However we situate such study within our overall project, we can certainly agree that it is desirable and necessary. As long as social control is based on, and human liberty is constrained by the subordination of people to tools, we will need to study the ways in which this subordination and control is achieved in order to discover how to end it.
As all of these aspects of alienation continue to be characteristic of contemporary society, their decoding and identification continues to be of importance. Because the relations responsible for this situation are being constantly reorganized, so too must our research be constantly updated and sensitive to the recognition of such changes.
Clearly we can agree that as growth in service industries has increasingly displaced factory production (as the central way of putting people to work and organizing their leisure time) this area of research and understanding has become more and more important.
The continuing study of such cultural forms of domination is of the most fundamental importance. As automation, not only of factory production but also of the services, continues to displace workers and make it harder and harder to control people by controlling their work tools, we must consider the possibility of capitalism (or industrialism) mutating into another system of domination-i.e., finding some other, possibly cultural, mechanism to monopolize and organize people's lives. Humanity has had prior experience with such forms, most particularly institutionalized religions. They continue to play a role today and the fact that they are currently subordinate to work does not mean that they could not become primary, once again, in the future. H4>5. The limits of consumerism and reformism When Illich critiques the artificial creation of new demands by corporations, he repeats the arguments of the Frankfort School and of Baran & Sweezy type Marxists. When he notes the limits of consumer protection, Marxists will nod agreeably. However useful Marxists may find Naderite type struggles to eliminate the worse abuses of industrial commodity production, they have long argued that such patching up will be never ending until the system itself is changed and the production of goods and services reorganized to meet needs rather than profit objectives. This is true whether we are talking about a food system that doesn't hesitate to use poisonous additives to cut costs or a medical system that is endlessly curative while refusing to deal with the causes of illness, itself included. Even more insidious are those strategies that are almost self-consciously palliative-such as Quality of Work Life programs in factories and offices designed to produce cooperation with a basically unchanged system.
When Illich argues for going beyond the reformist modification and control of existing systems to new systems, Marxists will smile, remembering Lenin's admonishment to smash the state rather than reforming it. With the exception of Second International style social democrats, this has been a basic premise of most Marxist reasoning. It is true that we can still find groups of politicos who call themselves Marxists who continue to embrace social democracy and existing political structures (e.g., the communist parties of Western Europe) there are many others who would pursue an extraparliamentary route to systemic change. On this issue, it should be noted that Illich is ambiguous. On the one hand he calls for systemic change instead of reform, on the other hand he calls for working through existing political and judicial systems. To the degree that he embraces the latter position he is not really abandoning reformism, but arguing as social democrats have always done, that one can reform one's way to revolutionary change. More on this later.
One thing is certain, as long as the present system persists, the study and exposure of strategies which amount to diversions and co-optations of human anger and imagination will be important to all of us.
So much for the similarities. What of the differences?
It is possible that he feels he has dealt with the question of capitalism, by arguing that the question of ownership is secondary to the nature of growth oriented industrialism. But here again he addresses only orthodox Third International Marxism, Stalin's variety, and to some degree Trotskyists', which argues that the capitalist class is defined by ownership of the means of production and the transfer of ownership to the working class means the end of capitalism and the beginning of a workers' state. From the point of view of autonomist Marxists, however, and many others since the time of Berle and Means analysis of managerial capitalism, Illich's critique is well aimed only at that orthodoxy. For many of us, capitalism is not defined by ownership, or even by other particular forms of control, but by the content of that control: the generalized imposition of endless work. Those whose work maintains and reproduces this imposition are the functionaries of capital as a way of life. The existence of modern industry in existing socialist societies, organized more or less along the lines of industry in the West, is only evidence that similar forms of imposing work are used there and here.
So, while many of us can accept Illich's desire to relegate this criterion (orthodox Marxists use to define capitalism) to secondary importance, we are not satisfied with his redefinition of the problem from capitalism to industrialism. We would still call the system capitalism, and we see industrialism as one particular historical form of capitalism. Why? Because we prefer an analysis that deals, first and foremost with the social relationships of domination that oppress us and we locate the essence of that domination in the way our lives are subordinated to work.
As opposed to this shift away from work, Illich's focus on the central issue of "convivial tools" in the creation of a "convivial society" seems to retain the preoccupation with work as the one activity giving meaning to human life. At one point, Illich does recognize the possibility of a society in which imposed work can be the vehicle for social control. We see this in his final chapter when he warns against a stable state industrial economy where people could be controlled by giving them jobs. But he doesn't recognize that this is precisely the nature of society today. Nor does he analyze what this means for liberation. I will return to this in the next section.
For example, in sharecropping which was forced onto freed slaves in the U.S. after the Civil War, they were forced to work long and hard through debt-peonage and the commercial manipulation of the terms of exchange between their output, e.g., cotton, and their purchases. A second example, peasants everywhere, regardless of the form of their land tenure, have been manipulated through the urban/rural terms of trade. The Soviet "scissors" is notorious. Colonial and neo-colonial states, through their control over exports, have done hardly less by limiting output prices of exported goods and appropriating the difference between internal and external prices. In each of these cases people's labor is exploited. They are forced to work producing a surplus appropriated by a ruling class. Always they work longer and harder than they did in pre-colonial days. (See Sahlins, etc.) Illich talks about many of the noxious side effects of exploitation but does not confront the issue head on. Alienation, for example, which both Illich and Marxists recognize, is both integral to, and a side effect of, exploitation. If people are subordinated to their tools in modern society, it is because the capitalists (those who impose civilization as endless work) use those tools to control people as workers. Dynamically, the only way this situation can be sustained and expanded is to extract a surplus for reinvestment, which is just another way of saying the reimposition of work.
