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Intervention – “Vernacular Values: Remembering Ivan Illich” by Andy Merrifield | AntipodeFoundation.org
"Illich had it in for professional institutions of every kind, for what he called “disabling professions”; this is what interests me most in his work, this is what I’ve been trying to revisit, trying to recalibrate and reload, in our own professionalised times. I’ve been trying to affirm the nemesis of professionalism: amateurs. Illich said professionals incapacitate ordinary peoples’ ability to fend for themselves, to invent things, to lead innovative lives beyond the thrall of corporations and institutions. Yet Illich’s war against professionalism isn’t so much a celebration of self-survival (letting free market ideology rip) as genuine self-empowerment, a weaning people off their market-dependence. We’ve lost our ability to develop “convivial tools”, he says, been deprived of our use-value capacities, of values systems outside the production and consumption of commodities. We’ve gotten accustomed to living in a supermarket.

Illich’s thinking about professionalisation was partly inspired by Karl Polanyi’s magisterial analysis on the “political and economic origins of our time”, The Great Transformation (Beacon Press, 1944). Since the Stone Age, Polanyi says, markets followed society, developed organically as social relations developed organically, from barter and truck systems, to simple economies in which money was a means of exchange, a mere token of equivalent worth. Markets were always “embedded” (a key Polanyi word) in social relations, always located somewhere within the very fabric of society, whose institutional and political structure “regulated” what markets could and couldn’t do. Regulation and markets thus grew up together, came of age together. So “the emergence of the idea of self-regulation”, says Polanyi, “was a complete reversal of this trend of development … the change from regulated to self-regulated markets at the end of the 18th century represented a complete transformation in the structure of society.”

We’re still coming to terms with this complete transformation, a transformation that, towards the end of the 20th century, has made the “disembedded” economy seem perfectly natural, perfectly normal, something transhistorical, something that always was, right? It’s also a perfectly functioning economy, as economic pundits now like to insist. Entering the 1990s, this disembedded market system bore a new tagline, one that persists: “neoliberalism”. Polanyi’s logic is impeccable: a “market economy can exist only in a market society.”

Inherent vices nonetheless embed themselves in this disembedded economy. Land, labour and money become vital parts of our economic system, of our speculative hunger games. But, says Polanyi, land, labour and money “are obviously not commodities” (his emphasis). “Land is only another name for nature, which is not produced by man”, he says; “labour is only another name for human activity which goes with life itself”; “actual money … is merely a token of purchasing power which, as a rule, is not produced at all, but comes into being through the mechanism of banking or state finance”. Thus “the commodity description of labour, land and money is entirely fictitious”, a commodity fiction, the fiction of commodities.

Still, we live in fictitious times (as filmmaker Michael Moore was wont to say): land, labour and money as commodities provide us with the vital organising principle of our whole society. So fiction remains the truth, and fictitious truth needs defending, needs perpetuating; the postulate must be forcibly yet legitimately kept in place. But kept in place how, and by whom? By, we might say, a whole professional administration, by a whole professional cadre, by a whole professional apparatus that both props up and prospers from these fictitious times. Professionalism is the new regulation of deregulation, the new management of mismanagement, an induced and imputed incapacitation."



"Vernacular values are intuitive knowledges and practical know-how that structure everyday culture; they pivot not so much—as Gramsci says—on common sense as on “good sense”. They’re reasonable intuitions and intuitive reason: words, habits and understandings that inform real social life—the real social life of a non-expert population. Illich reminds us that “vernacular” stems from the Latin vernaculam, meaning “homebred” or “homegrown”, something “homemade”. (We’re not far from the notion of amateur here.) Vernacular is a mode of life and language below the radar of exchange-value; vernacular language is language acquired without a paid teacher; loose, unruly language, heard as opposed to written down. (“Eartalk”, Joyce called it in Finnegans Wake, a language for the “earsighted”.) To assert vernacular values is, accordingly, to assert democratic values, to assert its means through popular participation."



