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 Jacques Ellul - The Betrayal by Technology

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PostSubject: Jacques Ellul - The Betrayal by Technology   Jacques Ellul - The Betrayal by Technology EmptyTue 24 Nov 2009, 8:32 pm

Just wanted to drop this rare interview with the well regarded, but sadly now mostly neglected, thinker Jacques Ellul. Many here may already be familiar with his work, but if not the requisite Wiki page will do the honours. It's a decent synopsis:


Ellul's prime thesis was the treatment of what he termed "la technique," which he also described thus:

"All-embracing technique is in fact the consciousness of the mechanized world."

Ellul saw that technical application, to his mind, was becoming an entity in it's own right and an end in itself, rather than a means to an end. Inherently destructive as an application while possessing the pretence of an ameliorate.

I guess I'll thrown a brief intro into the mix too: Hi. Username is Extant. Hope to have some useful and constructive conversations here with you all.
There. Done. Jacques Ellul - The Betrayal by Technology Icon_smile

Can't embed this here, so link to follow instead:

The Betrayal by Technology

Some excerpts from his magnum opus, The Technological Society:

Definition of technique:

Quote :
"In our technological society, technique is the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency (for a given state of development) in every field of human activity."

Quote :
"Machine and Technique

All-embracing technique is in fact the consciousness of the mechanized world.
Technique integrates everything. It avoids shock and sensational events. Man is not adapted to a world of steel , technique adapts him to it. It changes the arrangement of this blind world so that man can be a part of it without colliding with its rough edges, without the anguish of being delivered up to the inhuman. Technique thus provides a model, it specifies attitudes that are valid once and for all. The anixiety aroused in man is soothed by the consoling hum of a unified society

Quote :
"Human Techniques


Modification of the Milieu and Space

Technique has penetrated the deepest recesses of the human being. The machine tends not only to create a new human environment, but also to modify man's very essence. The milieu in which he lives is no longer his. He must adapt himself, as though the world were new, to a universe for which he was not created.
He was made to go six kilometres an hour, and he goes a thousand. He was made to eat when he was hungry and go to sleep when he was sleepy, instead, he obeys a clock. He was made to have contact with living things, and he lives in a world of stone. He was created with a certain essential unity, and he is fragmented by all the forces of the modern world.

Quote :

"He [man] has been liberated little by little from physical constraints, but he is all the more the slave of abstract ones."

Quote :
"Human Techniques


Techniques, Men, and Man

Here ends the long encirclement of men by technique. It is not the result of a plot or plan by any one man or any group or men who direct it or shunt it in new directions. The technical phenomenon is impersonal, and in following its course we have found it is directed toward man. In investigating its loci, we find man himself. This man is not the man in the mirror. Nor is it the man next door or the man in the street.
Proceeding at its own tempo, technique analyzes its objects so that it can reconstitute them, in the case of man, it has analyzed him and synthesized a hitherto unknown being.


Quote :
"There is also the technique of a more or less spiritual order, which we call magic.
It may seem questionable; nevertheless, magic is a technique in the strictest sense of the word, as has been clearly demonstrated by Marcel Mauss. Magic developed along with other techniques as an expression of man's will to obtain results of a spiritual order. To attain them , man made use of an aggregate of rites, formulas, and procedures which, once established, do not vary. Strict adherence to form is one of the characteristics of magic: forms and rituals, masks which never vary, the same kind of prayer wheels, the same ingredients for mystic drugs, for formulae of divination, and so on. All these become set and were passed on: the slightest variation in word or gesture would alter the magical equilibrium.

There is a relationship between the ready-made formula and a precise result. The gods being propitiated obey such an invocation out of necessity; all the more reason that they be given no opportunity to escape compliance because the invocation is not correctly formulated. This fixity is a manifestation of the technical character of magic: when the best possible means of obtaining a result has been found, why change it? Every magical means, in the eyes of the person who uses it, is the most efficient one.

In the spiritual realm, magic displays all the characteristics of a technique. It is the mediator between man and "the higher powers," just as other techniques mediate between man and matter. It leads to efficacy because it subordinates the power of the gods to men, and it secures a predetermined result. It affirms human power in that it seeks to subordinate gods to men, just as technique serves to cause nature to obey."

Quote :
"Masson-Oursel... shows that magic is basically a 'scholasticism of efficiency.'"

