osp blog

Tools for conviviality

In the train back from Stuttgart, I read Tools for Conviviality, a pamphlet by social philosopher Ivan Ilich (1973). A 'convivial society', he argues, is a society in which everyone can act autonomously, and this can be achieved through the design and use of 'convivial tools':

People feel joy, as opposed to mere pleasure, to the extent that their activities are creative; while the growth of tools beyond a certain point increases reglementation, dependence, and impotence. I use the term "tool" broadly enough to include not only simple hardware such as drills, pots, syringes, brooms, building elements, or motors, and not just large machines like cars or power stations; I also include among tools productive institutions such as factories that produce tangible commodities such as corn flakes or electric current, and productive systems for intangible commodities such a those which produce "education," "health," "knowledge" or "decisions."