"Illich chips in to add how professionals peddle the privileges and status of the job: they adjudicate its worthiness and rank, while forever tut-tutting those without work. Unemployment “means sad idleness, rather than the freedom to do things that are useful for oneself or for one’s neighbour”. “What counts”, Illich says, “isn’t the effort to please or the pleasure that flows from that effort but the coupling of the labour force with capital. What counts isn’t the achievement of satisfaction that flows from action but the status of the social relationship that commands production—that is, the job, situation, post, or appointment”.

Effort isn’t productive unless it’s done at the behest of some boss; economists can’t deal with a usefulness of people outside of the corporation, outside of stock value, of shareholder dividend, of cost-benefit. Work is only ever productive when its process is controlled, when it is planned and monitored by professional agents, by managers and the managers of managers. Can we ever imagine unemployment as useful, as the basis for autonomous activity, as meaningful social or even political activity?"



"Perhaps, during crises, we can hatch alternative programmes for survival, other methods through which we can not so much “earn a living” as live a living. Perhaps we can self-downsize, as Illich suggests, and address the paradox of work that goes back at least to Max Weber: work is revered in our culture, yet at the same time workers are becoming superfluous; you hate your job, your boss, hate the servility of what you do, and how you do it, the pettiness of the tasks involved, yet want to keep your job at all costs. You see no other way of defining yourself other than through work, other than what you do for a living. Perhaps there’s a point at which we can all be pushed over the edge, voluntarily take the jump ourselves, only to discover other aspects of ourselves, other ways to fill in the hole, to make a little money, to maintain our dignity and pride, and to survive off what Gorz calls a “frugal abundance”.

Perhaps it’s time to get politicised around non-work and undercut the professionalisation of work and life. In opting out, or at least contesting from within, perhaps we can create a bit of havoc, refuse to work as we’re told, and turn confrontation into a more positive device, a will to struggle for another kind of work, where use-value outbids exchange-value, where amateurs prevail over professionals. If, in times of austerity, capitalists can do without workers, then it’s high time workers (and ex-workers) realise that we can do without capitalists, without their professional hacks, and their professional institutions, that we can devise work without them, a work for ourselves. Illich throws down the gauntlet here, challenges us to conceive another de-professionalised, vernacular non-working future. He certainly gets you thinking, has had me thinking, and rethinking, more than a decade after I’ve had any kind of job."
via:javierarbona  ivanillich  professionals  experts  amateurs  economics  conviviality  karlpolanyi  politics  capitalism  neoliberalism  empowerment  self-empowerment  unschooling  deschooling  production  consumption  corporatism  corporations  institutions  self-survival  invention  innovation  markets  society  labor  land  commodities  nature  money  michaelmoore  andymerrifield  bureaucracy  control  systems  systemsthinking  deregulation  regulation  management  incapacitation  work  vernacula  vernacularvalues  values  knowledge  everyday  culture  informal  bullshitjobs  andrégorz  antoniogramsci  marxism  ideleness  freedom  capital  effort  productivity  socialactivism  maxweber  time  toolsforconviviality 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Russell Davies: Conspiracies against the laity
"George Bernard Shaw said this:

"All professions are conspiracies against the laity."

It's discussed in a surprisingly chatty un-wikipedia-feeling wikipedia entry.

I always think about this when people discuss professionalisation.

This and Adam Smith:

"People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.""
professionalization  experts  2015  cv  confidence  bureaucracy  entrenchment  economics  adamsmith  professionals  domains  artleisure  leisurearts  amateurs  impostors  georgebernardshaw 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Pretty Ramp Machine — Weird Future — Medium
"Unlike its siblings, which must rotate or be used as an active tool to perform work, the plane lies still. It barely seems like a machine at all. “I’ve been calling it a ‘sleeping machine’ for that reason,” says Hendren, who focuses her work on disability studies. It’s “a static object, deceptive in its simple geometry.”

Hendren calls herself a public amateur. Her research and practice, documented on her website, is a riot of associations that cross the lines between high-end design, architecture, medical theory, prosthetics, and cybernetics. Spend some time with Hendren and you’ll find yourself in a conversation that veers wildly between fashionable hearing aids, Braille tattoos, the design of space suits, the relation of curb cuts to gentrification, and the origins of the smooth curves of the Eames Chair in the lacquered wooden leg splint that Charles and Ray designed for the US Navy.

