A book of uncommon insight Nov 5, 2009
With a main text running some 250 pages, Ellul's 1967 book, translated to English in 1972, is lucid and relentless in uncovering the political illusion. Chapters address topics such as the monopoly of force, politics in the world of images, control of the state, bureaucracy, politics as attainment of values, democratic man, and many others. Ellul's views doubtless are informed by his life-context in France, nevertheless, he warns that Britain and the USA are following along right behind. Ellul writes, "From the moment that the state becomes what it is,--i.e., charged with all things--who will control it? From the moment the state is bureaucratized, what norms of validity or legitimacy can impose themselves from the outside? From the moment the state charges itself with the whole of a citizen's life, how can politics not be autonomous?" (p. 79). Ellul can be hard for an idealist to read, but realism is not cynicism. Ellul is not without hope. He only sees the difficulty that is before us in attaining to something better.