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The Technological Society

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  676 ratings  ·  69 reviews
As insightful and wise today as it was when originally published in 1954, Jacques Ellul's The Technological Society has become a classic in its field, laying the groundwork for all other studies of technology and society that have followed.

Ellul offers a penetrating analysis of our technological civilization, showing how technology-which began innocuously enough as a serva
Paperback, 512 pages
Published October 12th 1967 by Vintage (first published 1954)
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Jan 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Thinking people
This book is another truly remarkable exposition of the relation between technology and society, along with Mumford's, Pentagon of Power. This book, as with the latter, goes far beyond a mere criticism of technologies. It examines the nature of Technique, which is the collective organization of a society mediated and, in the end, increasingly driven by technology. The ideology of efficiency which drives technologies becomes incorporated into every aspect of the social structure.

This book is much
Apr 07, 2014 added it
Shelves: theeeeeeory
OK, first of all, I have to agree with quite a few of Ellul's specific observations about how technology molds the human spirit. That being said, he commits a few intellectual sins I am loathe to forgive. Firstly, to write about something as concrete as technology in terms as inductive as Ellul's is nothing short of offensive. And, like so many writers on technology-- both critics and enthusiasts-- he falls into the fatal trap of believing that technology has its own logic independent of the hum ...more
This book blew my mind- I'll never see the world the same way again. I'll never appeal to "efficiency" as if it were a moral end (and error I was absolutely making). Absolutely one of the most important things I have read in my life.
May 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Ellul has one point: Civilization is ruled by technique, and the only response to technique is further technique. Please read the first half, and the conclusion of this book (that's all I could take, but I could take no less). You will see this pattern play out everywhere, everyday. But can you fight this power? Should you?

By the way, his (translated) term "technological" has nothing, per se, to do with technology. I would have translated it as "methodological".

An example: Various modern methods
Jacob Russell
Aug 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Ellul is one of those thinkers, like Simone Weil or Hannah Arendt, who are in a class to themselves. He defines technology, not by tools and tehniques, but by a set of assumptions governing the choices we make, where utility and the possibility of doing something overrides all other considerations, becomes, in fact, the determinative value of society.
Oct 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Ellul wrote this book over half a century ago, talking about how technique is taking over our society. Technique is not technology, though that is part of it. Instead, as Ellul defines it right at the beginning, it is the "totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency." Maybe I'm a bit thick, but I found it a difficult concept to get my mind around, but as I read I just kept thinking of "methods" and "efficiency". This truly is what our culture is all about. Whether I ...more
Aug 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The first few times I picked this one up it didn't seem to be much more than a rather plodding diagram of generic claims about the dehumanization of society due to the appetites and inherent structures of science, government and business - the indulgent kind of paranoia that's bread and butter for the entertainment industry (think The Matrix etc.) It doesn't leave you with a whole lot to chew on. The print quality in mine is pretty bad to boot. For much of the book Ellul treats his observations ...more
Jay Pope
Aug 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of the 20th century's most important works of sociopolitical commentary and, as it is only becoming clearer with each passing year how sagacious and astute were Ellul's observations 50 plus years ago, one of the most important works of the 21st century as well. Ellul is a prophet and like a prophet, he never really "fit in" in a conventional sense in his time and place. Part anarchist, part politician, part academic, part theologian, and certainly not a part of the religious establishment, d ...more
Mar 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: cultural-study
Ellul is neither a Luddite nor a Jeremiah, and he is reserved in his claims. Neither shrill nor militant in his position, he limits himself to clear-headed comments on the possible ramifications of the proliferation of technology in Western society.
Aug 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fightthepower
Orwell said it in the 1940s- Ellul elaborated on it in the 1960s- but no one listened. Now we are all enslaved and think we are free. Time to take the red pill.
Mar 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
A very provocative book with continuing relevance today. Not an easy read, Ellul sometimes goes about describing things in complicated ways, when they could be reduced to simpler terms. No doubt the translation does not aid readability either, but one can follow it, though it is not a beach read. He comes across as overly fascinated with Hegelian dialectic, and he uncritically accepts Marxism in most cases. Ellul focuses on not just technology or machines, but "technique" itself and the impact t ...more
John Jr.
This book isn't about technology per se. It explicates a broader concept for which the French term is "la technique," which Ellul uses to mean an entire system of rational methods for advancing order and efficiency. As the Wikipedia summary of his view puts it, "his sociological analysis focuses not on the society of machines as such, but on the society of 'efficient techniques.'" So his examples range from the ordering of information—that is, propaganda—in the Nazi regime to the mass production ...more
Sean Nam
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow. The Technological Society provided me with clear answers to my life-long existential questions. Ellul explores how technique, which is any thing or idea that improves efficiency, necessarily dictates the growth and direction of our society. This affects every aspect of people and their environment; these effects are examined panoramically. The book didn't age at all from when it was published in 1964. It is difficult to believe that Ellul could extrapolate these brilliant insights from obse ...more
Kevin Carson
Oct 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: technology
Similar in tone to Mumford's pessimistic "Pentagon of Power" phase. Very dated in my opinion, relevant mainly to the centralizing and totalizing effects of mid-20th century mass-production technology. I recommend reading this with an off-setting dose of Antonio Negri and Yochai Benkler.
Michael Laminack
Jan 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It's a more academically robust (and much longer) cousin to C.S. Lewis's Abolition of Man.
Star Sloth
Aug 12, 2019 rated it did not like it
A depressing load of nonsense. In arguing that "technique" -- which is not technology, and is not really defined except that it is _the_ thing that makes things complicated and bad -- is an unstoppable force, Ellul makes his book utterly pathetic.

