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Synopsis

In five essays, followed by extensive notes and bibliographies, Ivan Illich embarks on a major historical and sociological analysis of modern man's economic existence. He traces and analyzes options which surpass the conventional political 'right-left' and the technological 'soft-hard' alternatives and presents the concept of the 'vernacular' domain: "...to name those acts of competence, lust or concern that we want to defend from measurement by Chicago Boys or Socialist Commissars...the preparation of food and the shaping of language, childbirth and recreation, without implying either a privatized activity akin to the housework of modern women, a hobby or an irrational and primitive procedure." Illich deals provocatively with the controlling uses of language and science and the valuation of women and work. Drawing on unfamiliar historical sources, he lays bare the roots of much of the social ordering which affects industrial man: his own creation, but one which, at the same time, connives at his own oppression.

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