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Vincent Liegey & Anitra Nelson:

"The term ‘conviviality’ has a broad and deep connotation in degrowth. It functions in both social and technical dimensions. In Tools for Conviviality (1973), Ivan Illich applies a cooperative, mutual and sociable approach in the technical sphere to refer to societies where citizens are not just experts and technocrats. Instead, he evaluates technologies for development on the basis of serving the common good.

Illich showed how capitalist technologies can be inefficient by breaching a ‘counter-productivity threshold’. In Exploring Degrowth we discuss his holistic cost-benefit calculations of the average ‘speed’ of a car. Taking a step back from the normal calculations of how long it takes to walk, cycle or drive between two points, Illich took into account the number of hours one might need to work to purchase and operate a car, the costs of the public infrastructure required for driving a car, and the ecological and social costs of dealing with the waste of ‘dead’ cars as well as injuries and deaths caused by car accidents.

This sophisticated approach to assessing the time that a car ‘saves’ showed it falling far short of a seemingly powerful device that travels 100 kph, to a device that actually achieves an average speed of 5 kph. In short, Illich’s calculations indicated that it is as quick to go on foot and even quicker to cycle. Therefore the conviviality of degrowth not only refers to enjoying other people’s company in deep and holistic ways but also applies the same approach to tools, so we surround ourselves with convivial tools rather than with the relatively useless devices that pour out of factories to be advertised and sold as commodities." (