Jennifer Alexander of the University of Minnesota History of Science & Technology Department delivers an STS colloquium talk titled “The Radical Religiosity of Ellul’s Technological Critique” on Thursday, February 7, 5:00-6:30pm at the Green College Coach House.
Jacques Ellul formulated his influential critique of technological society in the decade following the Second World War, as one of a group of theologians, engineers, and critics concerned about technology and social justice in war-torn Europe. The work of this group was sponsored by the World Council of Churches in Geneva, largely funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, and Ellul was its most recognizable speaker. Ellul led his colleagues in an attempt to visualize a society founded neither on Marxist nor capitalist terms, by radically rejecting the concepts of planning inherent in both. This paper analyzes the speech that brought Ellul to international attention, at the first conference of the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam in 1948, and compares his critique of technological society with other critiques circulating through the study circles of post-war Europe. The paper concludes that Ellul’s critique cannot be understood outside of the religious milieu within which it was born.