A Review of Todd Hartch's The Prophet of Cuernavaca: Ivan Illich and the Crisis of the Modern West

Todd Hartch, The Prophet of Cuernavaca: Ivan Illich and the Crisis of the West, Oxford University Press, 2015


Reviewed by David Cayley


In 1999, near the end of his life, I asked Ivan Illich how he would square the injunction which ends the Gospel of Matthew to “make disciples of all nations” with his opposition to the missionary activity of the American Catholic Church in the 1960’s.  The interview was being done for the radio arm of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and we both knew, as Illich remarked a little later in this conversation, that we were engaged in what he called “a shadow battle on radio.”  Accordingly, he let me have it.  “I reject your imputation,” he said, “that in the 1960’s I took a stand against the missionary activities of the Church.”  “Those were the days,” he goes on to say, “when an American manipulator, journalist and priest, who had glorified the missionary activities of the American Maryknoll Fathers in China, found a new vocation for this Catholic missionary order by inveigling Pope John XXIII into signing a document in which he asks North American bishops and religious superiors to send 10 percent of their ordained, trained priests to South America, the new mission field of the Church.  This man also wrote a paper, which he then had signed by the Vatican authorities, creating, as a parallel to the secular Peace Corps, an agency called Papal Volunteers for Latin America.  And I denounced this as an obvious, easily understandable caricature, as a corruption of the mission given by Jesus to his apostles.” 


This sounds like a pretty open and shut case, but readers of Todd Hartch’s just published The Prophet of Cuernavaca will soon discover a more tangled tale.  In 1961 Illich and several colleagues set up the Center of Intercultural Formation (CIF), in Cuernavaca, Mexico, with the announced purpose of training missionaries to Latin America.  (CIF later gave birth to the Center for Intercultural Documentation (CIDOC), a less church-centered organization which, for a time, operated in parallel with CIF and then displaced it.) This was a continuation of work Illich had begun in Puerto Rico some years before when he founded and directed the Institute for Intercultural Communication, which had trained New Yorkers who were working with Puerto Rican immigrants.  Here, Hartch reports, “hundreds of priests and nuns and some teachers, firefighters, police officers” were introduced to the Spanish language and the rudiments of Puerto Rican culture.   John Considine, the Maryknoll priest about whom Illich spoke to me, was a key figure in the launching of CIF.  Considine was then the director of the Latin American Bureau (LAB) of the Catholic Welfare Conference, and his concern was the implementation of the missionary plan for which he had gained the support of the Pope.  Illich’s work in Puerto Rico had given Considine a high regard for Illich’s abilities, and he had insisted that Illich was by far the best man to direct the training of these new missionaries, even when Paul Tanner, the general secretary of the association of American bishops, had argued with him that Illich was too much of a wild card to be trusted in such a position.  As the  director of the LAB, Considine was crucial to the flow both of both funds and students to the new center, and he served on its board of directors.  Without him, it’s unlikely, on Hartch’s evidence, that CIF would ever have got off the ground.  


Illich maintained cordial working relations with Considine for a number of years.  In a letter written to Considine in 1963 he acknowledges “frequent differences in opinion” but then goes on to say that these had only “strengthened rather than weakened our mutual respect.”   So, if Illich from the start had regarded the missionary initiatives for which Considine had won the Pope’s backing as “an easily understandable caricature” of the Gospel imperative to spread the good news, then it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the main manipulator in this story was Illich and not the earnest and somewhat credulous Considine.  But perhaps it’s the case that Illich turned against the missionary effort in Latin America more gradually than he allowed in his summary recollection to me nearly forty years later?  Todd Hartch does not think so.  He quotes a remark Illich made in connection with his years in Puerto Rico before ever establishing CIF.  “I learned in Puerto Rico,” Illich recalled, “that there are only a few people who are not stunted or wholly destroyed by lifelong work ‘for the poor’ in a foreign country.”  And Hartch thinks that this impression was fortified during a 3,000 miles journey that Illich made over a four-month period in 1960, winding his way from Santiago, Chile to Caracas, Venezuela.  Hartch calls it a pilgrimage; it was certainly a voyage of discovery.  Illich was impressed by Latin American folk Catholicism but repelled by the American missionaries he encountered.  “Remarks by Illich,” Hartch writes, “implied that the missionaries he met during this time conceived of their role as making the Latin American Church look more like the Church in the United States, saving Latin America from communism and building costly schools and church buildings.  Illich was so angered by these Americans that in 1960, probably on this trip, he told Bishop Manuel Larrain, president of the Latin American bishops’ organization that he was ‘prepared if necessary to stop the coming of the missionaries to Latin America.’”  What one can certainly say, it seems to me, is that Illich, from the beginning, believed that mission must be a vocation and not a programme with a target or a diversion of ecclesiastical personnel to an underserviced area.  Accordingly it’s hard not to share Hartch’s conclusion that, at the least, Illich’s relation with Considine involved a certain amount of “ambiguity, flattery and misdirection.” 


