- Paperback: 285 pages
- Publisher: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (March 20, 1985)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0802800696
- ISBN-13: 978-0802800695
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,218,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Humiliation of the Word Paperback – March 20, 1985
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Text: English, French (translation)
About the Author
Jacques Ellul (1912–’1994), a French sociologist and lay theologian, was professor emeritus of law and of the history and sociology of institutions at the University of Bordeaux. He wrote more than forty books, including The Technological Society, The Humiliation of the Word, and The Technological Bluff.
Browse award-winning titles. See more
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
In Edgar Allan Poe's story, a painter creates a stunningly lifelike image, only to find on turning back to his model that she is dead. This, for Ellul, vividly symbolizes what’s happening in our world today. We have created such beautiful and lifelike cinematic images of reality, our ability to perceive reality itself has atrophied and died.
As a result of being bombarded by images whose persuasive force is immediate and incontrovertible, modern man has lost the ability to follow and criticize detailed arguments. We become more and more accustomed to a world of images, where everything is apparent, and no deductive or inductive reasoning need be applied to reach conclusions. As a consequence, “a person who thinks by images becomes less and less capable of thinking by reasoning” (p. 214). When asked why we hold an opinion or belief, we can’t offer arguments to justify our positions, because we were never persuaded by arguments. We can only say, “It is evident” (p. 213).
“Thought based on images can be neither abstract nor critical.” (p. 214). The film shows us something in vivid color, and the mind immediately perceives it to be true. There is no intermediate step of stopping to digest and assimilate and weigh the truth of the message. The image “gives rise to a feeling of evidence and a conviction that it is not based on reason” (p. 213).
Cinema and television present us with certain character types and compel an emotional response. Because the audience can’t dispute with an image, the message is irrefutable. We are left with superficial prejudices and stereotypes that seem incontrovertibly real because we have seen them with our own eyes. The attachment to these stereotypes is based on emotion rather than reason, and therefore can’t be dispelled with rational argument. “The emotional quality of what we moderns call our thought produces an extreme violence of conviction combined with extreme incoherence in our arguments” (p. 211).
As television and cinema have become the primary means of communication in our society, the word has been demoted in status, and is now merely an “accessory to images” (p. 210). When we do use words, they immediately evoke images—not images from my personal experience, but images from television. Every word we hear sets off a “fireworks of visual commonplaces” (p. 210) that compel us into certain conventional, stereotypical, uncritical lines of thought and prevent us from confronting the logic of an argument.
A mind that is accustomed to seeing everything “in a single glance” (p. 208) loses the patience required to follow the logic of a paragraph, or even to wait for the end of a sentence. Television and cinema condition the audience to adopt a spoiled child mentality, where we want everything immediately, both in the realm of things and in the realm of ideas.
For me personally, Ellul’s work was one of several influences that have persuaded me to almost completely renounce all forms of audiovisual entertainment. When I return to the cinema after a few months of abstinence, I can see vividly what it does to my mind. The visual and auditory stimulation is so overwhelming, it leaves no room for any critical faculty. The pace of events is so fast, it leaves no room for contemplation. It becomes radiantly clear to me why several of the world’s religions suggest disciples completely abstain from games and shows.
I think it's an important read. . . But don't watch the Jacques Ellul TV program.
He contrasts the limitations of the image with the strengths of the "word." The word, which has been humiliated in today's world, that is, lowered in status, demeaned, is capable of conveying truth and complexities that the image cannot. The word, because it is flexible and open to interpretation, is an instrument of communication and negotiation.
Ellul takes this argument and applies it to several different areas of technology and communication.
I agree wholeheartedly with his basic premise, although not with all of his applications. Sometimes his categorizations are a little unclear and confusing but overall he makes a very strong argument. He is absolutely brilliant in the way that he is able to analyze the very fundamental structure of the way we communicate and function as a society. He attacks the postmodern mindset by showing that they have a disdain for thinking and the intellect itself.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
First, you can't blame the author for lack of clarity. If you blame anyone, blame the translator.Read more