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Jacques Ellul quotes (showing 1-25 of 25)

“Christians were never meant to be normal. We’ve always been holy troublemakers, we’ve always been creators of uncertainty, agents of dimension that’s incompatible with the status quo; we do not accept the world as it is, but we insist on the world becoming the way that God wants it to be. And the Kingdom of God is different from the patterns of this world.”
Jacques Ellul
“Technique has taken over the whole of civilization. Death, procreation, birth all submit to technical efficiency and systemization.”
Jacques Ellul
“No matter what God's power may be, the first aspect of God is never that of the absolute Master, the Almighty. It is that of the God who puts himself on our human level and limits himself.”
Jacques Ellul, Anarchy and Christianity
“Enclosed within his artificial creation, man finds that there is "no exit"; that he cannot pierce the shell of technology again to find the ancient milieu to which he was adapted for hundreds of thousands of years. . . . In our cities there is no more day or night or heat or cold. But there is overpopulation, thralldom to press and television, total absence of purpose. All men are constrained by means external to them to ends equally external. The further the technical mechanism develops that allows us to escape natural necessity, the more we are subjected to artificial technical necessities.”
Jacques Ellul
“Propaganda begins when dialogue ends. (Quoted by Marshall McLuhan in McLuhan Hot & Cool)”
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. Any other assessment of the situation is mere idealism.”
Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society
“We must be convinced that there are no such things as 'Christian principles.' There is the Person of Christ, who is the principle of everything. But if we wish to be faithful to Him, we cannot dream of reducing Christianity to it certain number of principles (though this is often done), the consequences of which can be logically deduced. This tendency to transform the work of the Living God into a philosophical doctrine is the constant temptation of theologians, and also of the faithful, and their greatest disloyalty when they transform the action of the Spirit which brings forth fruit in themselves into an ethic, a new law, into 'principles' which only have to be 'applied.”
Jacques Ellul, The Presence of the Kingdom
“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, Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes
“If man--if each one of us--abdicates his responsibilities with regard to values; if each one of us limits himself to leading a trivial existence in a technological civilization, with greater adaptation and increasing success as his sole objectives; if we do not even consider the possibility of making a stand against these determinants, then everything will happen as I have described it, and the determinates will be transformed into inevitabilities.”
Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society
“By thinking globally I can analyze all phenomena, but when it comes to acting, it can only be local and on a grassroots level if it is to be honest, realistic, and authentic.”
Jacques Ellul, Perspectives On Our Age
“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.”
Jacques Ellul, The Ethics of Freedom
“La libertad pertenece al orden de los relámpagos, no al de la luz eléctrica.”
Jacques Ellul
“For when man is faced with a curse he answers, "I'll take care of my problems." And he puts everything to work to become powerful, to keep the curse from having its effects. He creates the arts and the sciences, he raises an army, he constructs chariots, he builds cities. The spirit of might is a response to the divine curse.”
Jacques Ellul, The Meaning of the City
“The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries abandoned the idea of spiritual or intellectual happiness in order to have this material happiness, consisting of a certain number of essential consumer goods. And hence, in the nineteenth century, happiness was linked to a well-being obtained by mechanical means, industrial means, production. The new thing that Saint-Just spoke about was that, in the past, happiness could appear as a very vague, very distant prospect for humanity, whereas now, people seemed to be within reach of the concrete, material possibility of attaining it. That was why happiness was to become an absolutely essential image for the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie, and for modern society. Happiness was attainable thanks to industrial development, and this image of happiness brought us fully into the consumer society.”
Jacques Ellul, Perspectives On Our Age
“Prayer holds together the shattered fragments of creation. It makes history possible.”
Jacques Ellul
“What seems to be one of the disasters of our time is that we all appear to agree that the nation-state is the norm... Whether the state be Marxist or capitalist, it makes no difference. The dominant ideology is that of sovereignty.”
Jacques Ellul, Anarchy and Christianity
“La questione che vorrei abbozzare in questo libro è fra quelle che mi turbano più profondamente. Essa si contraddistingue per la sua drammatica e inconsueta rilevanza storica e perché, allo stato attuale delle mie conoscenze, mi sembra irrisolvibile. Nella maniera più semplice può essere così presentata: com’è possibile che lo sviluppo della società cristiana e della Chiesa abbia dato vita a una società, a una civiltà e a una cultura del tutto opposte a quanto si può leggere nella Bibbia”
Jacques Ellul, La sovversione del Cristianesimo
“Modern technology has become a total phenomenon for civilization, the defining force of a new social order in which efficiency is no longer an option but a necessity imposed on all human activity.”
Jacques Ellul
“To the extent that propaganda is based on current news, it cannot permit time for thought or reflection. A man caught up in the news must remain on the surface of the event; be is carried along in the current, and can at no time take a respite to judge and appreciate; he can never stop to reflect. There is never any awareness -- of himself, of his condition, of his society -- for the man who lives by current events. Such a man never stops to investigate any one point, any more than he will tie together a series of news events. We already have mentioned man's inability to consider several facts or events simultaneously and to make a synthesis of them in order to face or to oppose them. One thought drives away another; old facts are chased by new ones. Under these conditions there can be no thought. And, in fact, modern man does not think about current problems; he feels them. He reacts, but be does not understand them any more than he takes responsibility for them. He is even less capable of spotting any inconsistency between successive facts; man's capacity to forget is unlimited. This is one of the most important and useful points for the propagandist, who can always be sure that a particular propaganda theme, statement, or event will be forgotten within a few weeks. Moreover, there is a spontaneous defensive reaction in the individual against an excess of information and -- to the extent that he clings (unconsciously) to the unity of his own person -- against inconsistencies. The best defense here is to forget the preceding event. In so doing, man denies his own continuity; to the same extent that he lives on the surface of events and makes today's events his life by obliterating yesterday's news, he refuses to see the contradictions in his own life and condemns himself to a life of successive moments, discontinuous and fragmented.

