The Philosophy of Ivan Illich: An 8-Week Course

Taught by Nina Power, PhD.


Our promise

Master the key ideas of Ivan Illich in 8 weeks

Develop your own work, and form lasting intellectual relationships, too.

Ivan Illich

Ivan Illich (1926–2002) was a social theorist and Roman Catholic priest.

His book Deschooling Society (1971) criticizes institutional education and argues in favor of self-directed education in the context of intentional communities. Tools for Conviviality (1973) analyzes the institutionalization of knowledge and argues that we should "invert the present deep structure of tools" and "give people tools that guarantee their right to work with independent efficiency." Medical Nemesis (1975) highlights the prevalence of iatrogenics—harm caused by doctors—decades before Nassim Taleb popularized it. Participants in this course read all of these books.

Illich was born in Vienna but spent most of his youth in Dalmatia, Croatia. He once called himself "an errant pilgrim."

Ivan Illich


Nina Power is a philosopher, critic, and translator.

She received her PhD in philosophy from Middlesex University. She writes for a variety of publications, on topics ranging from music, critical theory, film, policing and protests. She's written for frieze, Wire, Radical Philosophy, The Guardian, Cabinet, Film Quarterly, Icon and The Philosophers' Magazine.

Nina has authored two books, One-Dimensional Woman and What Do Men Want? She was a senior lecturer in philosophy at Roehampton University before deciding to go independent.

You can learn more about Nina at

Geoff Shullenberger


This eight-week course covers the whole range of Illich’s thought, from his early work on “deschooling” society, to his work on growth, energy and technology, his thoughts on gender, his attacks on modern medicine, to his arguments regarding work, needs and social development.

The course will stress the relevance of Illich’s thought today, in his opposition to many of the dystopian aspects of existence that are currently being pushed by governments and the dominant ideology of our era. His thought will be discussed in the context of contemporary ‘post-liberal’ attempts to rethink community, family, and tradition. We will also look at secondary work on Illich and related topics of interest from, amongst others, Erich Fromm, David Cayley, Paolo Freire, Jacques Ellul, Denise Schmandt-Besserat.

  1. Institutional Revolution

  2. What Is Education For?

  3. Tools for Conviviality

  4. Energy and Equity

  5. Medical Nemesis

  6. Gender

  7. Alphabetization

The Course Experience


When you enroll, you're given a 7-week reading list on the themes listed above. You're also given 7 pre-recorded lectures (videos as well as text and podcast equivalents). All course content is hosted within the course community.

Seminar Schedule

If you enroll in a tier including discussion seminars, we meet as a group on Zoom every Thursday for 8 weeks. From 11am to 1pm Eastern, starting on August 5 (Orientation) and running until September 30, 2021.

The final seminar is the Proseminar, an optional public panel discussion (see past proseminars on Leo Strauss, Georges Bataille, and Deleuze and Heidegger).


After enrolling, you receive an email inviting you to join a private community forum, accessible only to participants in the course. This is where participants exchange ideas, ask questions, develop written work, and organize extra-curricular events.


Every course is hosted within the network, the world's only membership community dedicated to independent intellectuals working outside of institutions.

The course community is private, but it's embedded in a larger community with currently 300+ academics, bloggers, authors, podcasters, Youtubers, founders, and investors working on long-term intellectual projects.

Develop your work

Many participants bring or start research projects as a part of their course experience.

Producing your own work is not required, but many participants have found this to be a most rewarding aspect of our courses.

For particularly ambitious participants who could benefit from additional structure and support—something like an indie PhD supervisor—the Creator tier adds a series of private meetings with the lecturer.

Share your work

New posts in the "Share Your Work" channel now frequently solicit dozens of thoughtful and constructive replies. Members of the network routinely guest on each others' podcasts.

And the proseminar is an excellent opportunity to share with a public audience whatever insights you've won from 8 weeks of patient reading, thinking, discussing, and writing.

Reviews of Past Courses

Raven Connolly

Raven Connolly, Podcaster

"My thinking was challenged and reshaped... Brings together intellectuals, artists, and entrepreneurs. Collaborations have outlasted the length of the course."

Michael Gibson

Michael Gibson, Investor

"Avoided all the maddening, boring, and pretentious atmosphere that fogs difficult philosophy in an academic setting. Fire the pedantic scholars! Get the straight dope here!"

Raven Connolly

Kevin McCoy, Artist

"Justin brings people and ideas together in a great way. He sets up a dynamic conversation between his co-teachers and the course participants, one that continues long after the class is finished."

David Perell

David Perell, Writer

"I'm wildly impressed... A reaction to the intellectual claustrophobia of academia... I hope more philosophers can use the internet to pursue ideas that need to be discussed."

Maran Nelson

Maran Nelson, Founder

"I really enjoyed this course, and felt supported by the community Justin built up. Highly recommend to anyone on the fence! "

Alex Talan

Alex Talan, Composer

"I enjoyed the lectures and will be revisiting them in the future. The course discussions were well facilitated, encouraging an atmosphere of fellowship and open dialogue."




  • 7 Lectures (Video, Text, and Audio)

  • Private Course Forum

  • Network

  • Lifetime Course Updates



  • 7 Lectures (Video, Text, and Audio)

  • Private Course Forum

  • Network

  • Lifetime Course Updates

  • Live Weekly Discussion Seminars (8x)

  • Invitation to Public Proseminar



  • 7 Lectures (Video, Text, and Audio)

  • Private Course Forum

  • Network

  • Lifetime Course Updates

  • Live Weekly Discussion Seminars (8x)

  • Invitation to Public Proseminar

  • Private Tutorials with Lecturer (45m, 3x)

  • Review of Your Work + Feedback

Girard Study Guide Cover

Not ready to enroll?

Download the syllabus and study Illich at your own pace

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