Quote :
"Masson-Oursel rightly believes that magic preceeded technique - in fact, that magic is the first expression of technique."

p. 376 - 377

Human Techniques - Propaganda: Amusement

Quote :
"The man of the technical society does not want to encounter his phantom. He resents being torn between the extremes of accident and technical absolutism. He dreads the knowledge that everything ends "six feet under." He could accept the six-feet-under of his life if, and only if, life had some meaning and he could choose, say, to die. But when nothing makes sense, when nothing is the result of free choice, the final six-feet-under is an abominable injustice. Technical civilization has made a great error in not suppressing death, the only human reality left intact.

Man is still capable of lucid moments about the future. Propaganda techniques have not been able wholly to convince him that life has any meaning left. But amusement techniques have jumped into the breach and taught him at least how to flee the presence of death. He no longer needs faith or some difficult asceticism to deaden himself to his condition. The movies and television lead him into straight into an artificial paradise. Rather than face his own phantom , he seeks film phantoms into which he can project himself and which permit him to live as he might have willed. For an hour or two he can cease to be himself, as his personality dissolves and fades into the anonymous mass of spectators. The film makes him laugh, cry, wonder, and love. He goes to bed with the leading lady, kills the villain, and masters life's absurdities. In short, he becomes a hero. Life suddenly has meaning.

The theater presupposed an intellectual mechanism and left the spectator in some sense intact and capable of judgement. The motion picture by means of its "reality" integrates the spectator so completely that an uncommon spiritual force or psychological education is necessary to resist its pressures. In any case, people go to the movies to escape and consequently yield to its pressures. They find forgetfulness, and in forgetfulness the honied freedom they do not find in their work or at home. They live on screen a life they will never liver in fact.

It will be said that dreams and hope have been the traditional means of escape in times of famine and persecution. But today there is not hope, and the dream is no longer the personal act of an individual who freely chooses to flee some "reality" or other. It is a mass phenomenon of millions of men who desire to help themselves to a slice of life, freedom, and immortality. Seperated from his essence, like a snail deprived of it shell, man is only a blob of plastic matter modeled after the moving images.

The Characterology of Technique - Police & Propaganda

Quote :
Another example is the police. The police have perfected to an unheard of degree technical methods both of research and of action. Everyone is delighted with this development because it would seem to guarantee an increasingly efficient protection against criminals. Let us put aside for the moment the problem of police corruption and concentrate on the technical apparatus, which, as I have noted, is becoming extremely precise. Will this apparatus be ap­plied only to criminals? We know that this is not the case; and we are tempted to react by saying that it is the state which applies this technical apparatus without discrimination. But there is an error of perspective here. The instrument tends to be applied everywhere it can be applied. It functions without discrimination—because it exists without discrimination. The techniques of the police, which are developing at an extremely rapid tempo, have as their neces­sary end the transformation of the entire nation into a concentra­tion camp. This is no perverse decision on the part of some party or government. To be sure of apprehending criminals, it is necessary that everyone be supervised. It is necessary to know exactly what every citizen is up to, to know his relations, his amusements, etc. And the state is increasingly in a position to know these things.

This does not imply a reign of terror or of arbitrary arrests. The best technique is one which makes itself felt the least and which represents the least burden. But every citizen must be thoroughly known to the police and must live under conditions of discreet surveillance. All this results from the perfection of technical meth­ods.
The police cannot attain technical perfection unless they have total control. And, as Ernst Kohn-Bramstedt has remarked, this total control has both an objective and a subjective side. Sub­jectively, control satisfies the desire for power and certain sadistic tendencies. But the subjective aspect is not the dominant one. It is not the major aspect, the expression of what is to come. In reality, the objective aspect of control—more and more, that is to say, the pure technique which creates a milieu, an atmosphere, an environ­ment, and even a model of behavior in social relations—dominates more and more. The police must move in the direction of anticipating and forestalling crime. Eventually intervention will be useless. This state of affairs can come about in two ways: first, by constant surveillance, to the end that noxious intentions be known in advance and the police be able to act before the premeditated crime takes place; second, by the climate of social conformity which we have mentioned. This goal presupposes the paternal surveillance of every citizen and, in addition, the closest possible tie-in with all other techniques—administrative, organizational, and psychological. The technique of police control has value only if the police are in close contact with the trade unions and the schools. In particular, it is allied with propaganda. Wherever the phenomenon is observed, this connection exists. Propaganda itself cannot be efficient unless it brings into play the whole state organization, and particularly the police power. Conversely, police power is a genuine technique only when it is supplemented by propaganda, which plays a leading role in the psychological environment necessary to the completeness of the police power. But propaganda must also teach acceptance of what the police power is and what it can do. It must make the police power palatable, justify its actions, and give it its psychosociological structure among the masses of the people.