Once we recognize these different ways of imposing labor and appropriating a surplus, we can also see that the particular "tools" or direct mode of production that is used is secondary, not unimportant but secondary, to the basic social relationship of imposed work. Peasants may well be using traditional agricultural methods and tools and still be exploited, still be forced to work and produce a surplus for someone else's project of accumulation, still be kept "in line" or under control through the imposition of work. Because of this, Illich's critique of the tools of modern industry, while important, ignores a whole sphere, perhaps the greatest part, of the capitalist imposition of work: non-industrial forms of imposed work.
This is one of the most important advantages of a Marxist analysis of modern industry over Illich's approach: the former illuminates the social dynamics of the development of technology by showing how they evolve as an integral part of the history of class struggle. Now, while it is true that orthodox Marxism has sometimes attributed technological change purely to the competition among capitalist firms, this is not true either of Marx or of autonomist Marxists. From the 1950s and 1960s, from the work of James, Alquati, Panzieri on to the present, autonomist Marxists have elaborated detailed, sophisticated analyses of technological change, not only in theory, but also in particular concrete circumstances. We have shown how the "tools" Illich so properly critiques have emerged as social tools of control within the class struggle. This is vitally important if we are to move beyond critique into political strategy, struggle and the elaboration of new ways of being.
The most pervasive effect of this "fetishism" is that he focuses on the peculiarities of tools themselves rather than on their role within class conflict. Cars are bad because they are fast and speed has untoward consequences, such as increased travel time, decreased time for leisure and increased energy consumption. (He also argues transportation time reduces work time, but here I think he's got his history wrong, at least in the First World where workers have successfully fought to convert increases in productivity into a reduction in work time. Living farther from work, which was already desired (however costly), became possible as time was liberated from work and wages rose.) But this ignores the class politics of the auto and aerospace industries, of mass production, and of the Keynesian state both nationally and internationally. It also ignores the history of capitalist urban planning and the development of urban structure that has occurred as a result not only of capitalist attempts to maintain social control and profits, but also of worker demands, desires and struggles. It is true, for example that workers with cars (or commuter trains) often live far from their work places and must spend inordinate amounts of time traveling to and from work. But to understand how this situation might be changed we also need to understand how it emerged. We must examine the history of labor-capital conflict.
Based on Illich's way of approaching the issue, we should not be surprised at his conclusion: that the way to eliminate the nefarious consequences of a given technology, and the concentration of political power that often accompanies it, is to eliminate the technology itself. If the thing causes bad effects, eliminate the thing. Often this appears simple and straightforward enough. E.g., eliminate atomic bombs and nuclear energy to avoid radiation, death, destruction and centralized power. For example, in the case of the anti-nuclear movement, in the United States at least, there has been considerable success in crippling the nuclear power industry. There are two problems, however, with the analysis. First, to the degree that such a movement is narrowly focused and fails either to expand its horizons and goals, or to link up with other movements around other issues, it is similar to other kinds of consumer protection efforts and susceptible to the same criticisms (which we share) made in the previous section. Second, in whatever success is gained the key factor in going beyond such consumerism are the permanent changes in the ability of people to control their lives on a social scale.
We can only partly measure the successes of our struggles by whether we achieve the particular changes we desire. We know that the system can absorb, over time, innumerable changes without changing in its fundamental nature. That is why it is so important to correctly identify that nature, and why Illich's focus on industry (read a particular set of technologies or tools) is inadequate. To repeat the argument of point 3 above, what we are after is the abolition of a social order based on the endless subordination of life to work, not just the abolition of certain technologies per se.
What he does say about the market mostly repeats what have become Marxist commonplaces about capitalist manipulation through style and fashion, planned obsolescence and the ideology of more is better (I am thinking here of the whole legacy of the Frankfort School.) There is, of course, a great deal of wisdom in these commonplaces. They do describe at least part of what capitalists do through schooling, advertising, literature, movies and television, and every other mechanisms they can think of. From the critique of the spectacle through Baran & Sweezy's attack on the wastes of the sales effort to Baudriard's political economy of the sign, any number of manipulatory institutions and methods have been analyzed and exposed. This is important work.
What Illich does not deal with however, any more than those others just mentioned, is the nature of the desires and demands that capital tries to manipulate. For manipulation can only occur if there is something to manipulate, if there are real needs and desires whose movement and evolution can possibly be shaped and channeled. Here there are at least two areas that need to be explored, and have been already to some degree by autonomist Marxists. One is the qualitative issue: how do you separate justifiable, acceptable, real needs and desires from the forms imposed by capitalist manipulation? (I will deal with this more in the next section on conviviality and self-valorization.) The other is a quantitative one: are there other forms of growth in needs and desires, besides capitalist ones, which are valid. Illich, by constantly evoking such visions as: liberating austerity, joyful sobriety, the limits to growth, negative criteria and joyful renunciation projects the lifestyle of the priest vowed to a never-ending never changing poverty. There is little recognition or analysis of any forms of growth that might be valid or interesting. What is ignored here are the real struggles for better lives that constitute the fundamental stuff which capital tries to manipulate.