Her own projects tend toward the informal and the temporary. She seeks out what she calls the margins of design: work that’s happening away from the spotlight of the mainstream tech and design press, “either because they’re made of low-cost materials, or in informally organized settings, or because they happen in the context of, say, special education.” Her low-tech approach allows her to intervene and launch discussions in graphic design, architecture, and prosthetics.

“All of these fields are professionalized for good reasons — standardization of practice and form,” she says. “But you can easily get some calcification around the ‘proper channels’ for the way things are done.”

“Defining what counts as health, as normative experience, as quality of life — these are easily as much cultural questions as they are about statistics and data,” she says. “I want the latitude, as an amateur, to also ask those questions in public, to engage with specialties as much as possible as an outsider.”



"She explains that in disability studies, there is a growing distinction between the medical model of disability and the social model. In the medical model, people with atypical bodies are seen as being impaired. In the social model, the problem isn’t with the bodies, but with the environment that was built around them.

After all, the environment we live in didn’t just leap out of the ground from whole cloth. Cities were designed and then built a certain way; they could have been built differently. In the social model, “people are disabled, but by the built environment, schools, transportation, economic structures having evolved to offer only the rather narrow goods that a late capitalist culture presumes,” says Hendren. “So we nurture some bodies, and we tolerate others.” If stairs were 5' tall, just about everyone on earth would be disabled."



"In the social model, disability is a matter of circumstances rather than a fundamental diagnosis about any particular body. It’s a state that we pass into and out of depending on what’s going on with us and the environment we’re in. If you are in possession of a relatively typical body and have found yourself blocked by a door because your arms were full, you’ll have a sense of what it means to be temporarily disabled.

If, laden by packages, you’ve ever hip-checked one of those buttons adorned by a wheelchair logo, you’ll have a sense of the degree to which the environment plays a role in enabling or disabling you. The automatic door is not an accommodation for special cases but a useful feature for everyone."



“What I want is much more energy and imagination given to questions of access and use — not tiresome and medicalized ‘accommodations,’ but edited cities where alternate bodies are assumed to be part of the landscape, and where the use of structures and tools might be less scripted,” she says.

Hendren reads a passage from Susan Wendell’s The Rejected Body.
Not only do physically disabled people have experiences which are not available to the able-bodied, they are in a better position to transcend cultural mythologies about the body, because they cannot do things the able-bodied feel they must do in order to be happy, “normal,” and sane…
If disabled people were truly heard, an explosion of knowledge of the human body and psyche would take place.

“I would take out ‘physically’ from the first sentence and add cognition/development to this idea as well,” Hendren says.

In the medical model of disability, this attitude is almost impossible to understand and feels pretty patronizing. After all, aren’t people with disabilities missing out? In the medical model, resistance in the deaf community to cochlear implants seems incomprehensible.

The point, says Hendren, is that we all get the same number of hours per day. “It’s as simple as: some experiences you’re having, and some you’re not,” she says. “You are not having rather more or rather less, unless you arrange your metrics in a lazy way.”

Hendren thinks designers and architects can do better. “It’s possible to have a very ‘correct’ idea about accommodations, provisions for schooling and such, and still presume a medical model,” says Hendren. “You can carry around the notion that a democratic society is one in which everyone thrives — regardless of productivity, regardless of capacity — and want to provide for those ‘needs.’”

“But it’s a much more radical notion to start to think about the ways structures have been un-imagined or preemptively imagined without much variation in body or mind. What would it mean to really profoundly undo our sense of which bodies count?”
sarahendren  timmaly  disability  disabilities  design  amateurs  amateurism  professionals  professionalization  imagination  access  cities  health  society  education  art  democracy  architecture  ada  capacity  productivity  davidedgerton  chrisdowney  bodies  diversity  assistivetechnology  susanwendell  galileo  ramps  inclinedplanes  standardization  brianglenny  blind  blindness  urban  urbandesign  urbanism  body 
december 2013 by robertogreco
A Thing Worth Doing [Gilbert Chersterson]
"Chesterton consistly defended the amateur against the professional, or the “generalist” against the specialist, especially when it came to “the things worth doing.” There are things like playing the organ or discovering the North Pole, or being Astronomer Royal, which we do not want a person to do at all unless he does them well. But those are not the most important things in life. When it comes to writing one’s own love letters and blowing one’s own nose, “these things we want a man to do for himself, even if he does them badly.” This, argues Chesterton (in Orthodoxy) is “the democratic faith: that the most terribly important things must be left to ordinary men themselves – the mating of the sexes, the rearing of the young, the laws of the state.”

