I here submit the concept of a multidimensional balance of human life which can serve as a framework for evaluating man’s relation to his tools. In each of several dimensions of this balance it is possible to identify a natural scale. When an enterprise grows beyond a certain point on this scale, it first frustrates the end for which it was originally designed, and then rapidly becomes a threat to society itself. These scales must be identified and the parameters of human endeavors within which human life remains viable must be explored.
Society can be destroyed when further growth of mass production renders the milieu hostile, when it extinguishes the free use of the natural abilities of society’s members, when it isolates people from each other and locks them into a man-made shell, when it undermines the texture of community by promoting extreme social polarization and splintering specialization, or when cancerous acceleration enforces social change at a rate that rules out legal, cultural, and political precedents as formal guidelines to present behavior. Corporate endeavors which thus threaten society cannot be tolerated. At this point it becomes irrelevant whether an enterprise is nominally owned by individuals, corporations, or the slate, because no form of management can make such fundamental destruction serve a social purpose.
Our present ideologies are useful to clarify the contradictions which appear in a society which relies on the capitalist control of industrial production; they do not, however, provide the necessary framework for analyzing the crisis in the industrial mode of production itself. I hope that one day a general theory of industrialization will be stated with precision, that it will be formulated in terms compelling enough to withstand the test of criticism. Its concepts ought…
IVAN ILLICH BIO
Illich was born in Vienna to a Croatian father and Sephardic-Jewish mother and had Italian, French and German as native languages. He later learned Serbo-Croatian, the language of his grandfathers, then Ancient Greek and Latin, in addition to Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, and other languages. Thereafter, he studied histology and crystallography at the University of Florence (Italy) as well as theology and philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in the Vatican (from 1942 to 1946), and medieval history in Salzburg.
He wrote a dissertation focusing on the historian Arnold J. Toynbee and would return to that subject in his later years. In 1951, he was assigned as an assistant parish priest in New York City after which he was appointed in 1956, at the age of 30, as the vice rector of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico. It was in Puerto Rico that Illich met Everett Reimer and the two began to analyze their own functions as “educational” leaders. In 1959, he traveled throughout South America on foot and by bus.
In 1961, Illich founded the Centro Intercultural de Documentación (CIDOC, or Intercultural Documentation Center) at Cuernavaca in Mexico, ostensibly a research center offering language courses…