Historically, in the United States, and to some degree in the world as a whole, the capitalist ideologies of growth, full employment and consumerism originated in the struggles of American workers in the 1930s to increase income security and achieve a collective autonomous voice in social policy. Before then, endless increases in income were neither taken for granted nor prated as essential. They could not be given the way in which cyclical economic crisis was a fundamental mechanism regulating the relations between labor and management. On the contrary, wages fell cyclically, unemployment boomed and most workers lifestyles followed the economy from boom to bust. It was the successes of American workers at imposing welfare, social security, the full employment act of 1946, and constantly rising real wages that forced business to develop the means of manipulating this no longer restrainable force. No longer able to periodically beat people back down into poverty through crisis and unemployment, business and policy planners could only adapt and try to control, manipulate and harness what they came to call "demand" in the language of economics. It was working class struggle which pushed the analysis of "consumer demand" to the front of microeconomic textbooks and led Keynes to make "aggregate demand" the central focus of his macroeconomics. Thus business and their policy makers sought, partly successfully, to turn defeat into victory, to use people's needs and desires as a way of controlling them, i.e., getting them to continue working, in a new manner. No longer would most people work defensively to avoid starvation and misery, they would work offensively to improve their lives. The new task for business would be to redefine "improve" in such a way that the system would be reinforced, not undermined.
Within this context, we can only understand the manipulation if we understand, and appreciate the valid needs and demands which business seeks to manipulate. By so doing we are also in a better position to judge to what degree that manipulation works or is being undermined. Now I think at some level Illich understands this, I read it in his vision of conviviality as corresponding to real human needs. Unfortunately, it doesn't really enter into his analysis of the issue of growth which he treats almost solely as a perversion of industrialism. I will return to this in the next section.
To summarize: many of these differences which I have outlined between Illich's analysis and that of autonomist Marxists derive from Illich's insistence on focusing on industrialism and industrial tools as opposed to our focus on the dynamics of capitalism which, given the way we define capitalism, is a broader, more encompassing subject than industrialism. Where Illich focuses on the negative effects of some tools, and the need to suppress the tools in order to suppress the effects, we focus on the way some people have succeeded in organizing society around imposed work and, at the same time, on the struggles against that organization which have always underlay the need to impose this way of life. Illich would create a better lifestyle by eliminating certain tools, we would create the space for the creation of a variety of alternative lifestyles by eliminating the imposition of work and thus making it possible for work to become one of many valid forms of human activity. It is to this issue of the alternative possibilities for organizing of life that I now turn.
What there is of interest is two fold. The first concerns what Illich calls "negative design criteria," that is to say, by using our analysis of what we don't like about the way things are we can perceive and refuse a variety of ways of doing things. If capitalism/industrialism subordinates people to machines and this has all kinds of nasty undesirable consequences, then we clearly want to get rid of that situation and create a world in which machines are utilized by humans for their own purposes (which in turn may be much more harmonious with the rest of life.) It is in this area that we will find quite a few similarities between Illich and autonomist Marxism, mostly logical deductions from the similarities of analysis mentioned in part I above.
The second point of interest in autonomist Marxism is methodological and gives us something which Illich's analysis does not: this is the understanding that people not only have always resisted the imposition of capitalist (which includes industrial) domination but have also repeatedly struggled and used their imagination and creativity to elaborate new ways of being against and outside the dominant paradigm. One of the most important insights of Marx's analysis of capitalism is that it is a way of organizing life that is intrinsically lifeless, it endlessly reproduces itself (where it has the power) but the only newness in that reproduction comes from those aspects of people's imagination and creativity which it has been forced, and able, to harness, to constrain within the limits of its own reproduction. Thus, for example, the analysis of technological change mentioned in part 1 above: it occurs within the context of the class struggle as people (forced to be workers by capital) attempt to escape or improve their lot using their imagination which capital is able to turn against them in the form of new technology-as-domination. From assembly line suggestions through university and corporate research institutes to state think tanks and the licensing of independent entrepreneurship, capital has so organized the division of manual and mental labor as to be able to incorporate and utilize imagination for its own purposes. This is its genius of capitalism. But it is also one of its weakest points.
Once we recognize that the source of invention and innovation in society lies not within the system of domination itself (which can only harness it at best-and often represses it) but in the autonomous activities of the people within the system, once we see that we are the real source of change and the architects of the future, then we can see two other things: first, that our task is to eliminate the constraints on our creativity imposed by capitalism (or any other system of domination) and second, between the millions of moments of creation and the moments of repression or cooptation, there exist spaces in which new things, new ways of being are created that go beyond the way things are. It is only the content of these spaces that can provide us with alternative futures. This was what separated Marx from utopians. Utopians are those who dream and invent new ways of being and then try to concretize those visions. Marxians recognize the incredible diversity of visions and try to recognize and work with the social forces set in motion by those visions. Instead of spelling out the way the future should be, according to his own particular vision, Marx said: if you want to understand the directions in which the world is moving, examine the class struggle. There you will find what people are struggling for and the obstacles the system puts in the way of their ability to realize their needs and desires.