All this is equally true for dictatorial regimes in which police and propaganda concentrate on terror, and for democratic regimes in which the motion pictures, for example, show the good offices of the police and
procure it the friendly feeling of the public. The vicious circle mentioned by Ernst Kohn-Bramstedt ( past terror accentuates present propaganda, and present propaganda paves the way for future terror) is as true of democratic as of dictatorial regimes, if the term terror is replaced by efficiency.
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PostSubject: Re: Jacques Ellul - The Betrayal by Technology   Jacques Ellul - The Betrayal by Technology EmptyTue 24 Nov 2009, 8:44 pm

Welcome Extant. Great 1st Post. I think you'll find some real Ellul fans here. Please feel free to post away! Smile

I was able to post the video here by grabbing some of the embed code and posting as a flash link (see code below video).

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PostSubject: Re: Jacques Ellul - The Betrayal by Technology   Jacques Ellul - The Betrayal by Technology EmptyTue 24 Nov 2009, 9:23 pm

Right. Very good. Thanks for the welcome. I'll include the following piece which I wrote for my blog, as it concerns Ellul's thought in relation to transhumanism.

Jacques Ellul and the Consciousness of the Mechanized World

I would have posted it all here, but having previewed a portion of copy and paste it's come out rather confused and full of code. Don't want to it look like I'm trying to direct traffic to my blog in only my second post, but I couldn't seem to transfer the blog post properly. I'll have to get used to the forum software here, it "reacts" differently to other forums I've been on. Jacques Ellul - The Betrayal by Technology Icon_cool
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Silent Wind

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PostSubject: Re: Jacques Ellul - The Betrayal by Technology   Jacques Ellul - The Betrayal by Technology EmptySat 26 Dec 2009, 2:48 am

This whole documentary was excellent thanks for posting.

Couple of quick things that caught my attention:

1. The sacredness of technology as presented by the media. As Ellul stated when someone burns a car the media will portary it as some sacrilege has been done, however when someone burns or cuts down a tree it is hardly even noticed. The sacred has been taken over by technology. To even consider slowing down on technology to most people knowadays would be considered foolish and they wouldn't hear or think of it. It would be considered sacriligeous for me to go outside and bust my 40 inch LCD on the sidewalk in front of the highway in front of my house. People would look at me and think I was nuts, I would have performed a sacriligious act. If the news caught this by mere chance, would portray it as a dreadful act.

2. The who to blame aspect. He makes it abundantly clear that we are all to blame for our current state of affairs, not wholly politicians, not wholly CEOs, wholly police, etc... As a visitor of many different places I have come across, it seems that few would care to take their part of the blame in all of the madness going on in the world. I don't mean here at WWWS forums but other places. The participants at WWWS are very intelligent and are grasping as I or have grasped how the simulacra has dupped them and what part throughout their lives they have played in it. That is why we are here though.

This was an excellent video and for all those who haven't seen it yet.
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PostSubject: Re: Jacques Ellul - The Betrayal by Technology   Jacques Ellul - The Betrayal by Technology EmptySat 26 Dec 2009, 6:52 am

stilltrying wrote:
This whole documentary was excellent thanks for posting.

Couple of quick things that caught my attention:

1. The sacredness of technology as presented by the media. As Ellul stated when someone burns a car the media will portary it as some sacrilege has been done, however when someone burns or cuts down a tree it is hardly even noticed. The sacred has been taken over by technology. To even consider slowing down on technology to most people knowadays would be considered foolish and they wouldn't hear or think of it. It would be considered sacriligeous for me to go outside and bust my 40 inch LCD on the sidewalk in front of the highway in front of my house. People would look at me and think I was nuts, I would have performed a sacriligious act. If the news caught this by mere chance, would portray it as a dreadful act.

