Convivial Institutions

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A concept by Ivan Illich, as an alternative to the Counterproductivity of institutions.


From :

I believe that a desirable future depends on our deliberately choosing a life of action over a life of consumption, on our engendering a lifestyle which will enable us to be spontaneous, independent, yet related to each other, rather than maintaining a lifestyle which only allows to make and unmake, produce and consume - a style of life which is merely a way station on the road to the depletion and pollution of the environment. The future depends more upon our choice of institutions which support a life of action than on our developing new ideologies and technologies. (Illich 1973a: 57)

Ivan Illich has argued for the creation of convivial, rather than manipulative institutions. Conviviality involves 'autonomous and creative intercourse among persons, and the intercourse of persons with their environment' (ibid.: 24). In convivial institutions (and the societies they make up) modern technologies serve 'politically interrelated individuals rather than managers'. (Illich 1975: 12). Such institutions are characterized by 'their vocation of service to society, by spontaneous use of and voluntary participation in them by all members of society (Gajardo 1994: 716). In many respects, Ivan Illich is echoing here the arguments of earlier writers like Basil Yeaxlee who recognized the power of association and the importance of local groups and networks in opening up and sustaining learning. However, he takes this a stage further by explicitly advocating new forms of formal educational institutions. He also recognizes that the character of other institutions and arrangements need to be changed if the 'radical monopoly' of schooling is to be overturned." (

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An example of such institutions would be Learning Webs