Despite all his disclaimers, when Illich passes over from negative design criteria to sketching the positive content of a convivial society he becomes one more utopian dreamer. N.B.: there is nothing wrong with that as an activity, the problem is that it is not enough. What we need is to do is to see and critique the existing constellation of struggles. Within and among them we can find outlines and moments of real futures becoming. This is what we call the analysis of self-valorization. Self-valorization is the actual process of elaborating new ways of being that contradict and go beyond the way things are. Self-valorization is not just what we want, it is what really exists, it is made up of diverse moments of autonomous activity which, if not repressed or harnessed by capital, may go on developing, seizing more space and opportunity and elaborating concrete new worlds which will constitute a growing threat to the current system because of its growing power to displace and replace it.
In order to discuss this process of self-valorization more thoroughly, I want to return to the method used in the preceding part and spell out in some detail the similarities and differences between Illich's analysis and ours.
Agreement over the desirability of the end of imposed work should not end discussion. Just what it means to end imposed work still requires considerable thought. In the case of capitalism imposed work is used to dominate people's lives-it occupies most of their waking time and other activities are subordinated to it. On the other hand we have the commonplace objection that if many people are not forced to contribute to general social wealth they will try to live off it as freeloaders, something most people reject. With high enough productivity such that little of others time is being appropriated, such objection might cease. But at lower, more common levels of productivity people are more likely to demand that, as a general rule, all must contribute some work to provide all with necessities. Does the desire to abolish forced work contradict this? Or is the opposition to forced work aimed solely at a situation in which such labor dominates others lives and not to be pursued so forcefully in a situation where this does not obtain, where contributed labor is a lesser thing, more like a required tax to support democratically selected social goals?
What is mostly missing in Illich's work, and has been inadequately developed in the work of autonomist Marxists, is the description and analysis of persistent or emerging forms of self-valorization. In Illich's book about the only positive example he gives is that of barefoot doctors in China, a common inspiration for leftists in the late 1960s and early 1970s-and one that can be challenged as an example of the state both refusing to spend resources on reproduction and co-opting indigenous medical practices and resources. What we need are much more fully developed explorations of examples of existing modes of self-valorization or conviviality. Such as the activities practiced by indigenous tribes and peasant communities in space they have carved out beyond survival. Such as the activities of urban individuals and communities in their self-organization to create non-capitalist forms of being. Among autonomist Marxists there has been some of this, Ann and I have both done some work on self-valorization among peasants and urban marginals, as you yourself have. In the United States, some work has been done on the self-valorizing struggles of youth and indigenous peoples. In Western Europe, some work has been done on such activities as the seizure of space and creation of youth cultures, free radios and schizoanalysis.
But for the most part, what interesting work has been done, has been done by the particular groups working at the elaboration of new ways of being within their own, hopefully expanding, spaces. For example, the greatest amount of work on non-alienating ways for humans to interact with nature has been done by indigenous peoples who have preserved a more intimate connection with nature and by deep ecologists who have returned to the earth both literally and intellectually. It is from these peoples that we can learn the most about this particular set of modes of self-valorization.
This emphasis, however, has profound consequences. On the one hand, this is not just a demand but something for which people actually struggle. Illich's demands are not crys in the wilderness but reflections of millions of other voices demanding that needs be met in appropriate ways. There is a whole movement for what is called appropriate technology, of which the energy movement can be seen as a part-the rejection of nukes and acid rain producing coal tech. in favor of various forms of solar energy, etc. This was Commoner's main point years ago in his preoccupation with the second law of thermodynamics and inefficiencies in energy use. On the other hand, as the analysis of the ways in which capitalists seek to manipulate demands shows, there is a problem in sorting out "real" or "acceptable" needs from "artificial" or "manipulated" ones. What is required is the kind of thinking discussed in point 6 on "Growth: warranted or artificial" in part 1 above. When "growth" is the subject, Illich finds all possible objections, when "needs" are the issue, he is more flexible, recognizing some valid core surrounded by a mass of junk. But he provides few criteria for differentiating among such needs. Mostly we have, again, a negative criterion: that needs that threaten others freedom are invalid, e.g., needs that require resources or methods that undercut other people's abilities to meet their needs are to be rejected. While attractive, this is hardly adequate, considering that in a world of scarce resources the short term meeting of needs always has elements of a zero-sum game.
The situation is complicated when we observe that another key attitude we share with Illich is an acceptance of diversity, in his terms "a pluralism of ... convivial commonweals" and a "diversity of lifestyles." Convivial reconstruction, he argues, should protect the power of individuals and communities to choose their own styles of life." Indeed, we can see Illich's proclivity toward "negative design criteria" as similar to Marx and our own embrace of openendedness. Specifying what should not be, leaves open multiple possibilities of what should be. But this openness to diversity also means that one should be ready to accept considerable variation in values and modes of being. One critique of capitalism that I make is its tendency to measure everything with a single yardstick: value/labor/money. Openness to multiplicity means a rejection of single measuring sticks. It means recognizing a diversity of needs and a diversity of ways of meeting them. This makes it even harder to differentiate between valid needs and manipulated ones.
