These two men had different opinions on capitalism. I thought Ivan Illich was an anarchist. But I thought Dr. Berger believed that socialism was a myth. I read that they disagreed on capitalism. How did they differ?


1 Answer 1


One way that Peter L. Berger and Ivan Illich might have disagreed about capitalism is to consider their different approaches to the changes that capitalism brings.

Peter L. Berger's remarks:

It follows that to opt for capitalism is not to opt for inequality at the price of growth; rather, it is to opt for an accelerating transformation of society. This undoubtedly produces tensions and exacts costs, but one must ask whether these are likely to be greater than the tensions and costs engendered by socialist stagnation.

For Berger capitalism accelerates the transformation of society and is more egalitarian than socialism.

Ivan Illich warns about this very transformation:

In these essays I will show that the institutionalization of values leads inevitably to physical pollution, social polarization, and psychological impotence: three dimensions in a process of global degradation and modernized misery.

Although Berger is concerned about inequility, Illich's concerns go beyond inequilaty and direct attention to "modernized misery" not just for the poor, but for all of us.

Another way to view this, Berger suggests that capitalism better helps the poor adjust to the transformations it brings to society. Illich would argue against the transformations (not capitalism as such) so the poor do not need to be helped.

Berger, P. L. "Capitalism: The Continuing Revolution" August, 1991. Retrieved on April 22, 2019 from First Things at https://www.firstthings.com/article/1991/08/004-capitalism-the-continuing-revolution

Illich, I. (1971). Deschooling society.

  • 1
    Good answer, and I would add that Berger believed that minimal interference in the progression of history was ideal. That there is a kind of 'natural order of things', and if you try to correct it too quickly it's usually more disruptive than helpful, which is what we saw in Soviet Russia. IOW, our societies are more static than dynamic, and far less malleable than usually believed.
    – Cdn_Dev
    Jul 25, 2019 at 0:58

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