I begin with this vignette because I think it illustrates the value of Todd Hartch’s book for those of us who know something of the legend of Illich’s CIDOC years but not much of the historical record.    And Hatch discovered an extensive record deposited in archives at Harvard, Notre Dame, Indiana, Fordham and the Catholic University of America.  Drawing on letters, periodical literature, the recollections of teachers and students, and the many publications of CIF/CIDOC, as well as Illich’s own writings, Hartch has pieced together the story of Illich’s Cuernavaca years, beginning with the establishment of CIF in 1961 and ending with the closing of CIDOC in 1976.  Particular attention is given to what Hartch calls “the Catholic period” from 1961 to 1967.   He also provides a biographical sketch of Illich in the years before 1961, and concludes with an assessment of Illich’s work as a whole, but the greater part of the book is taken up with the goings on at CIF/CIDOC and with the question of mission.


Before he ever started CIF, Illich had developed a philosophy of mission.  The best introduction to it is a book called The Church, Change and Development (1970) which includes several substantial statements of Illich’s views.  The qualities that Illich urges missionaries to cultivate are humility, poverty of spirit, and silence in the face of all that they do not know and may never understand.  Missionaries may know the Gospel, but they can have no idea initially what it means in the new context they have entered, and, in that sense, they enter empty-handed.  He also urges the need for some formation in the sociology of religion, an education he himself had undergone in the 1950’s through writers like Will Herberg, Martin Marty and others who had shown that much of what passes for Christianity is no more than cultural accretion and the sanctification of civic piety.  Such an education was particularly necessary for Americans, he thought, because the power and influence of the United States made it easier for them to confuse the Gospel with the particular form of their church and therefore to become what he calls “ecclesiastic conquistadors.”


So Illich certainly began his work at CIF with the view that many, perhaps most of the Americans who were apt to end up in Latin America under a plan like Considine’s would likely do more harm than good unless they underwent drastic reorientation.  This was reflected in the CIF training courses.  In the very first session, Hartch writes, only thirty-two of sixty-two students managed to get through the course.  At all times Illich was, as his friend Joe Fitzpatrick said, “a sign of contradiction” who quite deliberately evoked strong reactions.  Hartch quotes one priest as saying, “The Monsignor is aiming too high, too high for me and others of my capacity.”  Another unhappy priest complained of Illich and his staff’s “rigorism.”  A French Canadian woman who attended in 1962 felt that the “program…brings students to the edge of hysteria and chase[s] half of them away.”  By 1965 even John Considine, finally disillusioned, was complaining that the students “morale” was being undermined.  There were of course also those who experienced CIF training as an awakening, and Hartch occasionally quotes them too, but the voices of the disappointed and offended tend to predominate.  Perhaps one can get the flavour of the good Illich did from a remark his friend the Bishop of Cuernavaca, Méndez Arceo, made to Francine Duplessix Gray who quotes it in her 1970 profile of Illich for The New Yorker.  “I love the way Illich tortures his missionaries,” the bishop told Gray.  “Sometimes I cry with emotion at seeing aged men, elderly priests shed their old selves under his care.”


CIF was established as a missionary training centre but soon began to open  other avenues as well.  Its library expanded, its journal, CIF Reports, became a voice for various cultural ferments then bubbling in Latin America, and the ambitious publishing programme that was later characteristic of CIDOC was begun.  As a result of meetings held under CIF auspices, a separate institute devoted to specifically Latin American pastoral methods was established.  Its stated purpose was to foster “vernacular pastoral methods in a prophetic, servant Church of the poor.”  This was one of the first stirrings of what became known as “liberation theology,” a movement in which CIF initially played a founding role.  Illich later opposed this tendency, insofar as it involved a politicization of the church, but the project of a distinctive Latin American theology was initiated at a meeting he convened at CIF’s Brazilian outpost in Petropolis in early 1964, and CIF Reports was the journal in which its first expressions were exchanged.  These developments constituted the positive side of Illich’s programme.  He wasn’t just trying to keep away missionaries who had an ethnocentric and clerical/bureaucratic conception of the Church; he was also trying to put forward a new image of Latin America as a potential source of renewal.  In 1963 he expressed his hope that Latin America, both in the sense of “occupation with it and preparation for it,” would have a “revolutionary influence on Church institutions outside of Latin America.”  “We can therefore,” he said, “ever more speak of the responsibility which Latin America has towards the world and which it is exercising though CIF.”  Illich, in other words, did not see North America as a rich civilization whose bounty ought to be made to overflow into the lands of its southern neighbours.  He saw it as a world itself in need of healing and rededication.


