The Powerless Church and Other Selected Writings, 19551985

By (author) Ivan Illich Foreword by Giorgio Agamben Selected by Valentina Borremans, Sajay Samuel

Hardback - £63.95

Publication date:

22 October 2018

Length of book:

192 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271082288

Dalmatian-Austrian philosopher, Roman Catholic priest, and radical cultural critic Ivan Illich is best known for polemical writings such as Deschooling Society and Tools for Conviviality, which decried Western institutions of the 1970s. This collection brings together Illich’s shorter writings from his early publications through the rise of his remarkable intellectual career, making available works that had fallen into undue obscurity.

A fervent critic of Western Catholicism, Illich also addressed contemporary practices in fields from education and medicine to labor and socioeconomic development. At the heart of his work is his opposition to the imperialistic nature of state- and Church-sponsored missionary activities. His deep understanding of Church history, particularly the institutions of the thirteenth century, lent a historian’s perspective to his critique of the Church and other twentieth-century institutions.

The Powerless Church and Other Selected Writings, 1955–1985 comprises some of Illich’s most salient and influential short works as well as a foreword by philosopher Giorgio Agamben. Featuring writings that had previously appeared in now-defunct publications, this volume is an indispensable resource for readers of Illich’s longer works and for scholars of philosophy, religion, and cultural critique.

“Ivan Illich was one of the most interesting thinkers of the twentieth century, profound and incapable of being pigeonholed. In this collection of writings one can trace the connection between Illich’s radical critiques of bureaucratic, managerial modes of production in both church and state and his deep spiritual sense that vulnerability to God and to other people is necessary for a life that is truly alive. Illich’s thought and spirit remain surprisingly relevant in the current cultural context.”

—William T. Cavanaugh, author of The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict