Wilkinson (1964). Translator’s Introduction. (The Technological Society.)

Wilkinson, J. (1964). Translator’s Introduction. In J. Ellul, The Technological Society (pp. ix–xx). New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

“_Technique_, the reader discovers more or less quickly, must be distinguished from the several _techniques_ which are its elements. It is more even than a generalized mechanical technique; it is, in fact, nothing less than the organized ensemble of _all_ individual techniques which have been used to secure any end whatsoever. Harold Lasswell’s definition comes closest to Ellul’s conception: ‘The ensemble of practices by which one uses available resources to achieve values.’ … Ellul’s further account makes it clear that it does not go far enough, since technique has become indifferent to all the traditional human ends and values by becoming an end-in-itself.” (p x)

“Ellul holds the Americans to be the most conformist people in the world, but in fairness it must be objected that, in his own analysis, the Soviets seem better to deserve this dubious honor since they have made even politics into a technique.” (p xi)

“Since the religious object is that which is uncritically worshipped, technology tends more and more to become the new god.” (p xi)

“It is, in fact, _the essence of technique to compel the qualitative to become quantitative_, and in this way to force every stage of human activity and man himself to submit to its mathematical calculations. … Thus, technique forces all sociological phenomena to submit to the clock, for Ellul the most characteristic of all modern technical instruments. The substitution of the _tempus 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.” (p xvi)

“The denizen of the technological state of the future will have everything his heart ever desired, except, of course, his freedom.” (p xvii)

“It must not be imagined that the autonomous technique en- [page break] visioned by Ellul is a kind of ‘technological determinism,’ to use a phrase of Veblen.” (p xvii-xviii)

“But art, though it is concrete, is subjective; and science, though objective in its description of reality, is abstract. Only technique is at once both concrete and objective in that it creates the reality it describes.” (p xviii)

Selected References

  • Lasswell, H. D. [unknown source]
  • Veblen, Thorstein: The Theory of Business Enterprise. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons; 1932.
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