Illich’s hope that Latin America might assert a “revolutionary influence” on a complacent Church in the “developed” countries is characteristic.  He may have given the term his own twist, but he speaks frequently during this period of revolution.  His first book, Celebration of Awareness (1970), is subtitled A Call for Institutional Revolution.  Particularly telling, for me, is a letter Hartch  reproduces from 1962.  Illich was writing to his friend Joe Fitzpatrick, a Jesuit priest and professor of sociology at Fordham who had been Illich’s ally since the early 1950’s when they worked together on the integration of Puerto Rican immigrants into the Catholic Church in New York City.  In the letter he urges him to abandon “the institutional frameworks that now allow you to be courageous” and to risk “total involvement” in CIF even at the cost of losing “respectability among your peers.”  If Fitzpatrick were to embrace this professional and spiritual “exile,” then “in a way,” Illich concludes, “you might be the first North American priest who with full consciousness of what it involves…joins the revolution.”  This is a letter to a dear friend – I can still remember with what pleasure Illich, many years later, introduced me to Joe Fitz, as he called him.  It says something about what Illich himself was giving up, since his abilities would certainly have afforded him the comfortable priesthood and secure academic career that he is asking his friend to renounce.   But more than that it shows that Illich, at this time, was in full earnest about revolution.  The object of this revolution was what he spoke of in his late interviews with me as “the resurrection of the Church,” the Church he refers to in various writing of the 1950’s and 60’s as a “sinking ship” and a “giant [which] begins to totter before it collapses.”  The only way to save it, as he argued in his essay “The Vanishing Clergyman,” would be to dismantle its whole corporate, clerical bureaucratic structure and return to mystery, surprise and celebration – Illich’s three great watchwords.  The Church, he said, is “that surprise in the net, the pearl,”  “a divine bud which will flower in eternity,” and “a sign to be lifted up among the nations.”  This was the Church’s proper vocation, not manpower planning for Latin America, and, on the consistent evidence of what he said during his years as a churchman, he believed, in the spirit of the times, that the revolution he imagined could happen and that he was called to do everything in his power to see that it did.


This brings me to what I see as an ambiguity, and perhaps an ambivalence in Hartch’s book.  Hartch understands and states clearly that Illich was not against mission as such.  “He decried cultural imperialism posing as mission,” Hartch writes, “not the concept of mission itself.”  And yet elsewhere he refers to Illich’s “anti-missionary” campaign and even, on one occasion, to an “anti-missionary plot.”   This seems wrong to me.  Illich had a clearly articulated philosophy of mission, which honoured his Lord’s instruction to spread the Gospel.   How else call the Church “a sign to be lifted up among the nations”?  But Illich also believed that a staid, complacent and unimaginative American Church could not be such a sign under the conditions that prevailed in the 1960’s.  Consider: first, that the United States was then actively supporting dictatorships in Latin America which used torture as an instrument of government.   Illich had first hand experience with one such − the murderous military junta that ruled Brazil with American connivance after 1964 – and, later, he published an open letter to Paul VI in Commonweal condemning the Pope’s silence about the atrocities of this regime.  Second, a development crusade was then underway – in Latin America it took the form of the Alliance for Progress.  Illich characterized development on the terms dictated by the donors as a “modernization of poverty” and offered evidence for his belief that development and mission were being conflated.  And, finally, the American missionary initiative was a bureaucratic programme and not an expression of missionary vocation.  As early as 1946 John Considine had written a book called Call for Forty Thousand, in which he called for the American church to send that many missionaries to Latin America.  That call later translated into the plan endorsed by Pius XII, implemented by John XXIII, and continued by Paul VI that the American Church should assign 10% of its personnel to Latin America.  (The number 40,000 was chosen as a “tithe,” which traditionally was the 10% of one’s income due to the church.)  Illich viewed this plan as a colonial, rather than evangelical undertaking.  These are substantial reasons, and, for me, they explain why Illich opposed a certain practice and interpretation of mission without opposing evangelization as such.



