Pandemic Nemesis: Illich reconsidered

By | 16th June 2024

An unexpected element of post-pandemic reflections has been the revival of interest in the work of Ivan Illich, a significant public intellectual of the 1960s and 1970s, whose star has waned somewhat in recent decades…

What does it do to a society when the very definition of health and illness comes to be monopolized by a particular group? What does it do to individuals when they lose the ability to make their own choices and are required to defer to expert regimes? As we might now express it, what is life like in an iatrocracy, where a biomedical complex asserts its right to rule through the minute regulation of everyday life?…

As with many polemicists, Illich often exaggerates or overstates his case. Contemporary biomedicine has contributed much to the quality of everyday life in the modern world. But his questions are serious ones. How far should our lives be governed by one, rather narrow, vision of a good society? Is iatrocracy consistent with human flourishing? They have not lost their significance with the passage of time, even if our answers may now be a little different.

A SocialScienceSpace blog

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