As for “the rearing of the young,” which is the education of the very young, this is a job not for the specialist or the professional, but for the “generalist” and the amateur. In other words, for the mother, who Chesterton argues is “broad” where men are “narrow.” In What’s Wrong with the World, Chesterton forsaw the dilemma of daycare and the working mother, that children would end up being raised by “professionals” rather than by “amateurs.” And here we must understand “amateur” in its truest and most literal meaning. An amateur is someone who does something out of love, not for money. She does what she does not because she is going to be paid for her services and not because she is the most highly skilled, but because she wants to do it. And she does “the things worth doing,” which are the things closest and most sacred to all of humanity – nurturing a baby, teaching a child the first things, and, in fact, all things.

The line, “if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly,” is not an excuse for poor efforts. It is perhaps an excuse for poor results. But our society is plagued by wanting good results with no efforts (or rather, with someone else’s efforts). We hire someone else to work for us, to play for us (that is, to entertain us), to think for us, and to raise our children for us. We have left “the things worth doing” to others, on the poor excuse that others might be able to do them better.

Finally, and less heavily, we should also point out that the phrase is a defense of hobbies. This was confirmed by Chesterton himself."
gilbertchesterson  via:sebastienmarion  teaching  expertise  generalists  specialists  life  living  children  parenting  hobbies  amateurs  professionals  cv  daycare  love  money 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Phoenix live on Q | Q with Jian Ghomeshi | CBC Radio
[Audio here: http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/podcasts/qpodcast_20130326_57910.mp3 ]

"We just tried to… let it be what it is supposed to be."

"We love to be control freaks in the studio. And then after that we let it go, but in the studio can be a neurotic experience sometimes."

"The idea is that there is no consensus because consensus leads to something in the middle, something that's not really interesting. It's more four strong political forces that try to make their point… We know each other so well since we were kids that we don't really need to talk… We just argue."

"It's the only record we made that revealed itself at the end… the last two weeks. … We accepted the songs… they became songs at the end."

"We are slaves to that thing we are reaching for."

"We are looking for something that we don't know what it is. But when it's there, there's a feeling of evidence — here it is finally. So exhausting it can be because you don't know how far you are. You always have the impression that you are very far. Sometime it just happens. [It's exhausting] Especially if you are not sure it exists."

"I like the [artistic] plateau image."

"We're no good alone as individual musicians. It's the foursome that brings the magic."

"We don't know how to play with other musicians. I tried with friends to do sessions a few times times and it was always a disaster."

"You know those big architectural masterpieces that they [ants] can built, but separately they are just ants. … We are a very small colony [of ants]."

"I wouldn't even want to do them [sessions with other musicians]. I wouldn't be good at it, I think I would be sad."

"We grew up with this idea that being skilled musicians wasn't the point really, it was about making good records. It made so much more sense than just spending twelve hours a day just ruining your fingers on an instrument."

"We were one of the first generations that could make an album in their bedroom that sounded good. We were lucky about that because that allowed us to be bad musicians."

"Boredom is the enemy of the human being."

"Our trick is to keep it very amateur, in a way. It demands actually a lot of effort. It is easier to be pro than to be semi-pro."

"When we have the choice between doing something on our own or doing it with very skilled individuals, we always prefer the amateur route, which brings more charm. We believe in charm more than in perfection. And, also the hardest part is on tour. Touring can bring you the most boring life ever, which is the rock star life. People should know it's the most boring thing ever, so we fight very hard every day to make something interesting. ["How do you do that?] We have bikes. You have to just escape this block where you our. We love sake [the drink]. One of our tricks is that we check where the best sake is in town. This is the starting point. Then hopefully you get advice from the people that own the shop."

