Discussions of the concept of conviviality often refer back to Ivan Illich (1973), whose work has been revitalised in recent years. Each interpretation highlights his emphasis on ecological and social interdependency. Illich used the term conviviality to mean the opposite of capitalist industrial productivity, whereby consumers are alienated from the processes of production, from each other and from the environment around them. A convivial society instead prioritises autonomy, decentralisation, local production, abundance, collaboration and technologies that support ecological balance.
As we watch the effects of climate threatening or communities, we see the consequences of separating out an environment that is around us rather than an integral part of us. When our social and ecological relationships are convivial, we build together deeply interconnected, thriving places – given human meaning through naming and narrative. In turn, the convivial sharing of stories helps people to recognise, celebrate, and reinforce the interdependencies that are so important for sustaining life.
Collective work and action, coordinated to places of genuine disruption to the workings of capitalism, sustained by the bonds of convivial community, resourced by culture and creativity: this is what has transformative potential.