Hartch’s ambivalence’s also extends to his characterization of Illich.  Here I should confess a prejudice.  Although I met Illich in the later 60’s, I knew him mainly in the last fourteen years of his life, and I’m sure that the man I knew was an altogether sweeter and mellower man than the angular, ambitious and sometimes proud campaigner whose portrait Hartch attempts.  Nevertheless, I think there may be some confusion in this portrait between Illich’s personality and certain calculated gestures – poses, one might say – that he felt were required to accomplish the purposes he had set himself.   Illich was certainly a theatrical man, who liked to shock, but I bridled a little at the description of him as “difficult,” “prickly” “confrontational.”  Again I would say that his action should not be separated from his purposes and his calling.


Hartch’s critique of Illich culminates in his conclusion.  There he argues that Illich’s opposition to Considine’s crusade was uncharacteristic.  He speaks of “the anomaly of Illich’s prolonged disobedience.”  The idea is that even though the young Illich, in Hartch’s words, “often ignored rules and regulations,” and even though the later Illich trounced virtually every major modern institution in his writings, the period of the 1960’s stands out because only then did he defy the whole hierarchy of the Church.  The relevant passage is worth quoting in full:


Illich convinced himself that he knew better than one pope, then another, and then another. He knew better than the Pontifical Commission on Latin American.  He knew better than he American and Latin American bishops.  He knew better than the Second Vatican Council.  The popes and the bishops and the most important Church council since the Council of Trent were all wrong: American missionaries were so dangerous that he was justified in using any means necessary to foil their plans.


The tone here seemed to me, at first reading, almost bullying, as if the sheer number of pontiffs he was opposing should have cowed Illich into submission, but I think it does reflect a serious and substantial difference between Hartch and Illich on the question of obedience.   Hartch says that Illich, in standing against the whole hierarchy of his church,  “was flirting with the Promethean arrogance that he condemned in others.”   And yet, Illich loved the Church above all things and, more than once, spoke of himself as an obedient son.  How can this be understood?  I think the answer lies in a distinction Illich made in his conversations with New Yorker  writer Francine Du Plessix Gray between the Church as “She” and the Church as “It.”  (Gray’s profile of Illich can be found in her book 1970 Divine Disobedience)  The Church as “She” – I quoted part of this passage earlier – is “that surprise in the net, the pearl.  She is the mystery, the kingdom among us.   The identity of the Church as She will remain through whatever changes she is currently undergoing.”  The Church as It, on the other hand, is “the institution.”  “I can talk about It,” he goes on, “only in sociological terms.  I’ve never had trouble creating factions and dissent towards the Church as It.”   This quotation allows us to see, I think, why Illich did not consider himself to be in the grip of “Promethean arrogance” in opposing what he regarded as a corrupt and colonial account of mission.  He was not standing against the Church as She.  He disputed no item of faith and in no way questioned the Church’s magisterium, the Latin word by which the Roman Church designates its teaching authority.   He opposed the Church as It, arguing against its policy not its doctrine, and this is why he could take the position he did without compromising his duty of obedience.


In the final section of the book from which the above passage is drawn Hartch also reveals that he thinks he knows where Illich went wrong.  “The missing procedure in Illich’s investigations,” he says, “was a careful inquiry into the nature of mission itself.”  Then he goes further and argues that Illich betrayed his own convictions.  “Personal experience with oafish priests in Puerto Rico, Americanizing missionaries in Colombia, and indelicate Papal Volunteers in Cuernavaca led him not to deeper reflection but to setting aside or bracketing his beliefs about missions.  If questioned directly he affirmed the missionary call of the Church, but in practice he did not want to see missionary activity in Latin America.”  Now Hartch knows, and acknowledges elsewhere, that Illich conducted an extensive inquiry into the nature of missions, and left behind an inspiring record of it in several of the essays that are published in The Church, Change and Development.  So why does he say that Illich failed to carry out “a careful inquiry?”  It seems plain that he does not think that Illich carried out a careless inquiry, but rather that he was wrong.   Hartch gives two main reasons: the first is that he thinks the transmission of Christianity can occur even through the most flawed media.  African Christianity, he argues, is now a vibrant, “indigenized” faith despite its problematic colonial origins.  “Regardless of their intention, and often in direct contradiction of their intentions, he says, “missionaries can serve as catalysts of cultural revival.”  Second he thinks that ‘‘the mission field” is an irreplaceable and indispensable scene of dialogue.  The “thousands” of missionaries whom Illich drove away, in Hartch’s view, were an opportunity foregone – each one a bridge that was never crossed, a chance of greater intercultural understanding that died in its crib.  In fact, Hartch even thinks that Illich shot himself in the foot by so effectively discrediting missions because, by doing so, Illich deprived himself of the very ground on which he might have made himself understood.


