The Illich Project

The Illich’s Acervus in the XXI Century

Importance of the initiative

There is a broad consensus about the growing relevance of Ivan Illich's work. His contributions from the 1960s until his death in 2002 take on special significance in today's world. They cover a very wide spectrum: the radical criticism of the industrial mode of production; the demonstration of the counterproductivity of modern institutions; the denunciation of the profound immorality and senselessness of the capitalist style of production and consumption, which simultaneously destroys nature and the social and cultural fabric; the demonstration of the colonial seal of the policies of governments, corporations and universities; the rigorous analysis of the consequences of the end of the era of tools; the notable anticipation of the conformation of new beings with a cybernetic profile; among others. His critique of the creation of needs shaped by the market and the state and of the institutions that expropriate communities from their ability to learn, eat, heal, move and live; his analysis of the consequences of the professional dictatorship and the professionalization of daily life; and his demand to set communal limits on the production of goods and services and to adopt austere ways of life, remain of immense value in understanding and transforming the dramatic reality of today. For this, and for many other reasons, the recovery and dissemination of his work is of the utmost importance. ​

About the collection in Spanish

The existing bibliographic work in Spanish consists of a dozen central books, some compilations and numerous articles and essays. Most of them are in paper and the existing digitizations are of very low quality. The 1,400 pages of Illich's Collected Works in two volumes, published by the Fondo de Cultura Económica in 2006 and 2008, are undoubtedly a good starting point and at the same time show the relevance of the project. Despite the revision of the translations by people very close to Illich, such as his collaborator Valentina Borremans and his friends Jean Robert and Javier Sicilia, there are serious errors in what was published, which is also clearly incomplete. Something similar occurs with other compilations and independent editions.

There are partial physical collections of Illich's work in Cuernavaca, Mexico City, Oaxaca, Bremen (Germany) and Pennsylvania (USA), but in general they are difficult to access.


The initiative has a double purpose: to contribute to the understanding of the critical current condition and to the analysis and debate of the existing options, based on the contributions of Ivan Illich, and to constitute a complete library of his work of general and open access.

The initiative seeks to constitute a physical, printed and digital library of Ivan Illich's work, based on the original texts and new revised and updated Spanish translations. Popular editions of his main texts will be made and specific essays will be disseminated through newspapers and magazines. All the material will be presented in a digital platform specially designed for easy access, referencing, reading in different supports/formats and re-edition in paper by independent groups.

The idea is to build a primary source that contains all the work, with free and open access, enabling maximum access to the materials recovered. This virtual space will be developed using open source technologies and respecting international standards in the field of librarianship and archiving. This will make it possible to consolidate a reliable, legible and lasting source that will allow access to each work as well as refer to specific portions and extracts.

The library will consist of the books, their various versions in different languages (identifying whether they are direct translations of other versions), revised translations, compilations, articles, interviews, audio and video recordings. In the first phase, we will focus on the recovery of the Spanish versions and their corresponding original texts (mostly in English and French). In turn, as this is a dynamic and collaborative publishing platform, it will enable the creation of new revised and improved translations based on the original texts.

Additionally, the project includes the recovery of the bibliographic material of the Centro Intercultural de Documentación (CIDOC), especially the Cuadernos del CIDOC collection. In this process we pay special attention to the texts, drafts and articles of authorship of Illich that were originally published in those editions. This process of digitalization and recovery in electronic format is already underway, thanks to the collaboration of the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos (UAEM), the Colegio de México, CEBITEPAL and other libraries in Latin America.

In a second stage, we will expand the collection to incorporate the work of authors from the Illich constellation: Borremans, Robert, Sicilia, Esteva, Mitcham, Hoinacki, Gorz, among others. The archive will be then a meeting point around the “Illichian thought”, enriched by the work of his friends and collaborators. It will be a space that will not only allow the dissemination of this valuable corpus, but also enable the possibility of putting it in context, drawing relationships and producing new knowledge in the light of current challenges. ​


The project includes a mostly handcrafted work of research, localization, correction, revision, digitalization and publication. With the exception of the collection mentioned, the material in Spanish (and most other languages) is scattered throughout Mexico and some institutions in the United States and other countries. We intend to recover, publish and digitize the social, political, philosophical and cultural treasure of this prolific intellectual from Austria.

To foster national and international debate, a broad coalition will be built with various interested organizations and institutions. In principle, the project is a joint effort of various organizations and networks at the international level, especially Aldo Zanchetta, from Italy, and Dana Stuchul, from Penn State College (USA), under the coordination and impulse of the Universidad de la Tierra de Oaxaca. The Spanish editions will be carried out primarily in coordination with the Fondo de Cultura Económica, making the necessary arrangements. The digital library will be based on the original texts and the new revised and updated Spanish translations. The development of the collaborative and open archiving technology will be the responsibility of REEVO, an international organization with a long track record in the design of processes for the visibility of alternative thoughts and actions.

To promote national and international debate, a broad coalition will be built with various interested organizations and institutions. On an international scale, we will take advantage of the renewal of the Journal of Illich Studies, of which we are a part, as a launching platform. In December 2020, an issue was published to emphasizes what could be Illich's vision of covid-19