[sixties-l] Ivan Illich, 76, Philosopher Who Challenged Status Quo, Is Dead (fwd)

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    Date: Fri, 06 Dec 2002 13:38:57 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Ivan Illich, 76, Philosopher Who Challenged Status Quo, Is Dead

    Ivan Illich, 76, Philosopher Who Challenged Status Quo, Is Dead

    New York Times
    December 4, 2002

    Ivan Illich, a onetime Roman Catholic priest who, through a steady flow of
    books and articles preached counterintuitive sociology to a disquieted
    baby-boom generation, died on Monday at his home in Bremen, Germany. He was 76.

    Celia Samerski, a student of his at the University of Bremen, said the
    specific cause of death was not known. She said he also had a home in
    Cuernavaca, Mexico.

    Mr. Illich was perhaps best known for his 1971 book, "De-Schooling
    Society," which protested mandatory public education and the
    institutionalization of learning. Along with works like Paul Goodman's,
    "Growing Up Absurd: Problems of Youth in the Organized Society," published
    in 1960, it provided grist for a society's growing ambivalence about
    educational institutions and much else.

    Mr. Illich was a priest who thought there were too many priests, a lifelong
    educator who argued for the end of schools and an intellectual sniper from
    a perch with a wide view. He argued that hospitals cause more sickness than
    health, that people would save time if transportation were limited to
    bicycles and that historians who rely on previously published material
    perpetuate falsehoods.

    His intellectual ordnance of anarchist panache, hatred of bureaucracy,
    Jesuitic argumentation, deep reverence for the past and watered-down
    Marxism, was applied to many targets, including relations between the
    sexes. More often than not, his conclusions were startling: he thought life
    was better for women in pre-modern times.

    Critics often picked holes in his complex, verbose arguments, but not a few
    hailed them as illuminating critiques of large problems. Anatole Broyard,
    writing in The New York Times in 1971, said that his nitpicks were "like
    criticizing the grammar of someone who has just delivered a speech that
    gave us goose pimples."

    But after his 1970's heyday, interest in Mr. Illich's ideas appeared to
    wane. Speaking invitations declined, and even some that still came dripped
    with nostalgia: Mayor Jerry Brown of Oakland, who was called Governor
    Moonbeam when he was governor of California and consorted with
    out-of-the-box thinkers like R. Buckminster Fuller and Mr. Illich, invited
    him to a conference in 2000.

    By 1989, Mr. Broyard wrote in an article about winnowing books from his
    library that he would "especially" discard Mr. Illich's works.

    Mr. Illich was born on Sept. 4, 1926, in Vienna. He is survived by two
    brothers, Micha, of Manhattan. and Sascha, of Nantucket, Mass.

    His father, a civil engineer, descended from Dalmatian royalty. His mother
    was a Sephardic Jew, and Ivan was expelled from a school in Vienna in 1941
    because of her background. He went on to study in Florence and Rome and in
    Salzburg, where he wrote his doctoral dissertation on the historian Arnold

    Mr. Illich came to the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan in 1952
    after being ordained as a priest in Rome. He particularly attended to the
    needs of Puerto Ricans, helping establish an employment agency among other
    things. In an interview with The New Yorker magazine in 1970, the Rev. John
    Connolly, one of his colleagues, called him "their Babe Ruth."

    The article said that early in his career as a priest, Father Illich began
    to criticize the church for "its smugness, its bureaucracy and its
    chauvinism." But his energy and intellect propelled him to the position of
    vice rector of the Catholic University of Ponce in Puerto Rico. He was
    forced out in 1960 for opposing the local bishop's forbidding of Catholics
    to vote for a governor who advocated state-sponsored birth control.

    After being recalled briefly to New York, he was assigned to Cuernavaca, a
    small city 50 miles west of Mexico City where he established the
    Intercultural Center for Documentation to teach priests and laymen who
    wanted to become Latin American volunteers.

    Mr. Illich's criticisms of church doctrine ranged beyond his advocacy of
    birth control, and in 1969 he was branded "politically immoral" by the
    Vatican and left the priesthood.

    Among other things, he disagreed with the church policy of increasing the
    number of priests in Latin America. He believed that the church could be
    revived only by lay people, a populist view that he later applied first to
    education and then to other institutions.

    "Illich is not against schools or hospitals as such, but once a certain
    threshold of institutionalization is reached, schools make people more
    stupid, while hospitals make them sick," wrote Matthias Finger and Jose
    Manuel Asu'n in "Adult Education at the Crossroads: Learning Our Way Out"
    (Zed Books, 2001).

    "And more generally, beyond a certain threshold of institutionalized
    expertise, more experts are counterproductive ^ they produce the counter
    effect of what they set out to achieve," they continued.

    Mr. Illich's sweeping conclusions struck some readers as too sweeping, and
    others as plain wrong. Peter Sparkman in The New York Times Book Review in
    1971 criticized "De-Schooling Society" as not only "a mind-bending litany
    of abstraction" but as a distraction from schools' all too real problems.
    He called it "an exceedingly bad book written by an exceedingly good man."

    But Mr. Illich relished surprise, and his ideas almost always did. "We must
    have a sarcastic readiness for all surprises," he said in The New Yorker
    interview, "including the ultimate surprise of death."

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