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View from hilltop in snow over clouds to far hill.


Such a society in which modern technologies serve politically interrelated individuals rather than managers, I will call ‘convivial’. ..Convivial tools are those which give each person who uses them the greatest opportunity to enrich the environment with the fruits of his or her vision. [whereas] Industrial tools deny this possibility to those who use them [while] they allow their designers to determine the meaning and expectations of others.

Ivan Illich (1973)

I would like then to end by putting in a good word for the non-industrious poor. At least they aren’t hurting anyone. Insofar as the time they are taking off from work is being spent with friends and family , enjoying and caring for those they love, they are probably improving the world more than we acknowledge.

David Graeber (2011)


Eating together; settling around a hot meal in the cold of a Vietnamese winter, or the long afternoons I remember spent in Edinburgh bars, are examples of the primacy humans give to socialisation. Beekeeper holding frame. Using hexagons as an analogy for social relationships. Indeed all that we do, understand and value is rooted in our social lives. So conviviality, as the positive expression of being together, reveals a bedrock. Two women's faces embrassed by arms. Empathy can be used to describe two subjects having one feeling. With a slightly Romantic inclination modern writers such as Illich and Graeber both trace contemporary social ills back to a disconnection from conviviality and the life for which it stands. Illich seeing mechanization and bureaucratisation disempowering people; distancing them from their roots. And Graeber, offering an epic and profound sweep of economic history which comes to land on conviviality: delighting in the presence Two friends warming by a match. On the essence of friendship.

and wellbeing of others, as the basis to which we must now return if we are to eschew the problems, and horrors, that money, debt and slavery entail.

From Illich’s Tools for Conviviality p.12. Where he exercised his genius of reaching great conclusions from unintelligible linguistic distortions to its full. Standing in contrast the Graeber quote is from his masterful book Debt: the first 5,000 years (p. 390). To caricature Graeber’s message: power, money, debt and slavery seem cyclically to oppress conviviality.

The conviviality of a meal of warming ‘hot pot’ was photographed in a village in Thanh Hoa Province, Vietnam.

Above, hovering on blue introduces a link: click to go, move away to stay.


Saturday 30th April 2022

Murphy on duty to this site