Energy and Equity (Ideas in Progress) [Ivan Illich] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. A junkie without access to his stash is in a state of crisis. ENERGY AND EQUITY∗. Ivan Illich. “El socialismo puede llegar sólo en bicicleta . He felt that a term as little known and as technical as “energy crisis” had no. This book looks at energy from the perspective of a person with no interest in the present system. Illich looks at energy as a divisive element in our modern.

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Aaron Peters and Tony Curzon Pricein their important exchange about workfare, both seem to accept a basically techno-utopian view of the future of hyper-automation. But this view ignores two crucial factors which make the fundamental picture much less rosy: To start with the last of equify One need only look at the sheer scale of global and intra-national inequality.

Immiseration is widespread and arguably increasing growingat least partly because, since Keynes wrote, the global population has increased almost four-fold and there has been the emergence of an energy-environmental crisis of the first order both of which Keynes did not envisage.

Bearing this jllich mind the fundamental problem we face in my opinion is therefore not primarily – as Keynes would have it — and accepted by Peters and Curzon Price – about the need to effect a transition towards greater leisure activity; nor ivaj it primarily about the distribution of abundant social goods consequent on automated hyper-production although this perspective is probably closer to the truth.

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Aaron and Tony clearly recognise the last mentioned eqjity these problems and both investigate the capacity of workfare to address this source of instability. Although both writers therefore seem acutely aware of the potential adverse social impacts of increasing automation, neither appears to explicitly, or perhaps even implicitly, acknowledge and consider the potential constraints and impacts of the other two sources of instability identified, and the connections between all three.

Indeed, both Aaron and Tony appear to treat increased automation — hyper-automation — as an inevitable equty of life unrelated to and unaffected by the issue of energy and its impacts – and also — apparently — immune to political control.


To me this is a decidedly second best solution — and furthermore one which is not sustainable in the longer-term. One needs to understand however that energy – cheap, high quantity energy – uvan been key to creating our whole industrial social system and keeping it going.

Enervy argued that high energy consumption is inversely correlated with equity and inevitably degrades social relations and human freedoms: In societies based on high energy consumption social relations must, he said, be dictated by technocracy which degrades the possibility of choice, autonomy and freedom. In the end, this is my objection to Tony Curzon Price’s entirely consistent advocacy of a nuclear power option for the near term in the UK.

While it might be comforting to think that with massive nuclear expansion we have a time-limited, lower carbon emitting window of opportunity allowing us to, as he says “really work to sort out our lifestyles and technology for emergy truly sustainable future”, I think the view is flawed.

The idea that we would therefore use this opportunity to make the changes we should is excessively optimistic. At best, such a period would be used to increase energy efficiencies and further develop cleaner energy substitutes. But Illich’s critique goes deeper than that — as he persuasively argues, large-scale energy is ultimately the enemy of freedom and equality.

Further energy affluence means increased concentration of control over that energy with all its attendant political consequences.

For Illich only participatory democracy creates the conditions for rational technology and participatory democracy is for him predicated on a low-energy technology society; conversely high energy consumption is correlated with increased technocracy and a closing of the ‘iron cage’. In short therefore, for Illich the greatest problem with high energy consumption and associated increased automation was not its negative environmental impacts although this did concern him — instead it was its social and political impacts, and he strongly believed that it was rapidly becoming necessary to assert political control over the market-driven technological development or reap the dire social and political consequences.

Energy and Equity

A community can choose between Methadone and “cold turkey” – between maintaining its addiction to alien energy and kicking it in painful cramps – but no society can have a population that is hooked on progressively larger numbers of energy slaves and whose members are also autonomously active”.


There’s more danger though to the bind energy presents: The choice as I see it seems to esuity stark though not a miserable one.

Do we wish to live in a society where we are all autonomously free and equal, where we have choices as to how we wish to live, albeit with democratic vian on high energy consumption and technological innovation, less automated labour, and fewer material goods in general? Or would we rather live in an unequal, unfree — and ultimately inhuman society where choice is regimented, limited and prescribed and where a minority have ever more – and innovative – material goods, personal services and leisure opportunities, predicated ultimately on automated labour and cheap energy; jvan world in which some provide cheap labour, and those are not even that fortunate are znd up by workfare?

As far as I’m concerned I hope that we are forced to start ending our addiction to high per capita use of energy before the techno-utopianists manage to invent abundant and affordable clean energy to keep on powering automation and paying for workfare.

I see it as possibly equiyt greatest hope of becoming free. Otherwise, I fear as Max Weber said: He is a frequent contributor to openDemocracy’s comments and debates.

Energy and equity – Ivan Illich – Google Books

We publish high-quality investigative reporting and analysis; we train and mentor journalists and wider civil society; we publish in Russian, Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese and English. Workfare, energy and equity Neil Comley 31 March Weaponising workfare Aaron Bastani Will workfare be well paid? annd

Tony Curzon Price Gas or nuclear? If you have any queries about republishing please contact us.

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