The Technological Society

The Technological Society He goes through one human activity after another and shows how it has been technicized rendered efficient and diminished in the process Harper s Magazine

  • Title: The Technological Society
  • Author: Jacques Ellul Robert K. Merton
  • ISBN: 9780394703909
  • Page: 450
  • Format: Paperback
  • He goes through one human activity after another and shows how it has been technicized, rendered efficient, and diminished in the process Harper s Magazine

    859 Comment

    • Brian says:

      This book is another truly remarkable exposition of the relation between technology and society, along with Mumford's, Pentagon of Power. This book, as with the latter, goes far beyond a mere criticism of technologies. It examines the nature of Technique, which is the collective organization of a society mediated and, in the end, increasingly driven by technology. The ideology of efficiency which drives technologies becomes incorporated into every aspect of the social structure.This book is much [...]

    • Andrew says:

      OK, first of all, I have to agree with quite a few of Ellul's specific observations about how technology molds the human spirit. That being said, he commits a few intellectual sins I am loathe to forgive. Firstly, to write about something as concrete as technology in terms as inductive as Ellul's is nothing short of offensive. And, like so many writers on technology-- both critics and enthusiasts-- he falls into the fatal trap of believing that technology has its own logic independent of the hum [...]

    • Ryan says:

      Ellul has one point: Civilization is ruled by technique, and the only response to technique is further technique. Please read the first half, and the conclusion of this book (that's all I could take, but I could take no less). You will see this pattern play out everywhere, everyday. But can you fight this power? Should you?By the way, his (translated) term "technological" has nothing, per se, to do with technology. I would have translated it as "methodological".An example: Various modern methods [...]

    • Jacob Russell says:

      Ellul is one of those thinkers, like Simone Weil or Hannah Arendt, who are in a class to themselves. He defines technology, not by tools and tehniques, but by a set of assumptions governing the choices we make, where utility and the possibility of doing something overrides all other considerations, becomes, in fact, the determinative value of society.

    • loafingcactus says:

      This book blew my mind- I'll never see the world the same way again. I'll never appeal to "efficiency" as if it were a moral end (and error I was absolutely making). Absolutely one of the most important things I have read in my life.

    • Aa says:

      The first few times I picked this one up it didn't seem to be much more than a rather plodding diagram of generic claims about the dehumanization of society due to the appetites and inherent structures of science, government and business - the indulgent kind of paranoia that's bread and butter for the entertainment industry (think The Matrix etc.) It doesn't leave you with a whole lot to chew on. The print quality in mine is pretty bad to boot. For much of the book Ellul treats his observations [...]

    • John Jr. says:

      This book isn't about technology per se. It explicates a broader concept for which the French term is "la technique," which Ellul uses to mean an entire system of rational methods for advancing order and efficiency. As the summary of his view puts it, "his sociological analysis focuses not on the society of machines as such, but on the society of 'efficient techniques.'" So his examples range from the ordering of information—that is, propaganda—in the Nazi regime to the mass production of b [...]

    • David says:

      Ellul wrote this book over half a century ago, talking about how technique is taking over our society. Technique is not technology, though that is part of it. Instead, as Ellul defines it right at the beginning, it is the "totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency." Maybe I'm a bit thick, but I found it a difficult concept to get my mind around, but as I read I just kept thinking of "methods" and "efficiency". This truly is what our culture is all about. Whether I [...]

    • Jay Pope says:

      One of the 20th century's most important works of sociopolitical commentary and, as it is only becoming clearer with each passing year how sagacious and astute were Ellul's observations 50 plus years ago, one of the most important works of the 21st century as well. Ellul is a prophet and like a prophet, he never really "fit in" in a conventional sense in his time and place. Part anarchist, part politician, part academic, part theologian, and certainly not a part of the religious establishment, d [...]

    • Dan says:

      Ellul is neither a Luddite nor a Jeremiah, and he is reserved in his claims. Neither shrill nor militant in his position, he limits himself to clear-headed comments on the possible ramifications of the proliferation of technology in Western society.

    • jeremy says:

      Orwell said it in the 1940s- Ellul elaborated on it in the 1960s- but no one listened. Now we are all enslaved and think we are free. Time to take the red pill.

    • Todd says:

      A very provocative book with continuing relevance today. Not an easy read, Ellul sometimes goes about describing things in complicated ways, when they could be reduced to simpler terms. No doubt the translation does not aid readability either, but one can follow it, though it is not a beach read. He comes across as overly fascinated with Hegelian dialectic, and he uncritically accepts Marxism in most cases. Ellul focuses on not just technology or machines, but "technique" itself and the impact t [...]

    • Chris Laskey says:

      Well this is such an interesting book but not necessarily for the issues Ellul brings up. Obviously much has changed of the world from 1954 and in this American translation, which appeared in 1964, (considered by the Knopf publisher as their "Folly") to where one has to wonder if his ideas even have validity anymore. In addition one has to constantly keep track of his vernacular and adjust it to a more modern word sense or at least find an adaptive set of terminology that fits and still makes se [...]

