Deschooling Society — Emile Bojesen

In 1971 Ivan Illich published his most influential book, Deschooling Society. For Illich, ‘deschooled society’ should be based on an entirely ‘new approach to incidental or informal education’, rather than relying only on ‘new formal mechanisms for the formal acquisition of skills and their educational use’.1 He explicitly differentiates his vision from one which only looks backwards ‘to the forms which learning took in the village or the medieval town.’2 Instead of the ‘concentric circles of meaningful structures’ experienced in ‘traditional society’, meaning in modern society is to be found ‘in many structures to which [individuals are] only marginally related.’3

For Illich, the educational revolution should be guided by certain goals: the liberation of: ‘access to things by abolishing the control which persons and institutions now exercise over their educational values’; ‘the sharing of skills by guaranteeing freedom to teach or exercise them on request’; ‘the critical and creative resources of people by returning to individual persons the ability to call and hold meetings’; and, ‘the individual from the obligation to shape his expectations to the services offered by any established profession’.4 

The dominant logic of education that Illich critiqued is more prevalent than ever – but so too is the proliferation of educational alternatives. These pieces are a small attempt to broaden the reach of this 50 year old book towards structures to which it has so far remained only marginally related. They are an attempt to continue to imagine a deschooled society.

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1 Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society (London: Marion Boyars, 1971), 22.
2 Ibid., 22.
3 Ibid., 22.
4 Ibid., 103.


Emile Bojesen has recently released the album, Ice (Geräuschmanufaktur, 2021), and is the author of Forms of Education: Rethinking Educational Experience Against and Outside the Humanist Legacy (Routledge, 2020).

The video for Deschooling Society was produced by Ansgar Allen.