Title: Propaganda, Technology and Human Freedom: Jacques Ellul’s Vital Relevance Today
Jacques Ellul (1912-1994) was an inspirational voice in the USA of the 1960s. His sociological writings drew attention to the growth of technology and techniques, such as advertising and propaganda. All these things created profit for many, but there was little reckoning of the deleterious effects on humans. What makes Ellul more relevant than ever today is the enormous depth and scope of his thinking. His sociological writings give insights into politics and the problem for liberal democracies regarding the use of propaganda. He wrote about “the political illusion” to draw attention to how political decision-making was being determined by forces fostering technological growth, rather than by the people and the politicians they elected.
Ellul claimed that his writings were like chapters in one big book, and it is true that his perspective is richly historical as well as contemporary. His biblical studies and his deep investigation of the history of institutions complement his observations about social action today. What is left as problematic in one text often finds resolution in another. There are now many scholars around the world who appreciate Ellul’s insights and are engaged in exploring, discussing and developing his ideas in the light of current events and newly published or newly translated works. Problems such as privacy in today’s surveillance society, or the communications problems connected with Covid-19 would benefit from his perspective.
In my presentation I will focus on Ellul’s profound study of propaganda, my specialty since 1980 following a year spent following his courses and meeting with him at the Université de Bordeaux. But I will also make links to his other writings.
Here is a link to a brief article by Randal: https://ellul.org/current-drift/dynamic-tension-for-pandemic-times/
FSN seminar is on May 14th on Propaganda by Randal Marlin, a recognised authority on the topic. Here is his bio for the FSN posting for his talk.
Randal Marlin is Adjunct Research Professor in the Philosophy Department at Carleton University. His current focus of research activity is communication ethics, in particular the study of ethical dimensions of persuasion and propaganda. His most recent publication is Propaganda and the Ethics of Persuasion (Broadview: Second Edition, 2013). A fellowship from the Department of National Defence facilitated a sabbatical year in Bordeaux with Jacques Ellul, in preparation for his course on Truth and Propaganda. This has been given regularly at Carleton since 1980, most recently in 2020. He is a Board member and former Vice-President of the International Jacques Ellul Society, and member of the Association Internationale Jacques Ellul. He has also published articles on free speech issues and is active in civil liberties, having served as a president of Civil Liberties Association, National Capital Region.