Yes, that still amazes me though it is rather blatantly obvious in our society. I clearly notice this attitude when I go onto the subject of the downsides of techonology in conversation with friends or family. They look at me askance.
As if I've suggested something absolutely unthinkable.
"Downsides to technology? What downsides!?!" is the sort of reaction I get.
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PostSubject: Re: Jacques Ellul - The Betrayal by Technology   Jacques Ellul - The Betrayal by Technology EmptySat 26 Dec 2009, 9:13 pm

And then there are the ubiquitous Cell Phones....Aargh!! Rolling Eyes
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PostSubject: Re: Jacques Ellul - The Betrayal by Technology   Jacques Ellul - The Betrayal by Technology EmptyMon 18 Jan 2010, 2:57 am



Ellul: One of my best friends is a very competent? was a
very competent surgeon. During a discussion in which he
participated, about the problems of technology and
progress, someone said to him: "You, as a surgeon,
surely know everything about the progress in surgery?"

He gave a humorous reply, as always: "I am certainly
aware of the progress in the medical field. But just ask
yourself the following question: currently, we carry out
heart transplants, liver transplant and kidney
transplants. But where do those kidneys, that heart and
those lungs come from, in fact? They must be healthy
organs. Not affected by an illness or the like.
Moreover, they must be fresh. In fact, there is just one
source: traffic accidents. So, to carry out more
operations, we need more traffic accidents. If we make
traffic safer, fewer of those wonderful operations will
carried out."

Of course, everyone was rather astonished and also
somewhat shocked. It was very humorous, but it was also
a real question.

* * *

/"Technology with a ?T' is not concrete like a machine
or electricity. The technology phenomenon has become
detached from the machine." ? Jacques Ellul/

* * *

Ellul: One of the illusions which some try to put across
to people today is to get them to believe that
technology makes them more free. If you just use enough
technical aids you will be freer.

Free to do what? Free to eat nice things. That's true,
if you have money, that is. Free to buy a car so that
you can travel. You can go all the way to the other side
of the world. To Tahiti. So you see: technology brings
freedom. We can acquire knowledge in the whole world.
That's fantastic. So a world of freedom is open to us.
Just to give a small example in connection of the use of

As soon as the holidays begin, three million Parisians
decide independently to one another to head for the
Mediterranean in their cars. Three million people all
decide to do the same thing. So then I ask myself if the
car really brings us much freedom. Those people haven't
given it a moment's thought that they are, in fact,
completely determined by technology and the life they
lead. That, in fact, they form a mass. A coherent whole.

* * *

In a society such as ours, it is almost impossible for a
person to be responsible. A simple example: a dam has
been built somewhere, and it bursts. Who is responsible
for that? Geologists worked out. They examined the
terrain. Engineers drew up the construction plans.
Workmen constructed it. And the politicians decided that
the dam had to be in that spot. Who is responsible? No
one. There is never anyone responsible. Anywhere. In the
whole of our technological society the work is so
fragmented and broken up into small pieces that no one
is responsible. But no one is free either. Everyone has
his own, specific task. And that's all he has to do.

Just consider, for example, that atrocious excuse? It
was one of the most horrible things I have ever heard.
The person in charge of the concentration camp
Bergen-Belsen was asked, during the Auschwitz trial? the
Nuremburg trials regarding Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen:
"But didn't find you it horrible? All those corpses?" He
replied: "What could I do? The capacity of the ovens was
too small. I couldn't process all those corpses. It
caused me many problems. I had no time to think about
those people. I was too busy with that technical problem
of my ovens." That was the classic example of an
irresponsible person. He carries out his technical task
he's not interested in anything else.

* * *

In a so-called traditional society such as, for example,
Western society in the Middle Ages, technology is
controlled by certain rules. Religious rules, for
example. In certain civilizations it was, for example,
forbidden to work the ground with iron tools. For the
earth was considered as mother and you weren't allowed
to hurt her in any way with hard tools. That was a rule.
For similar reasons the Egyptians didn't used no wheels.
The Hyksos had long known about the wheel. So had the
Egyptians. But they didn't use it, because it looked
like a zodiac. And mortals were not allowed to use
zodiac for material purposes.

To be honest, I don't think that the technology of the
past is comparable with the technology of the present.
In the past technology was a means of achieving a
certain aim. Whether that aim was a sculpture or
agriculture or hunting, was not important. The
technologies used were relatively stabile. They remained
more or less the same, and were sometimes very
ingenious. The hunting techniques of the Bushmen, for
example, were very ingenious. They were incredibly
skilled in killing elephants. So their techniques were
very clever. But without that element of excessiveness
which is a characteristic of technology today.

