Authors: Jacques Ellul

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

French theologian and politician

Author Works

Nonfiction:

Présence au monde moderne: Problèmes de la civilisation post-chrétienne, 1948 (theology; The Presence of the Kingdom, 1951)

La Technique: Ou, L’Enjou du siècle, 1954 (The Technological Society, 1964)

Propagandes, 1954 (Propaganda, 1965)

Fausse presence au monde modern, 1963 (theology; False Presence of the Kingdom, 1972)

L’Illusion politique, 1964 (The Political Illusion, 1967)

Politique de Dieu, Politique de l’homme, 1966 (theology; The Politics of God and the Politics of Man, 1972)

Autopsie de la révolution, 1969 (Autopsy of Revolution, 1971)

L’Espérance oubliée, 1972 (theology; Hope in Time of Abandonment, 1973)

Les Nouveaux Possédés, 1973 (The New Demons, 1975)

Trahison de l’Occident, 1975 (The Betrayal of the West, 1978)

L’Apocalypse, architecture en mouvement, 1976 (theology; Apocalypse: The Book of Revelation, 1977)

Le Système technicien, 1977 (The Technological System, 1980)

Perspectives on Our Age: Jacques Ellul Speaks on His Life and Work, 1981

À temps et à contretemps, 1981 (memoir; In Season, out of Season: An Introduction to the Thought of Jacques Ellul, 1982)

Subversion du christianisme, 1984 (The Subversion of Christianity, 1986)

Un chrétien pour Israel, 1986

Ce que je crois, 1987 (What I Believe, 1989)

Le raison d’être: Méditation sur l’Ecclesiaste, 1987 (The Reason for Being: A Meditation on Ecclesiastes, 1990)

Jesus and Marx: From Gospel to Ideology, 1988 (theology)

Anarchie et christianisme, 1988 (Anarchy and Christianity, 1991)

Le Bluff technologique, 1988 (The Technological Bluff, 1990)

Ce Dieu injuste–? Theologie chrétienne pour le peuple d’Israel, 1991

Deviances et deviants dans notre société intolérante, 1992

L’homme a lui-même: Correspondance, 1992

Entretiens avec Jacques Ellul, 1994 (Jacques Ellul on Religion, Technology, and Politics, 1998)

Sources and Trajectories: Eight Early Articles That Set the Stage, 1997

Biography

Jacques César Ellul (ehl-luhl) was one of the most provocative and prolific writers among twentieth century French intellectuals. He was born on January 6, 1912, in Bordeaux, France, the son of an impoverished Serbo-Italian father and a French mother. Although forced to support himself by age sixteen, Ellul performed brilliantly in school, earning degrees in history, sociology, and law.{$I[AN]9810001307}{$I[A]Ellul, Jacques}{$I[geo]FRANCE;Ellul, Jacques}{$I[tim]1912;Ellul, Jacques}

At age nineteen, he read Karl Marx’s Das Kapital (1867-1894).“I plunged into Marx’s thinking with an incredible joy,” he recalled.“I had finally found the explanation.” Marx taught him lasting lessons, especially the dialectical method of analysis, and he briefly belonged to the Communist Party. He believed, however, that Marx did not have the answers to the existential questions of life, death, and love. Ellul began reading the Bible and in 1932 experienced “a very brutal and very sudden conversion.” He then joined the French Reformed church. Ellul refused to choose between Marxism and Christianity, incorporating into the foundations of his intellectual life a dialectical interplay of these contradictory totalities.

In 1937 Ellul received a law degree but decided to teach, since that would allow him to work with the young. With Fascism growing in Europe, he joined the Popular Front in 1936 and participated in the Spanish Civil War in 1937. During World War II he supported his family by farming and joined the resistance. In 1944 he became professor of law at the University of Bordeaux, and he was deputy mayor of Bordeaux from then to 1946.

Ellul continued his political and social reform activities as the war ended, but while he remained a committed political activist, he expected little positive result from any activity that had to be carried out through an organization. The reason for his pessimism can be seen in his influential book The Technological Society. Ellul did not concern himself narrowly with machines and technology, but with “technique,” the rational and efficient methods of activity in politics, administration, religion, law, and all other fields of human endeavor. Technique eliminates the spontaneous and nonrational from human affairs. Modern humanity is oriented toward technical progress, he maintains, and technique grows at a geometric rate. According to Ellul, technique has no moral or idealistic goals, and an evil-producing technique cannot be made better by placing it in the hands of better people.

Ellul explored the implications of technique in studies of propaganda, administrative and legal systems, politics, and the environment. His primary work, however, was in theology. Many theologians see modern humanity’s life in the “technological city,” brilliantly described by Ellul, as resulting in God’s death–death in the sense that God has become irrelevant.

Ellul’s theology confronts that condition. Like Karl Barth, Ellul wanted to demythologize the world, a world in which humanity’s religious needs have imbued technique with sacredness, making it a religion. Ellul believed that, through Jesus Christ, God confronted individual Christians with questions, not with answers. The honest answer to God’s challenge places people in contradiction with their technologically shaped world, a contradiction that can be neither reconciled nor escaped; it can, however, be freeing. Humans achieve freedom only by overcoming necessity, Ellul believed, by living against the direction of history. Confrontation with God’s revelation can place an individual in this revolutionary state.

Ellul’s analysis of technique and his description of Christian life in confrontation with God, the “Wholly Other,” strikes some critics as so extreme that it leads to despair and quietism. Ellul’s answer was: “So, am I a pessimist? Not at all. I am not pessimistic because I am convinced that the history of the human race, no matter how tragic, will ultimately lead to the Kingdom of God.” Ellul wrote more than forty books and eight hundred articles. His powerful and persuasive style of writing and his willingness to examine the foundations of Western civilization forced increasing numbers of social critics to confront the ideas of this reclusive French intellectual.

BibliographyClendenin, Daniel B. Theological Method in Jacques Ellul. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1987. Looks at the theological implications of Ellul’s philosophy.Fasching, Darrell J. The Thought of Jacques Ellul: A Systematic Exposition. New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1981. A helpful explication of Ellul’s theories.Hanks, Joyce Main. Jacques Ellul: An Annotated Bibliography of Primary Works. Stamford, Conn.: Jai Press, 2000. Guide to Ellul’s work.Karim, Karim H. “Cyber-Utopia and the Myth of Paradise: Using Jacques Ellul’s Work on Propaganda to Analyze Information Society Rhetoric.” Information Communication and Society 4 (March, 2001): 113-134. An application of Ellul’s theories.Lovekin, David. Technique, Discourse, and Consciousness: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Jacques Ellul. Bethlehem, Pa.: Lehigh University Press, 1991. Useful beginning text.
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