The Betrayal of Technology: A Portrait of Jacques Ellul

By Dan Clendenin

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The Betrayal of Technology: A Portrait of Jacques Ellul (1992)

Yes, this movie is 25 years old, but it still ought to be required viewing for those who care about the single most important feature of contemporary culture, which is the domination of technology. Back in 1985, I wrote my dissertation on the French sociologist Jacques Ellul (1912–1994), who wrote an important trilogy about technology. The subtitle of his book The Technological Society (1954) called technology “the wager of the century.” That is, it’s a bet that we have made. In this one-hour documentary made in Holland, the title refers to the betrayal, the treachery, or treason of technology. Technology permits no outside judgment. It is a powerful means without any moral ends to constrain it. Technology is no longer a choice but something that is imposed on us. In our society, technology is the new sacred, and one dare not “desacralize” it. Thus, Ellul challenges us to have “a radical discussion about our modern life” that is dominated by technology. To watch this film just do a search for the title and you’ll find numerous online versions.

From the film: “The question now is whether people are prepared or not to realize that they are dominated by technology. And to realize that technology oppresses them, forces them to undertake certain obligations and conditions them. Their freedom begins when they become conscious of these things.”

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