They were technologies passed on from generation to
generation, changing very little. We know, on the basis
of the development of technology in Roman times and the
Middle Ages that it took a century before technology was
changed. Of course, the technology had certain
efficiency. But that was fully compensated for by

In the Middle Ages there were religious rules, partly
Christian, partly derived from popular belief which
related to works and similar matters. And those rules
were more important than equipment or tolls. But
sometime during the fourteenth or fifteenth century
people in the Western world began questioning
everything. All the existing certainties and convictions
were cast overboard. The concept of tradition was under
review. That's very important. In the past, everything
was based on tradition. And suddenly, for example in
France in the fifteenth century all traditions were
thrown overboard. They were suddenly no longer
important. The old values and customs were obsolete.
Suddenly, everyone feels free to do what he wants. And
at the same time, in the field of science a number of
"truths", let's say, were discovered, which undermined
the existing convictions. Also dating from that time was
the discussion about whether the earth was the centre of
the universe. All very typical.

* * *

I think that's indeed our greatest tragedy and our
greatest sin. We entered those societies with the idea
that those people were savages. That they almost weren't
human. We didn't realize that there could be well some
truth concealed in their concepts. Two examples:

To start with, we gave the impression that we used all
the riches of those countries. But then only from our
own industrial point of view. So we destroyed the
traditional agriculture and replaced it with what we
called "industrial" agriculture. That is, peanuts for
making oil, coca beans, sugar cane, and so on. And at
the same time we forced the members of those societies
to obey their conquerors. For contacts were only
possible after you had first conquered them. And we
always won, because we were much more advanced

Many fundamental things were destroyed at that time.
Things which are necessary in order to be able to live.
Where do we come from? What is the point of living?
Those people had found an answer to those questions. And
we didn't have the right to destroy that answer. We
destroyed their social structures and also the whole
system of their philosophy of life. Their conceptions of
the world and the universe.

* * *

What is sacred in one society is not always sacred in
another. But people have always respected sacred
matters. And if there was a force which destroyed those
sacred matters, those elements regarded as sacred in
certain society, then this new force was revered and
respected by the people. For it was clearly stronger. So
there was a new thing that was more sacred than the old

What is now so awful in our society is that technology
has destroyed everything which people ever considered
sacred. For example, nature. People have voluntarily
moved to an acceptance of technology as something
sacred. That is really awful. In the past, the sacred
things always derived from nature. Currently, nature has
been completely desecrated and we consider technology as
something sacred. Think, for example, on the fuss
whenever a demonstration is held. Everyone is then
always very shocked if a car is set on fire. For then a
sacred object is destroyed.

* * *

That is one the basic rules of technology. Without a
doubt. Every technological step forward has its price.
Human happiness has its price. We must always ask
ourselves what price we have to pay for something. We
only have to consider the following example. When Hitler
came to power everyone considered the Germans mad.
Nearly all the Germans supported him. Of course. He
brought an end to unemployment. He improved the position
of the mark. He created a surge in economic growth. How
can a badly informed population, seeing all these
economic miracles, be against him? They only had to ask
the question: What will it cost us? What price do we
have to pay for this economic progress, for the strong
position of the mark and for employment? What will that
cost us? Then they would have realized that the cost
would be very high. But this is typical for modern
society. Yet this question will always be asked in
traditional societies. In such societies people ask: If
by doing this I disturb the order of things what will be
the cost for me?

Wisdom does not come from intellectual reflection. It is
achieved in a long process of transfer from generation
to generation. (It is) An accumulation of experiences in
direct relationship with the natural social climate.
Nature served as an example for us. We must divest
ourselves of all that. For in a technological society
traditional human wisdom is not taken seriously.

* * *

Technology also obliges us to live more and more
quickly. Inner reflection is replaced by reflex.
Reflection means that, after I have undergone an
experience, I think about that experience. In the case
of a reflex you know immediately what you must do in a
certain situation. Without thinking. Technology requires
us no longer to think about the things. If you are
driving a car at 150 kilometers an hour and you think
you'll have an accident. Everything depends on reflexes.
The only thing technology requires us is: Don't think
about it. Use your reflexes.

