The meaning of subjectivity in a technological society: Jacques Ellul's view of man as dialogic agent

Daryl James Wennemann, Marquette University

Abstract

This work is a study of Jacques Ellul's analysis of the problem of freedom in a technological society. It is my argument that Ellul's views on the significance of human freedom in a technological society have not been adequately understood because the dialectical character of his thought has not been appreciated. The first chapter of the work shows that the problem of freedom in a technological society is the central theme of Ellul's thought. Ellul has thus developed a conception of knowledge that is open to freedom. Middle range theory provides for a level of generality that lies mid-way between a metaphysical conception of the human condition and a mere factual description that Ellul designates as fact-worship realism. The second chapter is a biographical study of the origins of Ellul's views on modern technique and the significance of human freedom in a technological society. Chapter three provides a description of Ellul's dialectic and its significance for his analysis of the technological society and the meaning of freedom in a technological society. Ellul's dialectic is existential, one that is directed toward making a fundamental decision in the face of technological necessity. Chapter four considers the relation of technological development to the development of human freedom. Ellul argues that technological development has historically been an expression of human freedom with respect to the natural environment. When technological development reached the stage at which technical means formed a system, what Ellul calls 'technique', it became a source of determination. The meaning of human freedom has changed so that now human freedom must be expressed as an opposition to technique. The fifth and final chapter examines Ellul's critique of the theory of planned freedom developed by Karl Mannheim. Ellul rejects Mannheim's theory as an example of a political illusion. It provides an illusory freedom in the face of technological necessity. While there is, in Ellul's view, no apparent resolution to the general problem of freedom in a technological society, it remains for individuals to create an individual lifestyle that is expressive of their freedom.

Recommended Citation

Daryl James Wennemann, "The meaning of subjectivity in a technological society: Jacques Ellul's view of man as dialogic agent" (January 1, 1991). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI9133814.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI9133814

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