- Mass Market Paperback: 449 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Books; Extensive Underlining edition (1964)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0394703901
- ISBN-13: 978-0394703909
- Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 1.3 x 6.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 34 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Technological Society Extensive Underlining Edition
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"Jacques EIlul is a French sociologist, a Catholic layman active in the ecumenical movement, a leader of the French resistance in the war, and -- one is tempted to add, after reading his book -a great man. Certainly he has written a magnificent book. ... The translation by John Wilkinson is excellent.
"With monumental calm and maddening thoroughness he goes through one human activity after another and shows how it has been technicized -- rendered efficient -- and diminished in the process.... "
-- Paul Pickrel, Harper's
"The Technological Society is one of the most important books of the second half of the twentieth century. In it, Jacques Ellul convincingly demonstrates that technology, which we continue to conceptualize as the servant of man, will overthrow everything that prevents the internal logic of its development, including humanity itself -- unless we take the necessary steps to move human society out of the environment that 'technique' is creating to meet its own needs."
-- Robert Theobald, The Nation
"...The effect is a contained intellectual explosion, a heated recognition of a tragic complication that has overtaken contemporary society."
-- Scott Buchanan, George Washington Law Review
From the Back Cover
A penetrating analysis of our technical civilization and of the effect of an increasingly standardized culture on the future of man.
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Drum roll please....Technique is autonomous from human control, a survival of the fittest takes place: the organizations that best utilize technique expand in power at the expense of organizations that under-utilize technique.... whether it be socialist or capitalist, democratic or fascist or some sort of worldwide Artificial Intelligence grid, social structures are determined by how efficiently they operate, which is to say... by their technical efficiency. Humanity once adapted itself to its environment, which was stable. But now...society attempts to change the human environment to suite society's needs and the means with which it does this is technique. In doing so, individual man must himself be changed by technique to suite the new artificial environment created by technique, and the process continues over and over... until individual freedom is gone forever and the world is pure technique...pure efficiency...a perfectly ordered planet...with people made "happy" with technique... essentially what IBM wants to do when they say "building a smarter planet" ... "smarter" being more technical.
It is a terrifying book because what it portents is so disastrous. Disastrous to our humanity and to our beautiful planet.
Long Live Kaczynski! Forever Kaczynski!
To begin with the book considers the technological society and examines the notion of "technique" by which is meant not only machine technology but an entire pre-determined complex standardization of means. Ellul's writings on technology may be compared to similar musings by such figures as Oswald Spengler or Thorstein Veblen. Ellul's understanding of technological progress sees a pre-determined course for human development which may only be interrupted by some radical measure or change or even as Ellul notes a divine intervention.
The book includes the following chapters -
Techniques - examines the role of technique and technology on modern society. Notes the role of "the machine" and the increasing relevance of the machine in the formation of modern industrialized society. Ellul also considers the importance of science, but notes how even science has become superceded by technique in which technology may further science and not the other way around. Examines the role of history including primitive technique (which includes magical technique), Christianity and technique, the Sixteenth century, and finally the Industrial Revolution. Explains the importance of the Industrial revolution and the formation of the bourgeoisie (as they developed from the Puritans).
The Characterology of Technique - considers the role of technique in civilization, noting the importance of traditional technique and society (explaining the role for example of artisans and noting how technique led to the development of slavery. Contrasts this with the modern situation noting the role of automatism and self-augmentation and explaing how technique itself becomes autonomous. Considers technological monism in which the entirety of technique is taken as a whole including the theories of Lewis Mumford and notes the role of propaganda as technique and the formation of technological universalism.
Technique and the Economy - explains the influence of technique on the economy in the role of distribution and the division of labor. Considers the theories of Karl Marx, Fourastie, and Keynes as they relate to the role of technique and the economy. Explains the consequences of technique on the economy, the role of economic technique and observation and on action, as well as the contrast between planning and liberty. Considers the great hopes - the role of economic technique on progress, the role of increasing centralization, and the considerable change towards an authoritarian or anti-democratic economy.
Technique and the State - explains how technique has made possible an increasing influence of the state. Notes the state's encounters with technique including the contrast between ancient technique and new technique, as well as private and public techniques (noting the increasing role of a public sphere) and the reaction of the state to techniques. Includes a discussion of the repercussions of technique, including the role of evolution, the technological organism, the relationship between politicians and technique, and finally the rise of the totalitarian state. Notes some further repercussions of technique including pointing out the dangers of unchecked technique as can be seen in the creation of the atomic bomb for example.
Human Techniques - explains the influence of technique on human society, including the modification of time and motion in which time has come to take on a more important role in modern industrial society, the creation of a mass society influenced by technique, and the role of human techniques. Provides a review of some forms of technique including educational technique, the technique of work, modern propaganda which has been culminated in the role of technique, and the role of amusement, sports, and modern medicine. Considers some further influences of technique including the rise of l'homme machine in which man himself is taken to be a machine (as first considered in the theories of la Mettrie) and the "fixation" of the workers, notes the dissociation of man brought on by technique and the triumph of the unconscious in which modern man tries to "flee" from industrial society into the unconscious as well as the disturbing formation of the mass man within modern society (noting the increasing role of advertising) and some of the involuntary psychological effects brought about by technique. Explains the role of a total integration of technique, the technical anesthesia, the integration of technique with the spiritual through art, surrealism, and jazz and the obsession with nature, and the final resolution of technique noting the role of capitalism in contrast to state Communism and the role of revolution.
A Look at the Future - provides a prediction for the year 2000 including the influence of population growth, Huxley's theories and the role of genetic research, and the influence of a universal databank with direct access to the human mind. Finally, considers the notion of a lost "golden age" noting the influence of science and scientists (such as Einstein and Oppenheimer) on modern society and maintaining that many famous scientists have ill-considered opinions on the role of science and the future. Finally, considers the increase in diseases of the nervous system and some of the harmful effects of technique on modern man as well as the increasing dangers of further technique.
This book provides an interesting series of reflections on the role of modern technique on society. Although the author could never have predicted the rise of the mass media and the increasing relevance of the internet and computers I felt that many of his predictions and warnings were uncannily accurate.