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Sander with Hand Planers from Woodshop | Photo by Sophia LeeHand Sander, Block Plane, and Small Hand Planes at UVa A School Wood Shop | Photo by Sophia Lee

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TOOLS FOR CONVIVIALITY /tulz fɔr kənˈvɪviælɪti/

This is a book by Ivan Illich, a former Catholic priest of Austrian extraction and American citizenship, which provides a critique of contemporary industrialized economics and culture.

The main argument of the book is that under industrialization, the tools for production have become specialized in the hands of a few, especially as machines become more complex and disproportionately large in comparison to humans. A radical shift occurs where humans no longer control the machines and in fact machines control humans. This leads to disenfranchisement, declining economic status for those who are not inducted into the use of the machines, and the weakness of industrialized nations in protecting these highly specialized machines. Industrial societies culminate in a system where every social institution – education, economics, medicine, government, built environment – has contorted to fulfill the goal of industrialization, which is solely perpetual growth.

Illich advocates what he calls a ‘post-industrial’ or ‘convivial’ society where everyone has access to most of the tools of production. In other words, a society “in which modern technologies serve politically interrelated individuals rather than managers…a modern society of responsibly limited tools.”[1]  This book was the inspiration for using hand woodworking techniques as well as CNC techniques (in anticipation of the time when CNC fabrication becomes less expensive and more available to laypersons) to make wood joints in the studio’s second project.

[1]  Ivan Illich. Tools for Conviviality. Web-version: <>

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