A critique of the new commonplaces. by Jacques Ellul

By Jacques Ellul

Jacques Ellul-much much less solemn in temper than usual-here cracks open political and sociological commonplaces, destructively and wittily demonstrating how our unthinking popularity of them encourages hypocrisy, smugness, and psychological inertia. one of the stereotypes of proposal and speech therefore exploded are such words as "You cannot act with out getting your fingers soiled" "Work is freedom" "We needs to persist with the present of heritage" and "Women locate their freedom (dignity) in paintings" a definite variety of those outdated saws preside over our way of life. they allow us to appreciate each other and to swim within the usual present of society. they're approved as so convinced that we virtually by no means query them. They serve without delay as enough causes for every little thing and as "clinchers" in too many arguments. Ellul explores the ways that such clichés lie to us and stop us from having self reliant thoughts-and in reality continue us from dealing with the issues to which they're theoretically addressed. they're the "new commonplaces" simply because the 19th century introduced forth many such commonplaces (they are enshrined in Leon Bloy's Exégése and Flaubert's Dictionnaire des idées reçues), so our century has been busy developing its personal. What Ellul has performed is to face nonetheless lengthy sufficient to examine them rigorously, assault them with cool cause, and depart them nakedly uncovered. during this impressive record, Ellul's caustic fearlessness is on the carrier of truths that regularly are merciless, yet constantly are lucid and impassioned. He represents the voice of intelligence, and whereas doing so is usually hilarious and regularly healing approximately issues of first significance.

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What mastery, gentlemen! Much stronger than the shamans! Much stronger than all the theologians! We can see where we are going, so we know what we have to do. I also know the meaning of what I am doing now. My destiny A Critique of the New Commonplaces becomes clear, I solved, and I find am in I ( who physicians my time, with since they are part of this history that making ) and therefore with technolHow stupid were those unfortunate meta- the process of ogy and science. duty, as well as that of the belong.

But this practical, pragmatic wisdom was body of istics. After the fruit of long experience, of an invisible creation, of moment who used to observation repeated a thousand times until the when it could be distilled in proverbs. harp on the lessons of La Wisdom If those of Nations often Fontaine, it adopted the moral must be said that this was owing between popular experience to a remarkable coincidence and formal expression. And the primary school certainly helped. This pragmatism was perfectly sound.

Certain writers are (although, as tive)? " In other words, to be committed is to assure oneself an audience, to attract customers. You think I am exaggerating? Sartre said as much The in Jewish Question. To make your living as an intellectual "you must seduce, arrest, most important thing is win people's confidence reputation: you make . . " And an intellectual cannot it is [ 45 quite true that in our society sell his novels unless he is commit- he claims to have dirty hands. To sign manifes- ted, unless (and the more revolutionary, excessive, demanding tos they are, the more they impress ) — public expects of a writer is to do exactly what the this public passionately inter- ested in politics, thirsty for action, believing both in facts and in justice.

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