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Jacques Ellul (1912 – 1994)


French philosopher, law professor, sociologist, lay theologian, and Christian anarchist.
Jacques Ellul
No society can last in conditions of anarchy. This is self-evident and I am in full agreement. But my aim is not the establishment of an anarchist society or the total destruction of the state. Here I differ from anarchists. I do not believe that it is possible to destroy the modern state. It is pure imagination to think that some day this power will be overthrown. From a pragmatic standpoint there is no chance of success. Furthermore, I do not believe that anarchist doctrine is the solution to the problem of organization in society and government. I do not think that if anarchism were to succeed we should have a better or more livable society. Hence I am not fighting for the triumph of this doctrine.
On the other hand, it seems to me that an anarchist attitude is the only one that is sufficiently radical in the face of a general statist system.
Ellul quotes
Science brings to the light of day everything man had believed sacred. Technique takes possession of it and enslaves it.
Ellul
A principal characteristic of technique is its refusal to tolerate moral judgments. It is absolutely independent of them and eliminates them from its domain. Technique never observes the distinction between moral and immoral use. It tends on the contrary, to create a completely independent technical morality.
Here, then, is one of the elements of weakness of this point of view. It does not perceive technique's rigorous autonomy with respect to morals; it does not see that the infusion of some more or less vague sentiment of human welfare cannot alter it. Not even the moral conversion of the technicians could make a difference. At best, they would cease to be good technicians. This attitude supposes further that technique evolves with some end in view, and that this end is human good. Technique is totally irrelevant to this notion and pursues no end, professed or unprofessed.




Ellul Jacques quotes
Jacques Ellul is no pedantic theologian discussing ideas like a dilettante whose convictions are never baptized in action. On the contrary, in Ellul one finds that ideas and acts are so integral one to the other that his decisions and actions in actual life are an incarnation of what he thinks and writes. His witness as a Christian has been nurtured in danger and turbulence, not in sanctuary or detachment. He was a militant in the French resistance to the Nazis; he has served in politics as Deputy Mayor of Bordeaux; he is distinguished professionally in the law and in economics; he was among the remnant who were concerned to expose and oppose the atrocities of the French military in the Algerian war; he is esteemed in ecumenical councils as a creative theologian; he is a partisan of renewal and relevance in the Reformed Church of France; he became a Christian in consequence of his immersion in the saga of the Bible while engaged in the strife of the world. In short, he is one who speaks with authority.
Ellul Jacques
...there is a limited elite that understands the secrets of their own techniques, but not necessarily of all techniques. These men are close to the seat of modern governmental power. The state is no longer founded on the 'average citizen', but on the ability and knowledge of this elite. The average man is altogether unable to penetrate technical secrets or governmental organization and consequently can exert no influence at all on the state.
Jacques Ellul quotes
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.
Jacques Ellul
Our civilization is first and foremost a civilization of means; in the reality of modern life, the means, it would seem, are more important than the ends.
Ellul Jacques quotes
Propaganda does not aim to elevate man, but to make him serve.
Ellul
The individual, by means of the discipline imposed on him by sport, not only plays and finds relaxation from the various compulsions to which he is subjected, but without knowing it trains himself for new compulsions. ... Training in sports makes of the individual an efficient piece of apparatus which is henceforth unacquainted with anything but the harsh joys of exploiting his body and winning.
Ellul Jacques
Journalistic content is a technical complex expressly intended to adapt man to the machine.
Jacques Ellul
The will of the world is always a will to death, a will to suicide. We must not accept this suicide, and we must so act that it cannot take place.




Jacques Ellul quotes
Jesus Christ has not come to establish social justice any more than he has come to establish the power of the state or the reign of money or art. Jesus Christ has come to save men, and all that matters is that men may come to know him. We are adept at finding reasons-good theological, political, or practical reasons, for camouflaging this. But the real reason is that we let ourselves be impressed and dominated by the forces of the world, by the press, by public opinion, by the political game, by appeals to justice, liberty, peace, the poverty of the third world, and the Christian civilization of the west, all of which play on our inclinations and weaknesses. Modern protestants are in the main prepared to be all things to all men, like St. Paul, but unfortunately this is not in order that they may save some but in order that they may be like all men.
Jacques Ellul
Freedom is completely without meaning unless it is related to necessity, unless it represents victory over necessity.
Ellul quotes
When we speak of dialogue with the sovereign, it seems to me that this can be definitely initiated only on the basis of the greatest possible intransigence, for power today is completely alien to any real discussion. It is true that discussion is allowed within the system. But the quarrels between right and left seem to me completely futile, for in every possible way they simply lead to an enhancement of the power of the state.
Democracy is a mere trap with the party system as it is and a bureaucracy that cannot be altered. Discussion may go on about taxes and the improvement of social services. But power is totally deaf to the individual, indifferent to the interests of freedom, and ignorant of the true concerns of the nation. Only a radical opposition, i.e., an attack on the root of the situation, can engage it in authentic dialogue.
Ellul Jacques
Faith lived in the incognito is one which is located outside the criticism coming from society, from politics, from history, for the very reason that it has itself the vocation to be a source of criticism. It is faith (lived in the incognito) which triggers the issues for the others, which causes everything seemingly established to be placed in doubt, which drives a wedge into the world of false assurances.
Ellul Jacques quotes
Again I want to emphasize that the study of propaganda must be conducted within the context of a technological society. Propaganda is called upon to solve problems created by technology, to play on maladjustments, and to integrate the individual into a technological world.
Jacques Ellul
Hate, hunger, and pride make better levers of propaganda than do love or impartiality.
Jacques Ellul quotes
This is where each individual must decide for himself. The essential thing is the decision to challenge the modern state, which without this small group of protesters will be checked by neither brake, value, nor reason.
Jacques Ellul
Man himself is exalted, and paradoxical though it may seem to be, this means the crushing of man. Man's enslavement is the reverse side of the glory, value, and importance that are ascribed to him. The more a society magnifies human greatness, the more one will see men alienated, enslaved, imprisoned, and tortured, in it. Humanism prepares the ground for the anti-human. We do not say that this is an intellectual paradox. All one need do is read history. Men have never been so oppressed as in societies which set man at the pinnacle of values and exalt his greatness or make him the measure of all things. For in such societies freedom is detached from its purpose, which is, we affirm, the glory of God.
Ellul Jacques
There are different forms of anarchy and different currents in it. I must, first say very simply what anarchy I have in view. By anarchy I mean first an absolute rejection of violence.


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