Borgmann, Illich on commodities, "mere means," and "Energy and Equity"

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the_platypus
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Borgmann, Illich on commodities, "mere means," and "Energy and Equity"

Post by the_platypus »

From https://link.springer.com/article/10.10 ... 0262-6#Fn7
Whereas people used to have a central fireplace which needed maintenance and the chopping of wood before winter, modern houses are heated by central heating systems, often tucked away in a closet and fed by an underground natural gas pipeline. A thermostat allows the inhabitants to easily adjust the heat and in many cases to program the system so that it is already heated up by the time they return from work. So far so good, as there seems to be little to object to getting rid of chores. The problem for Borgmann is that the fireplace used to be more than a source of heat. A fireplace was a focus, the center of the house, a place where the family gathered to interact with each other. Chopping wood was not just a way to make sure one did not freeze to death in the winter; it connected people with their surroundings, so they learned to appreciate the gifts of nature. By commodifying heat, these engaging practices were lost and a one-dimensional consumption remained. Disengaging technologies like a central heating system are called devices, as opposed to traditional things. “Commodities, in comparison with focal things, are highly reduced entities and abstract in the sense that within the overall framework of technology they are free of local and historical ties” (TCCL, p. 81). The device paradigm leads people to focus more and more on the consumption of commodities, while engagement with one’s surroundings becomes increasingly difficult.
the very notion that time is saved when not having to spend it on all kinds of chores anymore is only possible from the perspective of the device paradigm, because within this perspective, labor is seen as “mere means.” The thorough separation of means and ends makes us “exaggerate the liberating character of the transformation of work and thus cover up the concomitant cultural and social losses” (TCCL, p. 119).
Related and good and quite brief was "Energy and Equity" by Ivan Illich, found here:
https://web.archive.org/web/20151222231 ... Equity.pdf

ertyu
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Re: Borgmann, Illich on commodities, "mere means," and "Energy and Equity"

Post by ertyu »

An application of the Marxist concept of alienation. cool.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Borgmann, Illich on commodities, "mere means," and "Energy and Equity"

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Illich was an extremely interesting brilliant thinker. One note I might make is that his thoughts on “tools for conviviality” might not be unrelated to his thoughts on “gender.” He was a gay Catholic priest who lived and worked in peasant cultures. In village peasant cultures where most work is still manual, there is greater tendency towards gender division of labor performed in groups. Therefore, gender identity is much more strongly imbedded in overall lifestyle and daily routine, and as Illich wrote, not just limited to sex or sexual preference. Different variation on this theme would be evident in the patriarchal yet advanced urban Roman society.

Anyways, as an aging female who is currently very happy to have high tech battery powered light-weight tools at my disposal so that I can do my own carpentry, I don’t want to return to low tech past which would render me dependent upon those with greater upper body strength or a culture based upon such as primary energy source.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Borgmann, Illich on commodities, "mere means," and "Energy and Equity"

Post by Hristo Botev »

Well, after Texas, I for one feel a bit more secure living in a house with a wood-burning fireplace and a pile of wood outside. The fireplace serves as the gathering place for the family about once a week, and I get the pleasure of shutting off the HVAC system for the evening; and since I live in an urban setting and can't just go chop down the tree outside, building up that pile of wood forces me to build up social capital in a number of ways. And, of course, it's a great decentralized, off-the-grid back-up plan in the case of something like Texas.

Riggerjack
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Re: Borgmann, Illich on commodities, "mere means," and "Energy and Equity"

Post by Riggerjack »

@HB
If you want heat from a fireplace, enclose it in an airtight wood stove. Open fireplaces are net negative in cold weather. All that air used for feeding the fire comes from inside your heating envelope.

And since you don't live in a vacuum, that air is replaced by cold drafts, chilling your house by replacing warm air with cold air.

How much heat is radiated out from the fireplace, vs how much air goes up in flames, vs how cold the replacement air is, are the only variables in the equation (at the practical level).

Airtight wood stoves run on air piped in from outside. Thus, no drafts. The fan heats interior air, so it is a much more efficient heat source.

