Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Jacques Ellul, a professor of history and sociology of institutions at the University of Bordeaux and the author of forty books, wrote The Technological Society between 1952 and 1954. Little known until it was published in its English translation in the United States in 1964, the book reflects the twin paths of the author’s life. First, he had a productive scholarly career, with specialities in history, sociology, and law. For a time, he tried to marry his academic interests to political activities. During World War II he was active in the French resistance to Nazi rule. After the war he began a promising political career as deputy mayor of Bordeaux, but he abandoned that to devote his time more fully to teaching and writing. Second, Ellul was an active lay ecclesiastic. Converted to Christianity when he was twenty-two, he became a leader of the Protestant Reformed Church of France. A third of his books have theological themes, as he focuses on the two ideologies that inform his intellectual worldview, Christianity and Marxism. He seeks no synthesis between these two, but instead tries to place them face to face, in order to determine what is real socially and spiritually.

The Technological Society is the first part of Ellul’s sociopolitical trilogy about contemporary Western society. It was followed by Propagandes (1962; Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, 1965) and L’Illusion politique (1964; The...

(The entire section is 603 words.)