The largely non-religious friends and colleagues with whom he collaborated in Germany lacked the theological background to engage the religious side of his argument, while most Christian intellectuals either could not escape the shackles of … modernity itself or lacked the cultural and historical resources to appreciate its profundity.  Only on the mission field could Illich have found his peers. [My italics]


Hartch’s disagreement with Illich, it seems to me, reproduces the perennial debate between reform and revolution.   Illich was explicitly revolutionary.  His claim may have rested on the witness of the New Testament, and the practice of the early Church, rather than some projected utopia, but it was still effectively revolutionary in the face of a Church that had become, in his words, “the world’s largest non-governmental bureaucracy.”  He called for a new, de-clericalized church, and for a practice of mission that followed the spirit of Jesus who sent his disciples out to preach and heal with the instruction “to take nothing for your journey but a staff.” (Mark 6:8)  In the absence of such changes, he saw the American church as “standing on the side of W.R. Grace and Company, Esso, the Alliance for Progress…and whatever is holy in the Western pantheon” and, therefore, as a fatally compromised source of aid for the Latin American church.


Hartch doesn’t refute these claims.  He doesn’t even dispute them.  In a sense, he simply turns away from them at the end, and declares Illich’s procedure to have been self-defeating.  This is a substantial argument, and one that Illich was often taxed with: a critique so total, his opponents said, removes any grounds for constructive action.  In the case in question, no missionaries go, the Gospel is not preached, not even badly, isolation intensifies, and Illich ends up with no one to talk to.    But this argument also overlooks something: that Illich envisioned a different way of doing things, and invited others to share his vision.  Had more than a few accepted, new paths would have opened, other encounters would have occurred, the Gospel would have been preached in a different way.   Even as it was, Illich never said, don’t come to Latin America, any more than he said, don’t preach the Gospel.  He argued that the missionary enterprise, as then imagined by a bureaucratic Church deeply entangled in American geo-political hegemony, was a Trojan horse, a poisoned gift.  If Illich was right in this view, then surely he was not wrong to follow its consequences to the lengths he did in trying to undermine this enterprise.  He never, to my knowledge, denounced or failed to recognize a true missionary.


The Prophet of Cuernavaca, as I’ve said, focuses mainly on the years of the years between 1961 and 1976, and most intensively on the years before 1969 when Illich resigned from Church service.  But Todd Hartch also tries to take the measure of Illich’s work as a whole.  One chapter called “The Grammar of Silence” begins with a letter John Holt wrote to Illich in 1971.  “I am distressed and discouraged to note,” Holt says in this letter, “how little even those people who spend many weeks or months at CIDOC understand what you are saying and how little their own lives or ways of thinking are touched by it.”  Hartch  endorses Holt’s view that Illich was not well understood and says that he finds it “surprising  that someone as intelligent as Illich…caused such confusion.”  “Many of his friends and supporters,” he goes on to say, “longed for the day when he would produce a clear, direct and simple speech or text, but he never did.”  No evidence is given for this statement, i.e. no friends or supporters are cited, and, though it’s certainly true that lots of people, at one time or another, found Illich hard to understand, I think it’s quite an exaggeration to say that his friends waited in vain for him to clarify his position.   It’s probably also worth noting in passing that, in my experience, people who said they didn’t understand Illich often actually meant that they didn’t accept his arguments. But, however that may be, what I would like to take up here is not Hartch’s claim but his explanation of it.  “The reason for this lack of lucidity,” he says “was that most of his teaching and writing had a hidden purpose.”   The term “hidden” is then supplemented, in the following pages, by a number of other equally pregnant words including “coded” and ‘camouflaged” and “obscured.”   What is being kept out of sight, of course, is Illich’s theological agenda.