This diversity of needs means a diversity of modes of self-valorization or convivialities. It means that not only should we expect to find existing and evolving processes of self-valorization but also a diversity of such modes, moving in different directions. While I think Illich's analysis leaves room for this, his tendency is to argue for particular characteristics which I can only suppose that he prefers. In particular, the book is full of allusions to "joyful sobriety," "liberating austerity," "joyful renunciation," "voluntary though relative poverty," "greater happiness at lower affluences," "frugal life styles" and doing more with less. The overall effect is to give the impression of a passionate embrace of a life of asceticism, of a monk's life of freely chosen poverty and limited means as the keys to unlimited (spiritual) ends. While such a set of preferences and choices have been, and will probably continue to be, among the lifestyles some would freely choose, a real acceptance of diversity should lead us to be much more ecumenical in our attitudes and to recognize that many will want quite different ways of being. Indeed, while no one should be forced to subordinate their life to work, it is quite conceivable that some might well freely choose to spend most of their time working, either because their freely chosen work is their life's passion or because through it they can achieve some other goals. Those goals might include considerable material abundance, earned through sweat and toil, and without the exploitation of others. Now, Illich recognizes this, as when he says "some communities might choose greater affluence" although he goes on immediately to denigrate such choices by adding "at the cost of some restrictions on creativity"-a comment of dubious worth since his examples do not give any reason to think that they would restrict creativity. Similarly, some may freely choose the life of hermits, of solitary wanderers on a spiritual path enclosed in the rock walls of a monastery cell or winding through mountains and forests. The fact that we want to do away with the alienation of people from each other should not be converted into a mandate for sociality. Our struggles create spaces for the realization of far more potentialities than any one person or group will ever accomplish. The analysis of needs and desires within those spaces has to take into account the different frameworks within which they evolve.
Unfortunately, Illich really has very little to say in terms of a theory of where those impulses originate. Because China is his major example of the possible emergence of conviviality (barefoot doctors) and because he fails to show that the source of change in the medical order there came from outside the state, his one case study tends to contradict his argument. In fact, when he turns to the issue of "political inversion" what we have in the place of an analysis of emerging social subjects is a prediction of systemic collapse and a call for the preparation of an educated elite who can interpret the crisis and point out new directions. Marxists on the other hand, do have such a theory: it lies in the working class struggling to free itself of domination. So, not only do we share with Illich a conviction that we can't expect much from existing governments, we also have a theory of the origins of effective alternative social subjects.
Because Illich does call, as part of his proposed "counterfoil research," for the study of how "sudden change can bring about the emergence into power of previously submerged social groups," it seems to me that he and those working with him should share with us an interest in the analysis of working class struggle, especially once they understand what we mean by this. Namely that the working class is a working class only because people have been forced into that situation, that they struggle against that subordination and for a myriad of other ways of being, that it goes beyond the factory proletariat and includes a great many people who have traditionally been excluded (e.g. peasants, urban marginals, students, housewives) and that, as argued above, the struggles for self-valorization of many of those in the working class consists of attempts to move in the direction of what Illich calls conviviality. For I would say to him, that we need to study not just how "sudden change" can bring new forces to the stage of world history, but how the emergence of those forces, through their own struggles have actually created the sudden changes and crisis. Which brings us to the issue of differences.
As opposed to this shift away from work, I also noted that Illich's focus on the centrality of "convivial tools" in the creation of a "convivial society" seems to retain a preoccupation with "self-defined" work as the one activity giving meaning to human life. Indeed, in his juxtaposition of labor to work, (chap.2) he reproduces Engels' distinction between undesirable, nasty labor under capitalism and desirable, free work in post capitalist society. Here he seems to resemble very closely those orthodox Marxists who, following Engels, see work as the defining characteristic of human being. Such a position not only fails to see or appreciate the great diversity of ways in which human life can be realized but also fails to recognize that the only way work can become an interesting mode of human self realization is through its subordination to the rest of life, the exact opposite of the situation in capitalism. Now there are moments in the book when conviviality is defined independently of work, e.g.,in the first part of chapter 2, and he toys briefly with the concept of eutrapelia, but for the most part the emphasis is clearly "ample and free access to the [responsibly limited convivial] tools of the community."
Although there is within the writings of autonomist Marxists an historical and theoretical sensitivity to this issue, it must be said that far too little study has been done either on the role of work in self-valorization or on the broader question of other forms of self-valorization. Here there is a rich mass of data, collected by historians, economists, sociologists, anthropologists and psychologists as well as thriving among us, which could be drawn on for the elaboration of a phenomenology of already existing self-valorization and for the clarification of the politics and strategies of self-valorization and conviviality. For example, in recent years there has been a rapid growth in the study of the history of working class leisure time: carnivals and festivals as well as in everyday life. Ann's brief reevaluation of peasant communal life in terms of self-valorization has been followed among my students by Ricardo Salvatore's work on the Gaucho's struggles to avoid work and their activities during what was, for most of them, the largest amount of their time. Anthropologists have gathered data for years on indigenous cultures which, for all the time that they have been studying them, amount to cultural forms maintained against the encroachments of capital. Clarice Mota's recent dissertation on a Brazilian tribe along the Rio Sao Françisco is a remarkable account of preservation and current expansion of a culture with a fascinating connection to the plant world. Self-valorizing ways of interacting with nature that are totally alien to the production and profit oriented exploitation by industry. Shanin's work on the origins of the soviets in the organization of the Russian mir, and perhaps current work on the reinvention of Mexican rural community institutions in urban barrios, give fascinating glimpses of the processes by which people draw on their culture for struggle and self-valorization under radically changing circumstances. These are the kinds of studies from which we can learn how to craft the political strategies necessary to the creation of a new world.
