In a blog post this week from Salvo, Joshua Pauling cites the influential thinker Jacques Ellul on the development of a “technological society” in Western culture. Pauling writes,
Even in the mid-20th century, Ellul, a French philosopher and theologian, saw technique and efficiency coming to consume every aspect of life and society. As he defined it in The Technological Society (originally entitled La Technique in French), technique is the “totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency in every field of human activity” (xxv). Just as the factories of the industrial world were optimized according to new standards of efficiency, now everything is measured, recorded, analyzed through a lens of efficiency, and then submitted to a technique to maximize outcomes according to efficiency.”-Joshua Pauling, The Remedy for the Tyranny of Technique and the Anxiety of Self-Creation by Joshua Pauling – Salvo Magazine
Pauling situates the reference as a part of his review of a new book by Alan Noble called You Are Not Your Own. Noble, a professor of English at Oklahoma Baptist University, connects the idea of technique to the heavy burden of creating and improving the self. We have techniques for everything now, from parenting to sex to health to religion. We think that the right formula, method, or guru’s guide will lead to happiness. Despite the efficiency each leap in technological progress affords us, our problems, according to Noble, just get more complicated. Pauling quotes Noble in the blog:
Technique promises a better world but produces only a more efficient world with different problems. Technique is then used to solve the problems that technique unintentionally created, which only produces new unintended consequences. The further it goes, the more absurd it becomes and the more helpless we feel to stop it (111).
The solution, according to Noble, involves recalling our limits as created beings and to give up the exhausting efforts of self-creation via technique.
Read the rest of Pauling’s review here.