A central aspect of degrowth-narratives is a postulated incommensurability between an infinitely expanding economic process and “limits” – in particular absolute, material limits. However, the recourse to such limits within the contemporary degrowth-debate is criticized by Onofrio Romano for failing to transcend the logic of “life for life’s sake” that expresses the very “neutralist” heart of the growth-process under critique. Accepting the basic elements of Romano’s critique rather than the full scope of his argument, this paper conducts an exploration of the concept of “limit”. What is a limit, what gives it to be as it is, and what prevents a politic oriented towards it? The paper explores how these questions can be answered through the works of Ivan Illich, for whom limits were given by the unpredictable “good” that uniquely fits a given situation. Such “fits” set limits for the teleological orientation of an activity. The term indicates a formal shape for the “good” in a way which is inconceivable for dominant paradigms of thought. Where Illich finds the reasons for the contemporary absence of limits in a perversion of the Christian gospel, this paper invites another interlocutor: Martin Heidegger, who like Illich criticized what he called a “metaphysics of value”. It is suggested that where Illich is better able to identify the “unlimited” as a historical reality, Heidegger provides ways for seeing how the sort of thinking that could orientate itself towards “fits” are precluded. Together, these thinkers might help us formulate a thinking, in the present, that would escape the despotism of the limitless, and find itself free to its fitting limits.
This media entry was a contribution to the special session „On the Limit with Ivan Illich“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.