Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Human Affairs

Postdisciplinary Humanities & Social Sciences Quarterly

Editor-in-Chief: Višnovský, Emil

Ed. by Bianchi, Gabriel / Hrubec, Marek / Tartaglia, James

CiteScore 2016: 0.33

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2016: 0.172
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2016: 0.415

See all formats and pricing
More options …
Volume 25, Issue 4


From Technological Autonomy to Technological Bluff: Jacques Ellul and Our Technological Condition

J. Craig Hanks
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Philosophy, 102 Comal Texas State University, 601 University Drive San Marcos, TX 78666 UNITED STATES
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Emily Kay Hanks
  • Department of Political Science, UAC Texas State University, 601 University Drive San Marcos, TX 8666 UNITED STATES
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2015-10-06 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humaff-2015-0037


The work of Jacques Ellul is useful in understanding and evaluating the implications of rapidly changing technologies for human values and democracy. Ellul developed three powerful theses about technology: technological autonomy, technological determinism, and technological bluff. In this essay, the authors explicate these views of technology, and place the work of Ellul in dialogue with the ides of other important theorists of technology (including Max Weber, Herbert Marcuse, Lewis Mumford, Langdon Winner, and Hans Jonas). Ellul’s too-often overlooked theses about technology are relevant to our present technological society

Keywords: Jacques Ellul; autonomous technology; technological determinism; technological bluff; technology and democracy


  • Adorno, T., & Horkheimer, M. (1944/1989). Dialectic of enlightenment (J. Cumming, Trans.). New York, NY: Continuum.Google Scholar

  • Allen, P. (1974). Everything old is new again. All that jazz. [LP]. New York, NY: Casablanca Records. (1979).Google Scholar

  • Berger, J. (1972). Ways of seeing. New York, NY: Penguin.Google Scholar

  • Bostrom, N., & Sandberg, A. (2006). Converging cognitive enhancements. Annals of the New York Academy of Science, 1093, 201-227.Google Scholar

  • Brown, D. M. (1948). The impact of firearms in Japanese warfare. The Far East Quarterly, 7(3), 236-253.Google Scholar

  • Carson, R. (1962). Silent spring. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar

  • Ellul, J. (1962). The technological order. Technology and culture. Special Issue: Proceedings of the Encyclopaedia Britannica Conference on the Technological Order, 3(4), 394-421.Google Scholar

  • Ellul, J. (1964). The technological society (J. Wilkinson, Trans.). New York, NY: Vintage.Google Scholar

  • Ellul, J. (1965). Propaganda: The formation of men’s attitudes (K. Kellen & J. Lerner, Trans.). New York, NY: Vintage.Google Scholar

  • Ellul, J. (1990). The technological bluff. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.Google Scholar

  • Ellul, J. (2003). The “autonomy” of the technological phenomenon. In R. C. Scharff & V. Dusek (Eds.), Philosophy of technology: The technological condition (pp. 386-398). Malden, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar

  • Freud, S. (1929/1961/2010). Civilization and its discontents (J. Starchey, Trans.). New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar

  • Gates, B. (Interviewee). (2015). Hi Reddit, I’m Bill Gates [Interview transcript]. Retrieved from http:// www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/2tzjp7/hi_reddit_im_bill_gates_and_im_back_for_my_third Google Scholar

  • Habermas, J. (1975). Legitimation crisis (T. McCarthy, Trans.). Boston, MA: Beacon Press.Google Scholar

  • Habermas, J. (1984). The theory of communicative action (Vol. 1) (T. McCarthy, Trans.). Boston, MA: Beacon Press.Google Scholar

  • Habermas, J. (1987). The theory of communicative action (Vol. 2) (T. McCarthy, Trans.). Boston, MA: Beacon Press.Google Scholar

  • Hanks, J. C. (2010) Possibilities and pitfalls: Dewey and Ortega y Gasset as technological diagnosticians. Inter-American Journal of Philosophy, 1(1), 18-35.Google Scholar

  • Hobbes, T. (1651/1982/2001) Leviathan. New York: Penguin Press.Google Scholar

  • Huesemann, M, & Huesemann, J. (2011). Techno-fix: Why technology won’t save us or the environment. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers.Google Scholar

  • Jonas, H. (1979). Toward a philosophy of technology. Hastings Center Report, 9(1), 34-43.PubMedGoogle Scholar

  • Kalberg, S. (1980). Max Weber’s types of rationality: Cornerstones for the analysis of rationalization processes in history. American Journal of Sociology, 85(5), 1145-1179.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Marcuse, H. (1964). One-dimensional man: Studies in the ideology of advanced industrial society. Boston, MA: Beacon.Google Scholar

  • Mumford, L. (1934). Technics and civilization. New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace, and Co.Google Scholar

  • Ortega y Gasset, J. (1941). History as a system. New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company.Google Scholar

  • Perrin, N. (1988). Giving up the gun: Japan’s reversion to the sword 1543-1879. Boston, MA: David Godine Press.Google Scholar

  • Pitt, J. (1987). The autonomy of technique. In P. Durbin (Ed.), Philosophy and technology (Vol. 3) (pp. 99-114). Dordrecht, Holland: Springer.Google Scholar

  • Pollan, M. (2003). Second nature: A gardener’s education. New York, NY: Grove Press.Google Scholar

  • Pollan, M. (2013). Cooked: A natural history of transformation. New York, NY: Penguin.Google Scholar

  • Ritzer, G. (2013). The technological society: Social theory, McDonaldization and the prosumer. In H. M. Jerónimo, et al. (Eds.), Jacques Ellul and the technological society of the 21st century (pp. 35-48). New York, NY: Springer.Google Scholar

  • Savulescu, J., & Bostrom, N. (2009). Human enhancement. London, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Savulescu, J., & Persson, I. (2012). Unfit for the future: The need for moral enhancement. London, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Shelley, M. W. (1818/1969). Frankenstein: Or, the modern Prometheus. London, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (2014). Fact sheet on nuclear insurance and disaster relief funds. Retrieved from pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML0327/ML032730606.pdf.Google Scholar

  • Volti, R. (2006). Cars and culture: The life story of a technology. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar

  • Weber, M. (1930/1992). The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism (T. Parsons, Trans.). New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar

  • Wells, L. (2009). Photography: A critical introduction. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar

  • Winner, L. (1977). Autonomous technology: Technics-out-of-control as a theme in political thought. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

  • Winner, L. (1995). The enduring dilemmas of autonomous technique. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 15(2), 67-72. Google Scholar

About the article

Published Online: 2015-10-06

Published in Print: 2015-10-01

Citation Information: Human Affairs, Volume 25, Issue 4, Pages 460–470, ISSN (Online) 1337-401X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humaff-2015-0037.

Export Citation

Institute for Research in Social Communication, Slovak Academy of Sciences.Get Permission

Citing Articles

Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. If you would like to receive automatic email messages as soon as this article is cited in other publications, simply activate the “Citation Alert” on the top of this page.

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in