["What would be the collective goal for Phoenix at this point? What are you reaching for as a band? What would you like to happen? Where would you like to be a few years from now?"] "I'm not sure we want to know what this would be. We like questions more than answers, I think. I'm not sure we want to know. Right now we are taking it a week ahead. There are some festivals coming that I don't think we are ready, but it makes it exciting that there's this tension, that there's a sense of danger, this idea that you can fail. That's something that you need to make something out of it. You need this possibility to fail."

"We see this big mountain and we immediately look for the north face because it's going to be more exciting. And then we climb it barefoot. And that's the beginning. And then we are there, hopefully, we go down and then there's another mountain. And that's another week."
phoenix  music  jianghomeshi  interviews  collaboration  creativity  life  glvo  cv  2013  process  howwework  teamwork  boredom  amateurs  professionals 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Disciplined Minds - Wikipedia
"…book by physicist Jeff Schmidt, published in 2000…describes how professionals are made; the methods of professional & graduate schools that turn eager entering students into disciplined managerial & intellectual workers that correctly perceive & apply the employer's doctrine & outlook. Schmidt uses the examples of law, medicine, & physics, & describes methods that students & professional workers can use to preserve their personalities & independent thought.

Schmidt was fired from his position of 19yrs as Associate Editor at Physics Today for writing the book on the accusation that he wrote it on his employer's time. In 2006…it was announced that the case had been settled, with the dismissed editor receiving reinstatement and a substantial cash settlement. According to the article, 750 physicists & other academics, including Noam Chomsky, signed public letters denouncing the dismissal…"

[ http://www.amazon.com/Disciplined-Minds-Critical-Professionals-Soul-battering/dp/0742516857/ ]
intellectualworkers  workplace  bureaucracy  control  employment  labor  noamchomsky  cv  professionals  disciplinedminds  institutionalization  mediocrity  management  managementstudies  middlemanagement  criticalthinking  personality  law  medicine  physics  2006  2000  unschooling  deschooling  independentthought  independentthinking  professionalization  jeffschmidt 
november 2012 by robertogreco
Tuttle SVC: The Phrase that Pays
"I'm reading a lot about paying and firing teachers like professionals, but what's often going unsaid is at the same time the trendlines run strongly against teachers being treated like professionals in their practice. In short, it is a lousy deal to be held accountable for student achievement if you have no rights to determine what you teach, how you teach it, what the disciplinary policies are in your school, what the schedule looks like, what resources are allocated to your classroom, etc., etc., etc. What is a professional teacher supposed to do when he is mandated to begin using a curriculum which he believes will result in lower scores for his kids and lower pay for himself? What is he supposed to do after the first year he loses his bonus because of it?"
teaching  schools  policy  pay  control  autonomy  professionals  professionalism  education  meritpay 
september 2008 by robertogreco
tiny gigantic » Blog Archive » Smart-people traps
"1. Professions...tempted by rewards...pressured by family, culture...cannot leave security of pre-defined track...unwilling to explore themselves enough to see individual course...for many there is no passion or purpose, no vision or meaning, no intuitive individual truth...soul-sucking 2. Smart people are good at school...tempted to stay...whole lives...get into spiral of irrelevance & isolation from rest of world 3. Politics...trap...in order to change world through politics, you must gain power...4. Critical thinking...spend all formative years getting rewarded for finding problems...focusing on negative...leave school thinking way to be useful & show smarts is to point out why things won’t work, rather than using smarts to find a way forward"
society  careers  culture  intelligence  education  criticalthinking  cv  work  vocation  gtd  behavior  thinking  life  yearoff  gamechanging  making  learning  deschooling  unschooling  problemsolving  creativity  professionals  professions  change  freedom  value  lcproject  usefulness  academia  intellectualism  cynicism  entrepreneurship  activism  politics  rewards  fulfillment  via:preoccupations 
august 2008 by robertogreco

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