    • Mark Sequeira says:

      Excellent! A 'Must Read' esp. by Christians in our day but all would benefit and find themselves put out but agreeing with a lot of what he has to say. It's been many years since I've read much Ellul but I love his writing.

    • A.J. Jr. says:

      A very important book. Jaques Ellul was one of the greatest thinkers of our time.a very wise man.

    • Tara says:

      A masterpiece.

    • Neil says:

      Ellul writes about the situation of humanity in a civilisation that he, like some other writers of the time (Mumford, Ferkiss, to some extent Daniel Bell), regards as fundamentally different in character due to technological influence.Despite the book's title in English, Ellul's major topic of concern isn't "technology" in the form of machinery or computerisation, but "technique". Ellul defines technique as the itentional application of a repeatable means engaged in order to achieve an identifie [...]

    • Ed says:

      One of the important books fo the mid-20th century.

    • Mary says:

      First things first, I am impressed with the forward thinking Ellul expresses considering the book was produced in 1964. Before a reader goes crazy we need to take into consideration what decade, heck! What century the reader is reading the book in. Technology had a vastly different meaning in the mid 20th century. Fast forward to the 21st century and we find ourselves in a place where society is unable to function without technology. We are 100% codependent on technology and its advancements so- [...]

    • Herr Ludwig says:

      I was excited to begin reading this book. Even before I had begun, the concept had inspired many reflections about the world. I had also watched a documentary online about Ellul called 'The Betrayal of Technology'. While I sort of like this book, it struck me a little way in that I did not agree with Ellul's description in many ways. First I felt, while he writes that he will be stating facts and it is these themselves which should be judged, I felt that a lot of his exposition was abstract conj [...]

    • Marc Manley says:

      "The substitution of thetempus mortuum of the mechanical clock for the biological and psychological time “natural” to man is in itself sufficient to suppress all the traditional rhythms of human life in favor of the mechanical. Again, genuine human communities are suppressed by the technological society to form collectivities of “mass men” incapable of obeying any other law than the statistical “law of large numbers.” All the technical devices of education, propaganda, amusement, spo [...]

    • Mj Harding says:

      Jacques Ellul is the Jack London of the Academic world in that he was a man out of step with the power structures of his time, and his prose--for a Frenchman--is way too easy to grasp and so at times it seems almost too simplistic; however, what could be simplistic also comes across as penetrating, so there's that to consider. As I read his book I kept thinking that Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish seemed well-tuned to Ellul's claim that modern society was really just one giant concentrat [...]

    • Saul says:

      This is a very interesting book, and one not well know to many outside France. Ellul is one of the few philosophers who devoted much of his life to the understanding of technology as a stand-alone phenomenon. With great care, the author takes you through a detailed explanation of technology's manifestation, and how it goes on to transform the world we live in. There are different thoughts on how technology can be controlled, but in the end, Ellul feels there is no stopping it. We must simply lea [...]

    • Rick says:

      This book was 300 pages too long. Very dense. Professor Ellul describes technique as the efficient ordering of everything. The professor's thesis goes on to say that the insistence of technique is becoming not only the best solution to a problem but the only solution to a problem. Anything outside of efficiency is ignored. The book's a slog, but things the professor describes like police surveillance and large prison populations are similar to what we see today. Described in a book published in [...]

    • Kyle says:

      A sublime book. Perhaps the greatest nonfiction work I have read. In his critique of technique (techne), Ellul digs deeper than the the usual sociological whipping boys (capitalism, narcissism, Protestantism, etc.) and to my mind strikes the actual root. Without need of constructing a vast philosophical system, his theory of technique is able to explicate so many of modernity's ills. His thought helps to clarify the discontent of modernity in an incredibly direct manner, while also striking plun [...]

    • Royce Francis says:

      Ellul is both convincing and startling in his description of the way materialism has penetrated our society in every way. His focus is on the idea that, once any enterprise is engaged rationally, it becomes dominated by technique--the "one right way" or optimal way to achieve a set of specified objectives. As a risk analyst, this trenchant analysis was very personally attractive and I hope to be studying this in many years coming.

    • Ryan says:

      Jacques Ellul's book is a philosophical work, and he pushes back against the continual drive to make things more efficient, and he does this based upon mankind's relationship to techniques. His concern is that the more our actions are governed by a technique, the less capable we are of expressing our moral freedoms. I like this book because I think we can all appreciate the tension Ellul points to and that it conveys his concerns well.

    • Peter says:

      Very dense. Didn't really like it, or get anything out of it. Read the first 75 pages, and the last 10. Tried other parts in between, but they weren't useful. Would not recommend it. Didn't really learn anything. I was hoping to use something for my teaching. Written in 1960 by a Frenchman, so consider the timeframe and context. I'm much more optimistic.

    • Steve Wilkerson says:

      I've avoided reading about the adverse effects of technology and technique on society but Ellul's discussion was worth my time and highly illuminating. He takes the discussion deep into its philosophical and cultural consequences.

    • Who says:

      If you can stand wandering french philosophy, This is an excellent book of sociological theory with much to offer. It is very comprehensive in the arguments undertaken, and while you may not necessarily agree with the conclusions drawn it presents a very provocative picture worth considering

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