“In the interview Ellul discusses how the technological society differs from previous societies, how it leads to a breakdown in ethics and worldviews and the hope we may have in changing.”
An introduction to Jacques Ellul, along with many of his works, is presented at the Jesus Radicals website:
“Jacques Ellul was a French theologian/sociologist and anarchist. He first became well-known to American readers when his book The Technological Society was published in English in 1964….”
My rough outline with a few points from this interview:
9m 27: The totally irresponsible person: “He carries out his technical task and he’s not interested in anything else.” Ellul nails us all down with this comment.
13m: In the middle ages, religious rules “were more important than equipment or tools”.
20m 30: “Every technological step forward has its price.”
Disturbing the order of things.
Reflection is replaced by reflexes!
29m 30: “Freedom and technology contradict one another”
Technologists don’t want to hear moral judgments but being able to make moral judgments is the highest freedom.
Cities vs. nature, unnatural environment. Unhealthy effect on people. Depression.
37-38 min: The story of Esau and the “lentil broth” as he puts it, or bowl of pottage. We give up our INDEPENDENCE in exchange for a lentil broth of lies. We are manipulated into surrendering our independence.
45 min: Liberty begins when we become conscious that we are dominated by technology.
48 min: Truth and values.
49 min: Create a counterbalance.
We “must refuse to accept that destiny” that technology imposes on us. Freedom.
52 min: Small groups of people who know one another.
53 min: He hopes mankind doesn’t die out “and will go on passing on truths from generation to generation”. Important points about the approach we take in resisting domination.
This documentary gives a compelling overview of Jacques Ellul’s thought-provoking ideas and wisdom on the subject of technology.
I really appreciate most of his ideas, but I think he’s leaving out part of the truth. Modern technology is a tool. It tends to be controlled by monopolizing elites who have a certain power philosophy and attitude of reshaping or improving on nature. Technology becomes like the prison bars of a huge prison – standardization, surveillance, weaponry, etc. – because it is pushed that way deliberately by those in power.
If technology is being used to seduce, entrap and damage people, then this is being carried out by actual people. In my view, it’s not happening just as a drive for efficiency as Ellul seems to imply.
The other side of the story is that the elites are shutting down beneficial technology for the common people via the “environmental” movement, but not for themselves. Governments, such as the Ontario government, have been shutting down coal power plants instead of making sure they are clean. Governments have been following trade agreements that lead to deindustrialization and unemployment.
Blindly attacking all technology would just support these terrible globalist policies. We should not go along with weakening and impoverishing ordinary people, or accelerating a power imbalance between us and the elites.
Also, we should not be elevating nature above human needs as the “environmental” movement has done. Human beings need to be focused on the needs of other human beings. I’m not sure what Ellul’s view is on this. Hopefully he doesn’t advocate the “rights” of animals and trees so that governments can use that as an excuse to control and dominate the common people, as modern extremists advocate.
Also, the main focus should be on morality and I think Jacques Ellul would agree. Nature is not all good in itself. It helps give us important guidelines and a grounding, but it can also be detrimental to human beings (e.g. drought, predators). Also technology is not necessarily all bad in itself. It’s about who is using it and for what purpose, and whether we are able to take it or leave it.
We should respond case by case to different technologies based on the facts, using moral and spiritual human-centered concerns.
I agree that overall, the technology we live with is pushing us in a very bad direction, and has been damaging to us for various reasons.