Hal Forsstrom
Ellul, Chapter 2:  The Characterology of Technique

Conclusion: There is no common denominator between the technique of
today and that of yesterday.  While there are remaining examples, they
do not constitute the progress of the world today, and as a result are not a
part of the dominant society "technique" creates.  At one time technique
belonged to a civilization, now it has overtaken civilization.

"Psychology of the tyrant"
"We must assess, not the internal characteristics of the
technique, but the actual situation of technique in human society." p.64
Traditional Techniques and Society:  In Paleo-Technical Societies (I'll 
use the description *past* to group all of these societies before
Ellul*s technological one) there were several specific conditions
which kept technique in check within a society:

1. Man worked only as much as was necessary to furnish the goods
necessary for consumption.  Work was not a virtue.  How does modern's
"more for your money" life affect this attitude towards working overtime
(wholesale clubs and shopping malls as the expenditure point of all 
this extra work in particular)? Returns to last week's argument that now 
we work to accumulate money, which we then can spend on material goods. 

2. "What do we define as the things which make us comfortable?" 
Ellul argues that "comfort" did not mean lots of goods but rather an
atmosphere of comfort. 

3. Technique was based on the "old style," which slowly evolved. The 
difference between past and present civilizations lay in the attitude
that the deficiency of the tool was always to be compensated for by the
skill of the worker.  In such a relationship the tool remains as a tool.
 In the modern technological society it is the machine which compensates
for the the worker*s lack of skill. Direct referece to the hand planning 
trunks vs. the machine planning.

Is the mechanical planer a tool or a worker?  Could anyone in ID
have a career without the machine?  How does this affect society's
consumer based society?  "Is the workshop (master apprentice) system
dead as a result?"

4. Relative Isolation of societies.  Past societies were so diverse
and self dependent that techniques could not transfer from one to 
another easily.

Direct confrontation and some aesthetic similarity between cultures was
necessary for any cross cultural exchange.

5. "Active vs. Passive" Societies Western (specifically European):  
Classified as Active, expansion, exploitative of Earth's resources.
Eastern:  Classified as Passive, concentrate on preserving own culture,
keeping out anything that would taint it, tended towards preserving

In either of these past societies, there was the choice for a
person to break away from society.  Always the option available to
exclude oneself from the dominant empire, live a *life of contemplation.*

about the Unibomber.  Now he is a joke, but society has a tendency to
single out and make examples of those people who stray from society*s
principles (which are focused around technique).  People planning to
lead contemplative lives must do so around the hectic schedule of
contemporary life:  the thought of abandoning modern civilization for
such a pursuit is practically unheard of anymore.  What I find
interesting is that the people who tend to be alienated by society are
the ones who are the stereotype of the programmers and scientists who
CREATE THE TECHNIQUE which dictates the society that could not
accommodate them.

Division of Nature and Technique.

Technique is rational, based on a clear and efficient way of doing things.  
Most machines, by visual reference, explain the process by which they
function (ex:  cars have wheels). Nature in past societies always
existed within the realm of the unknown.  Therewas a fear and/or a
respect for it, which resulted in mysticism.  Technique allowed science
to reveal nature*s secrets.  This allows for enough of an understanding
for people to no longer fear it.

People really haven*t conquered nature.  The average city
dweller woudn*t survive the dangers of the wild, and our society has
conditioned us to not want to.  The manner by which technique conquered
nature is that it leaves the dangers as our decision.  Someone who died
of a snake bite shouldn*t have been out in the wild, but they *took the
risk* of leaving the safety of civilization.  We still fear it, but can
now avoid it in everyday life.  However only a fool would think we
completely conquered it:  look at the fear which erupts as soon as wild
animals creep into our society.

"Artificiality"  Ellul's definition:  "Technique as art is the
creation of an artificial system."  

7. Automatism: Technical movement becomes self directing.  Where
does that leave us?  Ellul's argument is that it leaves us with the job
of deciding which technique is most efficient.  This could be just an
illusion of power.  We feel as though we are in control of the direction
things are heading, but it is in fact just another step in the same
direction.  The person is reduced to nothing more than a part of the
process, not the end result OF that process (a redundant point in every
chapter).  pp.78

Argument (of Communism):  Capitalism cannot function with
technique's constant innovation- it would break down the system in the
process of trying to keep up. 

But the advent of the PC actually argues against this
prediction:  look at how quickly companies upgrade software and internal
parts.  What Ellul failed to realize (as almost every argument of this
period) was the potential for technology to condense in size!  Computers
then took up entire rooms-  the idea of buying new computers every six
months was absurd.  Our simple solution was the technique of inserting a
small chip to upgrade.  As a result we are reduced to caretakers f the
machine.  But the machine will not die if it doesn't get more RAM,
unlike a child who doesn't get fed.  Instead it is the end user who,
unless they keep up with the pace of upgrading, is not longer on the
cutting edge of modern technology.