* * *

Because of its efficiency technology leads to more
power. But also to more risks. For efficiency is
everything. All else is peripheral. Including risks,
therefore. But in the case of more power and greater
risks people themselves must change, too. They must be
sufficiently independent to control that power and
perhaps not to use it fully. And they must try to avoid
risks. So it is necessary for people to change quickly
so that they can apply the technology in the proper way,
not simply efficiently. That is why something must
change. As the French philosopher Bergson said long ago,
in 1930's: The more power people have the greater
strength of mind they need. There must be a kind of
refinement. But if people think only of one thing,
namely power, and they are given control over means of
power they will use that power as quickly as possible
without even thinking about it.

* * *

Technology will not tolerate any judgment being passed
on it. Or rather: technologists do not easily tolerate
people expressing an ethical or moral judgment on what
they do. But the expression of ethical, moral and
spiritual judgments is actually the highest freedom of
mankind. So I am robbed of my highest freedom. So
whatever I say about technology and the technologists
themselves is of no importance to them. It won't deter
them from what they are doing. They are now set in their
course. They are so conditioned. For a technologist is
not free. He is conditioned. By his training, by his
experiences and by the objective which he must reach. He
is not free in the execution of his task. He does what
technology demands of him. That's why I think freedom
and technology contradict one another.

* * *

Human technology is created from the moment that it is
felt that people are unhappy. City dwellers, for
example, live in a completely dead environment. Cities
consist of brick, cement, concrete, and so on. People
cannot be happy in such an environment. So they suffer
psychological problems. Mainly as a result of their
social climate but also as a result of the speed at
which they are forced to live. Yet man is specifically
suited for living amidst nature. So man becomes mentally
ill. And for the relief of those psychological illnesses
there is human technology, just as there is medical
technology. But human technology must enable man to live
in an unnatural environment. As in the case of deep sea
diving. Divers have a deep sea diving suit and oxygen
cylinders in order to survive in an abnormal
environment. Human technology is just like that.

I know many people who like watching commercials because
they're so funny. They provide relaxation and diversion.
People come home after a day's work, from which they
derive little satisfaction, and feel the need for
diversion and amusement. The word diversion itself is
already very significant. When Pascal uses the word
diversion he means that people who follow the path of
God deviate from the path which leads them to God as a
result of diversion and amusement. Instead of thinking
of God, they amuse themselves. So, instead of thinking
about the problems which have been created by technology
and our work we want to amuse ourselves. And that
amusement is supplied to us by means of technology. But
by means of technology which derives from human
technology. For example, in a work situation people are
offered the diversion which must serve as compensation.

The media era is also the era of loneliness. That's a
very important fact. We can also see that in the young.
In 1953 you had the so called "rebels without a cause".
Students who revolted in Stockholm. That was the first
revolt of the young rebels without a cause. They had
everything. They were happy. They lived in a nice
society. They lacked nothing. And suddenly, on New
Year's Eve, they took to the streets and destroyed
everything. No one could understand it. But they needed
something different from consumption and technology.

If people lose their motive for living two things can
happen. It only seldom happens that they can accept that
fact. In that case, they develop suicidal tendencies.
Usually, either they try to find refuge in diversion.
We've already discussed this. Or they become depressed
and begin swallowing medicines. So if people become
aware of their situation they react to it as usually
happens in Western society: they become depressed and
discouraged. So they just don't think about their
situation and simply carry on. They drive faster and
faster. Never mind where, as long as it's fast.

* * *

Because of our technology, we now have a world in which
the situation of mankind has totally changed. What I
mean by that is: mankind in the technological world is
prepared to give up his independence in exchange for all
kinds of facilities and in exchange for consumer
products and a certain security. In short, in exchange
for a package of welfare provisions offered to him by
society. As I was thinking about that I couldn't help
recalling the story in the Bible about Esau and the
lentil broth. Esau, who is hungry, is prepared to give
up the blessings and promise of God in exchange for some
lentil broth. In the same way, modern people are
prepared to give up their independence in exchange for
some technological lentils. The point is simply that
Esau made an extremely unfavorable exchange and that the
person who gives up his position of independence lets
himself be badly duped too, by the technological
society. It boils down to the fact that he gives up his
independence in exchange for a number of lies. He
doesn't realize that he is manipulated in his choice.
That he is changed internally by advertisements, by the
media and so on. And when you think that manipulator,
the author of advertisements or propaganda is himself
manipulated, then you cannot point to one culprit as
being responsible. It is neither the advertiser nor his
poor public. We are all responsible, to the same extent.