Among Marxists these subjects have been extensively analyzed, from Marx on, with much more concrete results, results which put some of Illich's assertions into question. In capitalism, precisely because money is the fetishized form of power, exchange is the form of that power and markets are a terrain of class struggle, workers can and do find ways to use or fight each of these institutions. In some cases, such as direct appropriation workers bypass the market and acquire the things they or others of their class have produced. Black Christmas in New York was one such example, the "commodity riots" of the mid-1960s in the U.S. was another, and crop seizures by harijan peasants in India is still a third. In other cases, workers use the market for their own purposes, as when they successfully increase the price of their labor power or force the removal of dangerous products or force changes in policy by boycotting a market. Among the Mexican markets Illich may be referring to, the ones in Tepito certainly seem to be used by the people there to both gain them income and free them from work and for self-valorization. To some degree in the development of self-valorization, while we struggle against capitalist domination and strive to liberate all space and human energy, markets can sometimes be used to good effect. True with guns, true with markets.
When we turn to post-capitalist society, on the other hand, there are good reasons to want to do away with markets, just as we would want to do away with guns (both those used to kill humans and those used to kill other life forms). The basic premiss of the market is the exchange of equals and the comments already made about the absurdity of trying to measure everything with the same yardstick have relevance here. In markets, of which the capitalist variety are the most fully developed and thus those in which the fundamental characteristics are most apparent, exchanges are made, either directly in the case of barter or indirectly through exchange for money. Now, when people exchange or trade things they have made, it is possible to have incomparability as in cases of reciprocity where you have mutual gift giving, but in "markets" as they have been known in the world, the object is not only to acquire a desired good but to acquire one of roughly comparable "worth." The only way in which such a judgement of relative values can be made is if both goods are evaluated with the same measure, the same quantum. From Smith to Ricardo to Marx the common quantum used in making such comparisons in capitalism was considered to be the amount of labor embodied in each good. Theoretically, it is possible to use as a measure of value any common input, e.g., energy (BTUs) regardless of source. I think Marx agreed with Smith and Ricardo's choice of labor because he was interested first and foremost in the central social relations of capitalism: imposed work. Labor value is a natural measure for a society based on social control through work. The more labor required to produce a given good, the greater the value to the capitalist class of the production of that good precisely because in its production there is more opportunity to keep people busy. For the workers of such a society, however, the less labor required the better if the increased productivity can be turned into more free time.
For a convivial or self-valorizing society, however, these considerations no longer hold for the most part. While it may be true that for some necessary tasks people will want to do as little as possible and therefore may desire as high a labor productivity as possible, freedom from the alienation of imposed work should mean that work becomes an authentic form of self-valorization and desired, among other things, for its own sake. Under such circumstances there is no reason to expect people to want to make sure that in "exchanges" they are getting something that took just as much time to produce. The "getting" in the reciprocity of mutual gift giving is much greater, with many more dimensions that the "value equivalents" of exchange. Relationships are enriched, ties are made, self-realization in the larger society is realized, and so on. How do we measure and compare the "exchange" between a parent and baby when the parent works, scrubs, cooks and washes for the baby and "only" gets love and joy in return. There is no equivalence possible here, yet the giving and getting is a far richer form of interaction than money payment for an automobile and the local used car dealer. As long as there is a "sphere of necessity" which is perceived as such, and one in which people want to spend as little time as possible, there will be a concern for "equal contributions," that everyone pull their own weight. But as even the "sphere of necessity" is transformed into interesting moments of human life and development, such concern will surely wither.
These are some of the reasons why a clear analysis of markets, exchange and money is vitally necessary. Looking at them today can tell us a great deal about domination and the struggle against it. By understanding what they represent in terms of alienated relations of domination we can see more clearly what needs to be changed. Markets, exchange and money all must go. Markets because they are an artificial social mediation in which people confront each other and struggle for a "fair deal." Exchange because within the rich diversity of human reality it is a travesty to try to equate incommensurable qualities. Money because it is the quintessential expression and tool of these other relations of domination, conflict and measuring. To recognize that these institutions are incompatible with a post-capitalist society of self-valorization and conviviality does not mean a moral obligation to withdraw from markets or to refuse to use money. As stated earlier, as long as these are weapons of domination we can struggle with and against them, we can try to turn them against the enemy. We should, however, have no illusions about their suitability for a society without exploitation and domination. Convivial goods can not be sold, they can only be given away.