I think a serious misapprehension is at work here.  One of Illich’s most sensitive and attuned interpreters, the Italian scholar Fabio Milana, has written that after his withdrawal from the church Illich’s condition was one of “exile.”  This seems true – Illich did not cease to be a priest just because he was forced to withdraw from the formal exercise of clerical functions, rather he moved into what could well be understood as missionary settings where his faith was often not intelligible on its face.  He himself told an assembly of the American Catholic Philosophical Association in 1996 that, “when speaking in Bremen or Philadelphia [i.e. in a secular setting] I felt I ought to shroud my ultimate motive in apophasy [i.e. proceeding by way of negation rather than affirmation].  I did not want to be taken for a proselytizer, a fundamentalist or worse, a Catholic theologian; I do not have that mission.”  But this discretion was something other than camouflage.  Illich sought common ground with his auditors in analyzing those institutions which modern persons most devoutly believe in – schools, hospitals, prisons, and the like.  He believed that these institutions were descendants of the Church and would have been unthinkable without the Church’s prior effort to guarantee salvation and render it punctual and reliable.  But this does not mean that his analysis was only valuable as a coded critique of the Church.  The school and the hospital are the effective forms of the Church among us – their “liturgies” are the ones that matter to us.  To understand what they do, and what they say to us about who we are, is not merely coded theology, or an allegory of church reform.  The church may have pioneered the dispensing of grace, but who now promises us “life more abundant,” if not the institutions of health and life-long learning? 


It is also important that Illich never disguised his idea that modern institutions bear the genetic signature of their church originals.  It is quite explicit in Deschooling Society where he says that the school system is “the repository of society’s myth” and performs functions “common to powerful churches through history.”  He speaks of the school as a “sacred precinct, ” a “sacred milieu,” a “drawn-out labyrinthine ritual,” and a place where “the intricate rubrics of initiation” are enacted.  This is not to deny that Illich at the end of his life said things he had never said before about what the corruption of the Church meant to him.   But he also insisted, when talking to me about these matters, that he spoke “not as a theologian, but as a believer and an historian.”   And to speak as an historian meant to recognize that “the Incarnation… represents a turning point in the history of the world for believer and unbeliever alike.  Belief refers to what exceeds history, but it also enters history and changes it forever.”  This is not the place to pursue the point further, but I do think that if Illich manifestly thought that the historian could follow the rocky road from the Incarnation to modern worship of life and health, and felt that tracing this road was his vocation as an historian, then not much is gained by calling him, against his wishes, a theologian.


The question remains: did Illich, as Hartch intimates, “stop just short of clarity”?  I obviously don’t think so.  He may have sometimes “veiled his ultimate motive”, as he told the Catholic philosophers, because he didn’t want to be misunderstood or too easily categorized as “fundamentalist…. proselytizer…or…theologian.”  But this to me does not mean he pulled his punches or obscured his meaning.  I would rather say that he tried to discern how much it was possible to say in a given setting.   This does not mean that he did not sometimes misjudge.  And it’s true that as an old man he did sometimes feel that he should have been more explicit about the faith that animated his critique.   But it is also true that his effort to make himself understood in settings where he could not presume on a shared faith produced an extraordinary and illuminating analysis of modern institutions, an analysis which is much more than encoded theology.


Todd Hartch, in his title, calls Ivan Illich a prophet.   This was a word that  Illich himself foreswore, once telling the then President of Italy, Romano Prodi, when Prodi asked him if he wasn’t engaged in “a continuation of prophecy for our time,” that “the time of prophecy lies behind us.  The only chance now lies in our taking this vocation as that of the friend.”  This is an interesting statement because it recognizes that prophecy remains a vocation – a calling – but then claims that this summons is now best answered through friendship.  Still, the word is hard to avoid when writing about Illich because prophetic is probably the most readily understandable word for the mode of clairvoyant denunciation in which Illich often writes.   My question would be whether Todd Hartch has allowed the full prophetic force of Illich’s work to reach him, or whether he has not rather tried, at certain points in his book, to have his cake and eat it too: on the one hand building up the image of Illich’s volcanic genius, on the other standing safely aside in judgment of his misguided radicalism.  I do not want to say that this ambivalence undermines the value of the work.  It doesn’t.  Hartch seems to me a fair-minded and even handed reporter when it comes to the historical record, and I am extraordinarily grateful to him for the work he has done in opening a window onto Illich’s CIF/CIDOC years.   I should say also that in his conclusion he recognizes the power and continuing pertinence of Illich’s critique of modern institutions.   More than that Hartch acknowledges that Illich “risked everything he had to present his message to the world.”  So the difference I am left with, I suppose, is that Hartch thinks that Illich, in at least one critical respect, was wrong, while I think he was right.