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Educing Ivan Illich

Reform, Contingency and Disestablishment

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John Baldacchino

More than a book about Illich, this is a conversation with Illich’s work as we enter the third decade of the 21st century, just under twenty years after his passing, and almost fifty years since his Deschooling Society was first published. As Illich is beatified and demonised in equal measure, Educing Ivan Illich chooses to focus on the relationship between reform, contingency and disestablishment. As reform stands for a plurality of reiterations that seek effective forms of accordance, in our recognition of contingency we freely claim that even as we might recognize the presence of universality in how everything appears on a shared horizon, we are not denied the existence and dynamic reality of plural possibilities in their inherent contradictions. In this bargain of synchronicity, we find that disestablishing the reified universe by which we have, for so long, traded, staked and even lost our freedom and intelligence, is not just a desire but it becomes a must. Unlike other commentators of Illich’s work, Baldacchino argues that what is radical about Illich is not a freestanding concept of deschooling but in how, in disestablishing social life, he exits the walls of the polis by upholding tradition as a disruptive force. In such light Illich’s work is read in what remains overdue. Odd though it may sound, this is an urgent need for anyone interested in Illich’s unique and irreplaceable contribution. To that end, Educing Ivan Illich has far more to offer than is usually expected from a commentary on someone else’s work.

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