For autonomist Marxists, and most of the time for Illich, the question is whether particular technologies meet human needs, or undermine them. Given our mutual desire to get rid of alienating work, it is clear enough that some tools, devised precisely for the purposes of domination, e.g. the assembly line, probably have little application in a post-capitalist society. (Lenin was blind to the way Taylorism was a form of domination and called for its use in Russia-we can avoid such mistakes.) But that is something that can only be discovered by people through experience. It is not clear a priori as Illich would often have it.
Labor intensive tools have traditionally meant tools that require high labor input and have a low labor output (i.e., output per unit of labor input). The major way in which labor productivity has been raised historically has been by complementing human energy and skill with machines. Now, as early as the Luddites, workers have often known when such machines were a threat to them, costing them jobs, income or power. (I would be willing to bet that somebody, somewhere, has called Illich a neo-Luddite!) But they have also been interested in using machines to lighten their load so that they would have to spend less time on somethings and have more time to spend on others. I see nothing wrong with such desires. Sure, there will always be those who are dedicated to doing some one thing in a certain way, love their craft and would not accept more capital intensive methods even if they were available. (Say Japanese carpenters who build traditional Japanese homes.) No problem here either. However, it is also clear that a great many people, perhaps most-we can't know yet-want to do many different things with their lives and in order to have the time for variety, they need high efficiency in at least some of their activities, high efficiency in the sense of high labor productivity. When Illich speaks of "high efficiency" and "effectiveness" he does not give us any new definition of these terms or any new way of interpreting them. We can imagine that he means "non-alienated" or some such, but I doubt it. I suspect he means the same thing most economists mean. Regardless of his intentions, I think it is clear that high labor productivity is and will remain a goal for many people in many activities. (Certainly not in all. For a great many activities there is no sensible way to measure either input or output and in these cases "productivity" is pretty meaningless as a concept.)
To want high labor productivity, however, hardly means an automatic embrace of current technologies and methods. On the contrary, one can desire the former and reject many of the latter. For example, as Commoner and others have shown, the high labor productivity energy generation technologies of nuclear reactors are in fact quite inefficient in terms of energy productivity even if we accept the usual definition of output (ignoring other, unmentioned outputs like radioactive waste). We can have a variety of objectives, of which labor productivity is one, and judge particular ways of doing things in terms of them all. Some current technologies may well be rejected in this process, e.g. nukes. Others may take on entirely new meaning within an altered social and political context and may be retained and used in an entirely new mode. Suppose long lived, non-polluting cars were banned from central city use, pooled and made available to people only for short and long term trips outside the city. Clearly many current objections to the nasty side-effects of automobiles would no longer be applicable and the "car" would in fact be a quite different social institution. What is required is not an apriori rejection of capital-intensiveness but a sensitivity to the full impact of given tools on all relevant needs. Sometimes Illich is very good at this. At others he betrays what appears to be a real lack of sensitivity to the diversity of individuals' needs.
Again and again he recognizes how existing political parties, legislatures and judicial systems are "used to foster and protect growth" [and the industrial state]. He notes how law is "systematically used for social engineering" and how the "balance of conflicting interests have been tipped in favor of production oriented society" [read capitalism]. Yet, despite these recognitions he insists that these "languages and formal process remain intrinsically distinct from the purposes for which they are used. People can defend language and legal procedure as inherently theirs....they can use their unchanged formal structures to express contents entirely opposed to those [used against them]." Unfortunately, Illich's position remains pure assertion. He offers no proof, no evidence that this can be done. He blasts the way present laws and legislators are "deeply corrupted" yet argues: "But this entrenched consensus does not invalidate my thesis that any revolution which neglects the use of formal legal and political procedures will fail." Given the nature of his argument, it is can not be invalidated because there is no evidence presented to be disputed.
It seems to me that Illich commits a methodological flaw from his own point of view in his discussion of this issue. While he objects to other formal institutions and rejects the argument that they may be reformed to the point of radical transformation, he abandons this method when he turns to the law and formal political structures. Nowhere does he accept the argument that we could reform multinational corporations to the point that they become convivial tools. Yet these institutional "tools" have formal structures familiar to most of us who work for them. Why not fight within this part of the industrial system? For good reasons which Illich certainly sees or senses. They are formal structures designed for exploitation. Their hierarchical modalities of power are suited only for command and control. In old Hegelian terms Illich makes a mistake when he turns to politics and law which he does not make when he looks at more directly industrial institutions: he tries to separate the content from the form. He argues that we can preserve the form while changing the content. Without a great deal more examination and analysis of the legal structure he gives us no good reasons why we should now, all of a sudden, abandon the kind of arguments which he himself has used up to this point. On the basis of his earlier arguments we should rather be inclined to expect to find, once again, that these formal and legal political structures have also been shaped for specific purposes (domination and exploitation) and are not appropriate for others (conviviality or self-valorization).