Why Technique really is separate from machines:  The reality
that machines are self defeating.  When one is obsolete, it is thrown
away for the newer model.  In some cases, the shell or parts are reused
in the next model.  This could be compared to eating a corpse to absorb
its power or another form of "Lineage tradition" from one technique to
the next, but more often then not 
the old are abandoned in 2-5 year life spans.  This life span is
contracting, as Ulllman*s book shows, with modern technology obsolete
almost upon inception.  

8. "Gray Area" of Technology"  Again we fall upon the argument of
whether technology is neutral or not.  The self defeating nature of its
evolution seems to prove Ellul*s arguments that technique is blind to
society.  That leaves society to see its effects as the motivator of
passing judgment, and as the party responsible for cleaning up the
aftereffects of unleashing it upon the world.  We always use something
asap with the desire to know its *benefits.*  While it is a fine
argument that a technique should not be unleashed if it is potentially
dangerous, the amount of time and financial expenditure for a technique
necessitates applying it as soon as possible, and passing moral judgment
Atomic Bomb:  Nuclear Power*s benefits, but also its devastate
properties *needed* to be seen for us to judge whether it was a
worthwhile pursuit.  

By acting first and thinking later, are we a society devoid of
moral consciences? Or has the role of technical innovators been so
diminished that as technique continues to branch out into more
specialized forms we simply cannot ascertain what may occur when a
technique is applied in the real world?  
The problem remains that now we fcus on what is the most
economic solution for the society.  Solutions that are not the BEST but
are the most efficient in terms of labor, money, and industry are those
implemented to solve the problems technique poses.  But these solutions
do not act to expand our civilization:  they function just to keep a
technique implemented.


9. Thus Society conforms to assist Technique:  Government, Police,
Propaganda, Economy all act together to maintain a structure conducive
to accommodating whatever surprises the implementation of a technique. 
"Prison Camps," in administrative aspects.  ORDER is the highest value
of the technical society, these must all function together to keep
ORDER.  Organization of the state in every technically oriented society
is crucial to stability.

10. Technical Universalism:  As soon as a society (3rd World) takes
the first steps towards technique, no hope to change back.
*Advanced* nations introduce the overflow of goods which result
from technique into *primitive* nations.  The only for their societies
is to function by the same rules as other *modern* nations to
accommodate the change.  International *GENEROSITY* allows technique to
reach out and assimilate others.

With similar governments and policing structures implemented,
these societies become part of worldwide civilization.  Public schooling
becomes so important to technology because through it a child*s ancestry
is diluted.  The technical society can be introduced into almost any
culture in the modern world, and then conforms it to the standard
through social institutions.

Is technique creating a greater gap between social groups?  Does
it leave the *have nots* locked in a state where they cannot grasp the
techniques of society?  The reverse appears to be true.  Technique has
evolved to the point where it has diversified and manifested itself in
so many forms that at least one is simple enough to involve groups of
people (speciically the lower class and third world nations) through the
technology once alienating the nation.  Techniques must become available
on some level to reach the masses it constrains through government, and
by enveloping them into the civilization it leaves everyone *happy* as a
part of the social whole.  As a result, technique appears to evolve down
to people without the inclination towards technology.  Does this
undermine the technique*s merits further, or provide the end result of
any technical innovation (use on some level by everyone)?


See factories, smoke stacks, apartment complexes, parking lots,
malls, all to accommodate the same *needs* of society.  

Japan- after bomb, changed completely.  However people had no
problems with letting go of their society to KEEP PACE (the key phrase).
 In the span of 200 years a relatively isolated nation is one of the
leaders of industry.

that is being used, and technique*s epicenter is the Western World. 
11. "Technical invention does not involve the simple addition of new
values to old ones* Old bottles are being broken."
Nature has been conquered and changed to technique*s accommodations.
Is religion ABANDONED, or has it changed?  Does technique
supplant its role?  As Ullman showed with the AIDS project, we invest so
much in technique that we cannot let it go even if it is not viable. The
financiers have a reverence towards technique they partake in but don't
completely understand, while the programmers of technique*s many forms
have no association with its ends.  The Gods and Supernatural of nature
are no longer revered, since technique has provided technologies as a
means of DIMINISHING THEIR SUPERIORITY through necessity in a society. 
It never kills themcompletely, but instead reduces their role in society
to a quaint option for people to choose if it suits their lifestyle in
the Technological Society.  It is the same choice for a woodworker using
the planer by hand instead of the machine.  These remnants of
non-technical societies cannot offer enough resistance to the expansion
of our civilization to stop the wheels set in motion already.

The path upon which we are headed is unknown.  We put faith in
technique and our ability to create new techniques to clean up any
problems to guide us into it safely.  Technique produces such obvious
results that it is easy to put faith in whatever direction it*s headed. 
The problem is that it has no apparent direction.  It*s only certainty
is that it is self replacing, allowing us to wonder what more efficient
technique could replace the civilization we exist in now.  That make*s
Ellul*s farfetched technological nightmares a little more disconcerting.


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