The Eclipse Of Thought — Quote From Ellul’s Propaganda

“(When examining propaganda) we shall stress the dissociation between thought and action, which seems to us one of the most disturbing facts of our time. Nowadays, man acts without thinking, and in turn his thought can no longer be translated into action. Thinking has become a superfluous exercise, without reference to reality; it is purely internal, without compelling force, more or less a game. It is a literature’s domain; and I am not referring solely to ‘intellectual; thought, but to all thought, with concerns work or politics or family life. In sum, thought and reflection have been rendered thoroughly pointless by the circumstances in which modern man lives and acts. He does not need to think in order to act; his action is determined by the techniques he uses and by the sociological conditions. He acts without really wanting to, without ever reflecting on the meaning of or reason for his actions. This situation is the result of the whole evolution of our society. The schools, the press, and the social pragamatism are just as responsible for this as the psychotechnics, the modern political structure, and the obsession with productivity. But the two decisive factors are the mechanization of work and propaganda.

The mechanization of work is based on entirely on dissociation: those who think, establish the schedules, or set the norms, never act — and those who act must do so according to rules, patterns and plans imposed on them from outside. Above all they must not reflect on their actions. They can not do so anyhow, because of the speed with which they work. The modern ideal appears to be a reduction of action to complete automatism. This is considered to be a great benefit to the worker, who can dream or think of ‘other things’ while working. But this dissociation, which lasts eight hours a day, must necessarily affect all the rest of behaviour.

The other element that plays a decisive role in this connection is propaganda. Remember that propaganda seeks to induce action, adherence, and participation — with as little thought as possible. According to progaganda, it is useless, even harnful for man to think; thinking prevents him from acting with the required righteousness and simplicity. Action muct come directly from the depths of the unconcious; it must release tension, become a reflex. This presumes that thought unfolds on an entirely unreal level, that it never engages in political decision. And this is in fact so. No political thought that is at all conherent or distinct can possibly be applied. What man thinks either is totally without effect or must remain unsaid. This is the basic condition of the political organization of the modern world, and progapganda is the instrument to attain this effect. An example that show the radical devaluation of thought is the transformation of words in propaganda; there, language, the instrument of the mind, becomes ‘pure sound,’ a symbol directly evoking feelings and reflexes. This is one of the most serious dissociations that progapanda causes. There is another: the dissociation betwen the verbal universe, in which propaganda makes us live, and reality. Propaganda sometimes deliberately separates from man’s real world the verbal world that it creates; it then tends to destory man’s conscience.”

Jaques Ellul
Propaganda — The Formation Of Men’s Attitudes
pg. 179-181

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

One thought on “The Eclipse Of Thought — Quote From Ellul’s Propaganda”

  1. A frightening description of the world in which we live. In such an environment, individuals who re-establish a connection between thought (esp. ethical thought) and the actions of everyday life can suffer immense personal anguish. For the soul to survive he must attempt to break with the evil machine, likely incurring great loss in the process.

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