As a matter of fact, this is much closer to the Marxist critique of the law and of those political structures and processes which are part of the state. Where Illich says, don't reform industry but use other means, Lenin said don't try to reform the state, smash it. Now, personally I'm no Leninist, but on this point he was just restating Marx's analysis of the Paris Commune. He was also drawing on history and the observation that legal and political systems have in fact evolved with social systems. During the rise of capitalism, the constitution of our current legal and political procedures involved the abolition and replacement of the previous feudal structures to create new structures more appropriate to the freedom of property and command through labor. Of course, elements of the old systems and procedures were retained (such as British common law) but the whole form was changed to fit a new social and political content. Given this historical experience, I see no reason to think that a revolution against capitalism will require anything less. What Illich calls "due convivial procedures" will certainly be different than "due capitalist procedures." Lenin saw this, but didn't or couldn't do it for a variety of reasons. We will have to. If this is true then we need to explore the experiments and attempts that people have made to develop formal processes more appropriate to a non-antagonistic society. Marx focused on the Commune. The Johnson-Forest people were fascinated by the workers councils that emerged in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. The Italian autonomists, such as Negri, have done an enormous amount of work on the state, as well as on the diverse forms of organization that emerged in the Italian struggles of the late 60s and 70s. If Illich really thinks new forms of "convivial due process" emerged in China under Mao, he should study them and teach us about them. Personally, I am interested in the "informal" forms of autonomous organization used in Tepito as well as the "consensus" approach common in the anti-nuclear and ecological movements.
Given that we expect post-capitalist society to be diverse and not artificially unified through the imposition of any singular measure or activity (Illich explicitly desires local self-determination) I see no reason to think that there will be any unified system of law or legal and political procedures. Quite the contrary, we should expect tremendously varied experimentation in such forms, just as we expect enormous variation in all other ways of being. So, whether we are looking at current experiments in the spaces opened within the current system, or looking forward to future possibilities, I think we have to be far more imaginative and inventive in terms of creating new legal and political forms than Illich seems willing to admit.
Because he has no real analysis of any concrete historical social subjects other than professionals, even the managers of industrialism get short shrift, it is not surprising to find Illich led to this conclusion. What else can you conclude if you ignore the activities and struggles of the vast majority of humankind? If you dismiss the upper echelons of the working class as professionals and ignore the rest, if the peasantry appears not at all, if the only positive case of conviviality you can come up with springs from the Chinese Communist State, what else is there to do but try to develop some, highly prepared new force inspired by your own insights.
Fortunately, this is one area in which autonomist Marxists have done a great deal of work, not only theoretical but historical. The study of the self-activity and autonomous struggles of workers has been a defining characteristic of this wing of Marxism, developed in part in revulsion to the Leninist variety in its Trotskyist guise. From James and Dunayevskaya's study of workers autonomy in Russia and Hungary, through Linebaugh's and Salvatore's studies of workers struggles and self-valorization in the 18th Century, to Rawick, Ramirez, Cartosio and Bologna's studies of American workers' struggles, to Montaldi, Alquati, and Panzieri's work on Italian workers, to James and Dalla Costa's work on women's struggles and even more current work on the peasantry, there has been a whole history of the study of the many ways in which everyday people have acted as fundamental social agents of change.
Here are the social subjects of real change, the men and women who suffer the consequences of our current social structures, become angry about them, dream of new and better ways and organize themselves to fight for those ways. Among them are intellectuals whose vocations have allowed them to study the broad picture, whose studies have given them the use of past experiences and arguments. But they are a small number and rarely at the head of the action. If the owl of Minerva takes wing at dusk, the intellectual usually arrives at the barricades the day after.
I do not what to appear to go from one extreme to the other, from self-aggrandizement to self-effacement or self-depredation. I happen to think that the kind of work we do is very important, I just don't want to privilege it the way Illich and so many others have done. What is peculiar and useful about what we do that others often do not do? Well, Illich is right that one of the things is to articulate, in ways others can understand, both the critique of the old and the new ideas and projects generated in struggle. Whether we stand inside, or outside, particular battles we are often in a position to speed up the circulation of information and experience between different spheres of conflict. Such circulation, which is sometimes called networking, sometimes journalism, sometimes organizing, is one fundamental mechanism through which connections and alliances are made, joint actions born and revolutions built on a large scale. One part of such circulation of experience that we can often do better than those at the barricades, who have little time for it, is the circulation through time of people's struggles. We are often well situated to preserve and popularize the history of struggles which are ignored and buried by the official historians of the ruling class. It is partly because of ignorance of such experiences that people repeat mistakes and that intellectuals fail to recognize the very existence of diverse social subjects.
The other thing which we do, that others often have neither the predilection nor time for, is to elaborate theory, which is to say to draw general conclusions from experience that may be useful in understanding other situations and in deciding how to proceed in new conflicts. In the course of these comments on Illich's book I have tried to emphasize what I see as our many areas of agreement about the world and about theory. I have thus already cited a large number of areas of theoretical work which I think we both recognize need elaboration. I have also tried to see and discuss those differences which separate our theory and our politics. We should be able to carry on a theoretical dialog about these areas of agreement and disagreement-it is as a contribution to such dialog that I have written these comments. Given our theoretical and political differences we may often be involved in different kinds of activities and struggles, but given our similarities such differences should enrich the dialog rather than hamper it. After all the thinking and writing which has gone into the composition of these remarks, I still believe as I did at the outset that "dialogue and debate should be possible and fruitful." There are too few of us working in this kind of direction to let differences over-ride what we have in common.
August 2, 1987