Review: Celebration of Awareness by Ivan Illich

This book is a collection of illich’s papers and presentations on a range of themes. Quite a few concern the role of the Church in the modern world. Others are concerned with questions of the developing world and how best to provide aid. The book was first published in 1971. The thoughts and insights in it are if anything more relevant today.

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Manipulative practices

Ivan Illich talked about an institutional spectrum. [1] On the “right” are organisations which are hierarchical and manipulative. They try to manipulate their customers/clients into becoming dependent, into using more of the service. They are rules-based and the rules serve the interests of the organisation. On the “left” of the spectrum are organisations which are convivial. They don’t try to coerce consumption. People can freely participate and freely leave. They have rules but they are designed to facilitate the maintenance of the organisation.

Classic examples of “right-wing” institutions are: pharmaceutical companies, schools, much of modern medicine, the military and police etc. Examples of left-wing institutions might be: community based informal education groups, a small local market, small businesses which do not yet operate manipulative CRM systems, eBay (to some extent).

When, as a result of addiction, dependency and over-consumption, something goes wrong