This situation makes the "current-events man" a ready target for propaganda. Indeed, such a man is highly sensitive to the influence of present-day currents; lacking landmarks, he follows all currents. He is unstable because he runs after what happened today; he relates to the event, and therefore cannot resist any impulse coming from that event. Because he is immersed in current affairs, this man has a psychological weakness that puts him at the mercy of the propagandist. No confrontation ever occurs between the event and the truth; no relationship ever exists between the event and the person. Real information never concerns such a person. What could be more striking, more distressing, more decisive than the splitting of the atom, apart from the bomb itself? And yet this great development is kept in the background, behind the fleeting and spectacular result of some catastrophe or sports event because that is the superficial news the average man wants. Propaganda addresses itself to that man; like him, it can relate only to the most superficial aspect of a spectacular event, which alone can interest man and lead him to make a certain decision or adopt a certain attitude.

But here we must make an important qualification. The news event may be a real fact, existing objectively, or it may be only an item of information, the dissemination of a supposed fact. What makes it news is its dissemination, not its objective reality.”
Jacques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes
“It is not true that the perfection of police power is the result of the state’s Machiavellianism or of some transitory influence. The whole structure of society of society implies it, of necessity. The more we mobilize the forces of nature, the more must we mobilize men and the more do we require order.”
Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society
“I hold that in every situation of injustice and oppression, the Christian--who cannot deal with it by violence--must make himself completely a part of it as representative of the victims.”
Jacques Ellul, Violence: Reflections From A Christian Perspective
“It seems to us that there are four great collective sociological assumptions in the modern world. By this we mean not only the Western world, but all the world that shares a modern technology and is structured into nations…. That man’s aim in life is happiness, that man is naturally good, that history develops in endless progress, and that everything is matter.
The other great psychological reflection of social reality is the myth. The myth expresses the deep inclinations of a society. Without it, the masses would not cling to a certain civilization, or its process of development and crisis. It is a vigorous impulse, strongly colored, irrational, and charged with all of man’s power to believe… In our society the two great fundamentals myths on which all other myths rest are Science and History. And based on them are the collective myths that are man’s principal orientations: the myth of Work, the myth of Happiness (which is not the same thing as presupposition of happiness), the myth of the Nation, the myth of Youth, the myth of Hero.
Propaganda is forced to build on those presuppositions and to express these myths, for without them nobody would listen to it. And in so building it must always go in the same direction as society; it can only reinforce society. A propaganda that stresses virtue over happiness and presents man’s future as one dominated by austerity and contemplation would have no audience at all. A propaganda that questions progress or work would arouse distain and reach nobody; it would immediately be branded as an ideology of the intellectuals, since most people feel that the serious things are material things because they are related to labor, and so on.
It is remarkable how the various presuppositions and aspects of myths complement each other, support each other, mutually defend each other: If the propagandist attacks the network at one point, all myths react to the attack. Propaganda must be based on current beliefs and symbols to reach man and win him over.”
Jacques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes
“La technique se développe de façon indépendante, en dehors de tout contrôle humain.”
Jacques Ellul
“Il ne peut pas y avoir un développement infini dans un univers fini.”
Jacques Ellul
“La prévoyance commence lorsque nous acceptons que nous sommes maintenant arrivés à créés une civilisation du risque.”
Jacques Ellul


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Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes Propaganda
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