Social Scientist. v 2, no. 23 (June 1974) p. 59.


Graphics file for this page
Sociological Ideas of Ivan Illich

IN the recent years the raison-d'etre of industrial growth has come to be increasingly questioned. Broadly this criticism runs along two lines. First, technology has created a vicious circle of demand and growth.1 Second, technology has reached a stage where a product is not only alienated from the worker but, more importantly, from its many more consumers as well. A technology cannot get grafted to a culture unless it were the appropriate technology for that culture. Technology must obviously grow into a form that permits man to use his tools as a natural extension of his faculties; in other words to let him live in harmony with machines and not be tyrannised by them. This is essentially the same idea as put forward by Marx earlier.

The Mexican sociologist, Ivan Illich2 is one of the leaders of the movement for a critical assessment of various aspects of the relationship between man and his tools. Illich in his study uses a very broad definition of tools, in which he not only includes various artifacts and machines but also productive institutions such as factories that make tangible commodities such as cars or electric current, and productive systems for intangible commodities such as those which turn out "education", "health", "knowledge", or "decisions." In this article we briefly examine Illich's theories in regard to their logical basis and their relevance to the Indian situation.

The overall design of Illlch's inquiry has been described by him as a 'critical research on the monopoly of the industrial mode of production9 and definition of 'conceptually alternative modes that would fit a post-industrial age.5 The study is concerned essentially with the American situation, so this section must be examined with this limitation in view. However Illich claims to have abstracted some universal laws from this particular experience.

During the late sixties Illich examined a particular mode of production, namely the educational system, producing the commodity, education. The results, published as a book3, pointed out the following many shortcomings of the present schooling system: it conditions the students, its curriculum is obligatory, it is oriented towaid credentials, it groups



Back to Social Scientist | Back to the DSAL Page