movement, movement

The Defining Force of a New Social Order

Posted in books, culture, philosophy, quotes by amoslanka on October 8, 2008

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, The Technological Society, 1964

This social order is already well upon us. I first read Ellul back in college along side one of my other favorite authors, Postman, who’s ideas I discuss here and here.

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12 Responses

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  1. Parker Fitzgerald said, on October 8, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    Perhaps it’s already falling down around us…

  2. ash said, on October 8, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    well certainly we’ve become a generation that cannot seem to go without our technological fix…it’s something we’ve created, but as addicting as such things could be, in this day and age, deprivation would actually be “counter useful” on SOME level, don’t you think?

  3. amoslanka said, on October 8, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    @ash — were a cultural correction to be made, it would have to happen like all cultural movements, slow and amoeba-like. we shouldn’t try to imagine cultural change as though we could displace a culture’s population into a more suitable mindset. for one, it just would never happen, and for two, it is completely unrealistic to try to imagine ourselves in the context of an immediately different culture.

    this culture is most definitely in a downward plunge, gaining speed. if somehow it were to change directions, i would have no doubt that we would not see the change within our lifetimes.

  4. ash said, on October 8, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    well, amos, i suppose that depends on the change to which you’re referring….what would you expect such a change to look like?

    as we are now, the technological culture we’ve created and are in currently- certainly has its advantages as well as disadvantages- what changes SHOULD be made are on a case by case basis.

    so what specifically are you trying to identify?

  5. amoslanka said, on October 9, 2008 at 12:08 am

    @ash — ha, what a loaded question. well i suppose i should say that i would be one to see the costs as more substantial than most.

    Many of the advantages you might name i would quite likely group into the negatives of our culture, even though they are not obviously so.

    All of this also assumes, for the moment, the legitimacy of institutions including governments and the church.

    The trends I think would be positive (trying to avoid the negative..) include localization instead of globalization, a reversal of political polarization, a rejection of the worship of technology, trends against fashion and towards authenticism, trends to recognize sexual and other liberation movements as gratification movements instead of fulfillments, a return to true community and family values instead of “public freedom”, declines in divorce, teen pregnancy, and overall crime rates, and a realization against the worship of money/economics/personal prosperity. In no particular order, and not an exclusive list. Also, obviously, most of these issues would take much more in depth conversation if their immediate effect is not understood.

    By the way, I would add that these trends’ could in no way be somehow enforced governmentally or by other wide-scale forces. For their positive benefits, they would have to be organic. They would have to be the effect, not the cause of the change.

    I suppose looking at that list, anyone would say there’s no way that’ll ever happen. Therein lies our predicament. Though it does not surprise me. It could be called the inertia of a fallen culture. A downward spiral. An impending doom that we seem to be pretending isn’t going to happen. I mean, just look at population expansion. World population doubling every 40, then 25, then 15, then 5 years is definitely not a good thing, and at some point, the bubble is going to burst. Its the honest truth. Sad, scary, honest.

    I hope that was legible. Its after midnight, I’m going to bed..

  6. ash said, on October 9, 2008 at 12:59 am

    well, that’s quite the outlook sir.

    but might i come back to say that b/c of technology- you and i are able to have this conversation. this is where i see a significant growth in the world today- it is the way we are able to communicate and decipher new things about the life we live. it may be a basic idea of course, but community, diversity, and ideas can certainly increase w/ the amt of resources and people we are able to obtain.

    but i’m also a believer in moderation.

    then again, some of the potential and existing problems you mention i actually believe have been in existence for centuries (remember Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun) but for the first time in our generation, such things are just more blatantly obvious!

  7. amoslanka said, on October 9, 2008 at 1:23 am

    @ash — yes thats true, but i don’t hold this conversation as being the purpose of existence. i would gladly accept our culture as one without long distance communication if it were to restore the values we have sacrificed to get here.

    It could be likened to the nature of self-awareness. if one is not self aware, one does not know one is not self aware. were i unaware of the (possibly imagined) benefits of long distance conversation, I would not be aware of what I lacked. not to be ok with all forms of ignorance, but if we could imagine a world without the possibility for long distance communication, we could just as easily imagine a world without the need for it.

    I don’t hold up this conversation as rhetorically better than the conversation (or whatever activity would consume my time) in a parallel universe that didn’t include our technological worship that allows this conversation. Whatever i may be doing in that parallel universe is not by default, not as good as this.

    We tend to see technological advancement on a linear spectrum. This linear spectrum suggests to us that we whatever is in the past is bad and/or inferior, and whatever is in the future is enlightened/good/superior/destiny. Its this ever-increasing tower of babel that we build, which ties right in with the worship of technology.

    i might also clarify that some of the issues i mention don’t stop at american culture. by describing “our culture” i could be describing any culture. america, western civ, judeo-christian world, all of fallen humanity. we are a part of many cultures and sub-cultures.

  8. ash said, on October 9, 2008 at 2:24 am

    i think you’re making it more complicated than necessary. that said, by your very thinking…you do not know whether it would be a better world w/o the technological culture. you and i have quickly gained it grown into etc…and kids younger than us know even more so, as a result, you cannot know fully what it would truly be like w/o it. all you can do then is rely on quotes and thoughts from other people of another time. as far as i’m concerned, it’s kinda like the great frank sinatra saying the beatles would go no where…both were profound signifcant for their music, genre and time, but attempting to assume what the world would be like w/o that thing, w/o trying, investigating is a grave mistake. those are the people who eventually end up bound in a box….generally speaking

  9. amoslanka said, on October 9, 2008 at 9:49 am

    @ash — I do not judge culture based on what it feels like for me and what I would imagine it to feel like, but rather, the sum of its effect on the world. The way to know and/or predict what culture could (not would) be like with different circumstances is by observing other cultures (there are still technologically disinclined cultures in some parts of the world).

    I might also add that profundity and effect on ones time does not necessarily reflect absolute truth, unless your view tends toward humanism and the divinitization of humanity.

  10. ash said, on October 9, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    i don’t think it’s about “absolute truth” but rather perspective…and one’s perspective for thier time. true, there are societies who go w/o much of what we do say in america or europe, but the point is- why not take the advantages of a technology driven society and and offer them to non technology driven societies? it may take time, education and understanding as it does with anyone new to any THING- but it’s not impossible. and my goal is to benefit the world rather than deprive it. granted, that said, i also would hope to learn and see through the eyes of those who have nothing. i think it’s a give and take situation (something like “TAG” backwards…ha ha)

    i go back to the simplicity of just having this conversation with you. you’re right, it does not make or break my day- but i still walk away w/ more perspective and perhaps having learned something i did not know before. again, it’s an advantage…that i can put to use when i have it.

    again, though, i don’t think the “sins of man” are any worse than they have ever been, they are just different in form b/c we live in a different time w/ different resources.

  11. chris (subversive church) said, on October 10, 2008 at 1:12 am

    I just had to comment on the fact that you are reading Jaques Ellul! That’s fantastic. We really need to talk sometime. On the subject of Christian Anarchists- have you read “The Kingdom of God Is Within You” by Tolstoy?

  12. amoslanka said, on October 10, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    @Chris — its on the “to-read” list :) as is War and Peace and all the rest of Tolstoy’s work.


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