Fireplace inserts are made to convert your existing fireplace to an airtight wood stove.

Toska2
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Re: Borgmann, Illich on commodities, "mere means," and "Energy and Equity"

Post by Toska2 »

By replacing wood with other heating processes we exchange very small community (family) for a larger one (city). (I am implying any commodified object promotes specialization and therefore cities)

When a close tight knit family is good, its great. When a closed off family is bad, its awful. A city allows adults to find their trible, albeit a bit shallower. Then the onus is on the people to find a way to develop a deeper connection than what shared misery had provided.

the_platypus
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Re: Borgmann, Illich on commodities, "mere means," and "Energy and Equity"

Post by the_platypus »

Toska2, yes, being in a bad family situation is bad. But if you have a hearth, presumably you still have the freedom to find a new one if things are really so bad. That doesn't require moving to a city; only a divorce, perhaps.

About cities, per "Bowling Alone," television, laptops, smartphones, and now "virtual reality helmets," basically function as the focal activity destroyers.

So, yea, we can move to cities now and meet up with people with like interests; but functionally so many people are hooked on screens, that you're competing against literally every entertainment medium/work ever created.

As this paper argues, it's not enough to just have one or two isolated focal activities to live the good life:
That is to say, a few focal things^ here and there dispersed in our lives are not enough to break the pattern. We need to arrange our lives in ways that are structurally centering and orienting. Only through such an enduring commitment can the device paradigm be broken, because structural commitment would displace the consumptive activity that is characteristic of the device paradigm.
So, I just don't think, with ethernet and cable hookups ubiquitous, and with televisions/laptops/etc so cheap, that you're ever going to get any real level of community engagement again in over-developed nations, at least until they are physically forced to by energy issues.

I mean, I certainly hope it is possible in cities; I'm just not confident that any real community will ever arise like Borgmann/Illich might imagine.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Borgmann, Illich on commodities, "mere means," and "Energy and Equity"

Post by Hristo Botev »

Riggerjack wrote:
Fri Mar 05, 2021 4:57 pm
@HB
If you want heat from a fireplace, enclose it in an airtight wood stove. Open fireplaces are net negative in cold weather. All that air used for feeding the fire comes from inside your heating envelope.
Thanks @RJ. We are overdue for some pretty significant work on the fireplace/chimney, and we about the pull the trigger. But, am now thinking maybe this might make more sense; and it could end up being cheaper than the maintenance we'd planned on, because I'm thinking an airtight wood stove system would render moot several of the maintenance items on the punch list. I'll definitely look into this.

ETA: @RiggerJack: This is the kind of thing you're talking about, right? https://www.regency-fire.com/en/Product ... od-Inserts

Riggerjack
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Re: Borgmann, Illich on commodities, "mere means," and "Energy and Equity"

Post by Riggerjack »

@ hb

Yes.

Home air is circulated in tubes around the firebox, heated, and vented back indoors. Combustion air comes from outside, no draftiness.

Usually, there is an internal chimney liner run up your existing chimney, so maintenance is minimal. During installation, get the installer to walk you through cleaning, and chimney sweeping. Then tool up if it's something you want to do. I strongly prefer to sweep my own chimney, rather than hire it out. Less time, less hassle. But your install could be less user friendly than mine.

But back on the subject of the thread, the linked article in the OP was pretty good. My derailing was just that. Sorry folks.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Borgmann, Illich on commodities, "mere means," and "Energy and Equity"

Post by Hristo Botev »

Riggerjack wrote:
Mon Mar 15, 2021 11:45 am
But back on the subject of the thread, the linked article in the OP was pretty good. My derailing was just that. Sorry folks.
You're just turning the theoretical into the practical! (And isn't that kinda the point of ERE anyway?)

Riggerjack
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Re: Borgmann, Illich on commodities, "mere means," and "Energy and Equity"

Post by Riggerjack »

Well, my point, while a practical response to your post, was at best tangential to the posted article.

I didn't want other readers to be distracted from the link by my ramblings.

I tend to derail threads, (as I wander down side paths, often only of interest to me...) and I was trying to avoid that, here.

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