* * *

(In Ellul's library)

These are all books on Karl Marx. Marx, socialism, and
so on.

Those are books which I use continually.

Those are mainly poetry books.

And those are my dictionaries and so on.

I always have my poetry books within arm's reach. I read
a lot of poetry while I work.

Those are books on the sociology of technology.

And those are books on theology.

When I write a book, I always have a tape recorder handy
and a record player which is always on. For virtually
every book I select a certain record which I listen to
all the time. That's very? A book is associated with
certain music, and inspired by it.

* * *

Right from the start I have often been sharply
criticized in the United States, for example, for
allegedly being a Calvinist. And a Calvinist is
pessimistic, and so on. But I'm not a Calvinist at all.
They haven't understood anything of my theology, but it
doesn't matter.

But what does matter is that pessimism in a society such
as ours can only lead to suicide. That's why you must be
optimistic. You must spend your holiday in Disneyland.
Then you are a real optimist. With all that you see
there you no longer have to think about anything else.
In other words, those who accuse me of pessimism are in
fact saying to me: You prevent people from being able to
sleep peacefully. So if you let everything to take its
course, never interfere, and you just go to sleep
peacefully, all will end well.

I would certainly not want my words to be too
pessimistic and too inaccessible. And I would like to
explain that people are still people a bit ? notice I
say a bit ? and they still have human needs; and they
can still feel love and pity, and feelings of friendship.

The question now is whether people are prepared or not
to realize that they are dominated by technology. And to
realize that technology oppresses them, forces them to
undertake certain obligations and conditions them. Their
freedom begins when they become conscious of these
things. For when we become conscious of that which
determines our life we attain the highest degree of
freedom. I must make sure that I can analyze it just as
I can analyze a stone or any other object, that I can
analyze it and fathom it from all angles. As soon as I
can break down this whole technological system into its
smallest components my freedom begins. But I also know
that, at the same time, I'm dominated by technology. So
I don't say, "I'm so strong that technology has no hold
on me". Of course technology has hold on me. I know that
very well. Just take? a telephone, for example, which I
use all the time. I'm continually benefiting from

So we can ask ourselves whether there is really any
sense in all this to be investigated. But the search for
it cannot be a strictly intellectual activity. The
search for sense implies that we must have a radical
discussion of modern life. In order to rediscover a
sense, we must discuss everything which has no sense. We
are surrounded by objects which are, it is true,
efficient but are absolutely pointless. A work of art,
on the other hand, has sense in various ways or it calls
up in me a feeling or an emotion whereby my life
acquires sense. That is not the case with a
technological product.

And on the other hand we have the obligation to
rediscover certain fundamental truths which have
disappeared because of technology. We can also call
these truths values ? important, actual values which
ensure that people experience their lives as having
sense. In other words, as soon as the moment arrives,
when I think that the situation is really dangerous, I
can't do anymore with purely technological means. Then I
must employ all my human and intellectual capacities and
all my relationships with others to create a
counterbalance. That means that when I think that a
disaster threatens and that developments threaten to
lead to a destiny for mankind, as I wrote concerning the
development of technology, I, as a member of mankind,
must resist and must refuse to accept that destiny. And
at that moment we end up doing what mankind has always
done at a moment when destiny threatens. Just think of
all those Greek tragedies in which mankind stands up
against the destiny and says: No, I want mankind to
survive; and I want freedom to survive.

At such a moment, you must continue to cherish hope, but
not the hope that you will achieve a quick victory and
even less the hope that we face an easy struggle. We
must be convinced that we will carry on fulfilling our
role as people. In fact, it is not an insuperable
situation. There is no destiny that we cannot overcome.
You must simply have valid reasons for joining in the
struggle. You need a strong conviction. You must really
want people to remain, ultimately, people.

This struggle against the destiny of technology has been
undertaken by us by means of small scale actions. We
must continue with small groups of people who know one
another. It will not be any big mass of people or any
big unions or big political parties who will manage to
stop this development.

What I have just said doesn't sound very efficient, of
course. When we oppose things which are too efficient we
mustn't try to be even more efficient. For that will not
turn out to be the most efficient way.

But we must continue to hope that mankind will not die
out and will go on passing on truths from generation to
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