The author claims that "technique" causes the gradual loss of freedom in society, but refuses to acknowledge that any individual or group might be consciously cementing their own power. For Ellul, the loss of freedom is strictly a result of the march of
Teddy Dodger
Aug 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
We live in a technological society
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Nothing human makes it out of the near future
Chris Laskey
May 06, 2009 rated it liked it
Well this is such an interesting book but not necessarily for the issues Ellul brings up. Obviously much has changed of the world from 1954 and in this American translation, which appeared in 1964, (considered by the Knopf publisher as their "Folly") to where one has to wonder if his ideas even have validity anymore. In addition one has to constantly keep track of his vernacular and adjust it to a more modern word sense or at least find an adaptive set of terminology that fits and still makes se ...more
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
First things first, I am impressed with the forward thinking Ellul expresses considering the book was produced in 1964. Before a reader goes crazy we need to take into consideration what decade, heck! What century the reader is reading the book in.

Technology had a vastly different meaning in the mid 20th century. Fast forward to the 21st century and we find ourselves in a place where society is unable to function without technology.

We are 100% codependent on technology and its advancements so-
Mar 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
one of the most challenging books i've ever read. like a bolt from the blue, ellul strikes at our most cherished verities about humanity and technology and the relationship of man to "industrial" or "technical" society. a dialectical logician on a par with marx, he nevertheless disdains classification as marxist or any other "ist". i'll be updating my goodreads with quotes eventually, as i plan to write something clarifying his arguments to myself which i will make available if i think it rises ...more
Margaret1358 Joyce
Sep 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an in-depth examination of the paths technology has forged into all of our lives, with the effect of a narrowing down of our human potential, in that all that is non-quantifiable has to be logically excluded from technological equations. Example after example is given of how inexorable is technology's advancement, in that each step necessitates a further logical step, each being consistent with the principle of efficient methodology.Yes, it was written in 1964, but it was prescient, as t ...more
Joel Gn
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Read a couple of sections of The Technological Society while preparing for my honours dissertation years ago. I was rather surprised Ellul did not reference Heidegger as their ideas complement one another in many ways, but now that I've finally completed the book, I have to say Ellul's analysis is by far, more readable and fastidious than Heidegger's shorter critique in The Question Concerning Technology. Some of the examples used by Ellul are slightly outdated, but they do not detract from his ...more
Apr 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Jacques Ellul's book is a philosophical work, and he pushes back against the continual drive to make things more efficient, and he does this based upon mankind's relationship to techniques. His concern is that the more our actions are governed by a technique, the less capable we are of expressing our moral freedoms. I like this book because I think we can all appreciate the tension Ellul points to and that it conveys his concerns well.
Mark Sequeira
Aug 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Excellent! A 'Must Read' esp. by Christians in our day but all would benefit and find themselves put out but agreeing with a lot of what he has to say. It's been many years since I've read much Ellul but I love his writing.
A.J. Jr.
Mar 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A very important book. Jaques Ellul was one of the greatest thinkers of our time....a very wise man.
Michael Perkins
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
fantastic new documentary on A.I. not techie, but practical impact
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Marking as Read even though I stopped reading after 300 pages. I got the jist. Long winded and repetitive but the main theses are solid.
Apr 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Ellul writes about the situation of humanity in a civilisation that he, like some other writers of the time (Mumford, Ferkiss, to some extent Daniel Bell), regards as fundamentally different in character due to technological influence.

Despite the book's title in English, Ellul's major topic of concern isn't "technology" in the form of machinery or computerisation, but "technique". Ellul defines technique as the itentional application of a repeatable means engaged in order to achieve an identifie
Nov 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of the important books fo the mid-20th century.
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Baptised Catholic, Ellul became an atheist and Marxist at 19, and a Christian of the Reformed Church at 22. During his Marxist days, he was a member of the French Communist Party. During World War II, he fought with the French Underground against the Nazi occupation of France.

Educated at the Universities of Bordeaux and Paris, he taught Sociology and the History of Law at the Universities of Strau

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