves against predations

ie: school.. any form of m\a\p

need: means to undo our hierarchical listening

42 min – cayley: age of instrumentality made an assumption.. no room for spirit of gratuity (means unnecessary) .. the idea of things for their own sake are because beautiful.. is lost in age of instrumentality.. he felt in the interregnum between age of systems and age of instrumentality there was an opening and he said he was meeting people who were free.. spiritually/mentally free in a way that he felt wasn’t case in his earlier life.. so he believed in what you are talking about and felt there were great possibilities.. but what he leaves w me anyway.. is to *think differently and to not be drawn back in.. and that means for me.. the retrieval of the gospel of what it was and should have been .. which is ultimately our freedom

*beyond supposed to’s of school/work.. any form of people telling other people what to do

bn – on each heart et al

45 min – cayley: it’s the school/med that stands in our way if we can’t deschool/med our minds et al.. speak w words that have meaning for us.. not pre determined.. he’s calling for a deep effort of de programming.. t

need to go deeper..

need a means to undo our hierarchical listening.. detox as detox

cayley: how we might assemble freely together..

imagine if we