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Technology’s Dominion: An Ever-Tightening Web of Dependency

Technology’s Dominion: An Ever-Tightening Web of Dependency

Although some degree of indeterminacy circumscribes perception and communication, it does not follow that the information which filters through our perceptual screens must be false or illusory. Norbert Wiener characterized it as “the devil of confusion, not of willful malice.”[1] His concern was with the loss or distortion of information – analogous to entropy – in the process itself. It is a problem which bedevils our best efforts to find a common ground for understanding.

Language – as well as rational, representational, and conventional systems in general – may operate as an invisible cultural determinant or predisposition. Cultures, organizations, and technologies are value-laden, interactive systems of diverse components whose relationship is subject to adaptation. Given such a degree of subjectivity, statistical studies of social trends which yield ranges, margins, and averages often mark the outer limits of what can be meaningfully or scientifically measured.

Our use of abstract rational methods, as in social science, emphasizes the political dimension of human relationships. Politics concerns the handling of alternative policy choices and the reconciliation of people’s respective needs and dilemmas, just as economics must deal with scarcity of means and resources. Our ability to extend our reach – in both space and time – by artificial means expands our horizon. Given that our reach exceeds our grasp, a sense of insufficient means shapes our expectations.

The consequences of our decisions and actions are not confined to what we expect or intend, which may obscure lines of responsibility. Assessments of the impact of technological innovation, for example, should consider subsidiary effects. These lower‑order serial consequences may be invisible or “lost” to standard research methods. Yet our human ecosystem is a natural working‑out of such consequences. The vital flow of activity – indeed, the human, ecological, and technological condition in general ‑‑ represents an otherwise invisible structure, as does language. A persistent problem is how to discern a sequence or pattern of related effects: for example, the impact of an industrial operation on the surrounding community. Our senses, which extract information from our surroundings, are oriented to immediate location in space. Lacking a faculty that directly perceives series of events, we compensate by “filling in the blanks” of our perceptual gaps through the interrelated means of language, memory, deductive logic, and belief systems.

The limited, conditional nature of perception, communication, resources, and life itself might be regarded as a basic deficiency. Christians understand this condition in terms of the fall of man – and, consequently, the natural world – as well as the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel. Many secular thinkers regard it in terms of a basic non‑correspondence between mind and matter or intelligence and instinct.

The Sapir‑Whorf hypothesis of linguistic relativism is concerned with basically the same problem in terms of language and perception. It credits language with an active role in organizing our perceptions of reality by mediating – and, to some unknown extent, constructing – our images of the external world, besides defining our sense of self. Some interpretations even relegate the notion of an objective world to the realm of shadows and myth, regarding cognition as a convention rather than a copy of reality.[2] Yet our perception of reality is accurate enough to successfully adapt to and manage the circumstances in which we live. Even so, what we derive through the senses is often too ambiguous to indicate how to respond appropriately.

Clock time may be an invention but it is not an arbitrary one. To some degree, it corresponds with our internal, physiological sense of time which tends to adapt to environmental rhythms. Scientists debate whether or to what extent this biological clock is preset or brought into synchronization with external signals which govern its rhythms.[3]

The validity of the conclusions we reach about reality has political and theological dimensions. Where to draw the line – between certainty and doubt, rigidity and plasticity – is a persistent problem. Absolutism and nihilism mark the extremes.

Language and other interactive systems, including our bureaucratic institutions and the sciences, may be understood as media which screen or even shape perceptual options and similarly mold or channel the expression of sentiments and intentions. One determining factor is the role a system plays as a mediator and molder of experience, cognition, and communication which combines with the uniqueness of personal circumstances to produce a variety of perspectives. Edward T. Hall cited many examples of perceptual bias in his books – especially those relating to space and time which may even be based on differences in the alignment of the senses in the very process of cognition.[4] Such biases or partiality may yield valuable insights or tools that may be transplanted and adapted to other cultural contexts.

Languages and cultures are unique vehicles of human expression. They are variably open or closed with respect to how readily they assimilate foreign elements. Pitirim Sorokin described what he called “chaotic syncretism” – the unassimilated juxtaposition of highly diverse values, customs, and laws – as a sign of cultural disintegration.[5]

In Wiener’s judgment, languages evolve and adapt through a process like natural selection. In turn, language plays an active role in modifying our circumstances. This reciprocity raises a question that appears repeatedly in the literature of social criticism. Are languages, technologies, or cultures evolving toward eventual convergence of technological means to produce a common, overarching conventional and material condition of man? Or are they so unique in their origins and disposition that they mold distinct character types?

Linguistic research may thus yield insights into technology as a major determinant in human ecology. Technological devices mold our responses and subtly channel effective options. Techniques impose distinct biases relating to possible courses of action. They involve often unknown factors and side‑effects that may carry profound implications for such questions as personal responsibility and political control. Ernst Jünger wrote of the “secret, seductive logic” of technology, emphasizing that technology could never be neutral.[6] The technology of politics, communications, and education reflects its origins and immediate circumstances. Innovation may upset traditional cultures and offer little other than relief in place of a broken way of life. It belongs to the realm of means rather than ends and should not be rendered into a surrogate end in itself.

Jacques Ellul explores the effects of technology on a grand scale. He describes what he simply calls “technique” as the “ensemble of means,” treating it is an independent, integrating force which, to speak anthropomorphically, is engaged in a “quest of the one best means in every field.”[7] For him, organization is the application of technique to social and economic life. The drift of technology seems to be toward the integration of everything that falls within its compass, but this does not mean that the perfection it appears to seek is attainable. Both Ellul and Jünger expected a completion of this unifying process: the organization of life.[8]

Such a conclusion does not seem well‑founded. To a significant extent, people and economies are resistant to planning and regimentation. Yet the hypertrophy of organization is a serious problem even where a plurality of organizations and techniques offer some choice. The implications of centralization for political freedom deserve consideration.

The idea of a “rational society” theme makes several appearances in the critique of technology. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Roderick Seidenberg were influenced by Henri Bergson’s concept of creative evolution and his hypothesis relating to the dichotomy and divergent development of intelligence and instinct. Teilhard and Seidenberg both speculated about an imminent fulfillment of this evolution. Teilhard optimistically predicted a cosmic transformation – a new creation – while Seidenberg was resigned to a gloomy conclusion that the dynamism of history must end in the stagnation and over‑organization of life.[9] Along with Ellul, Jünger, Herbert Marcuse, and others, they endorsed a convergence hypothesis, concluding that the impetus of technology and organization is toward some final state of perfection.[10]

Just as every organism faces a condition of material insufficiency, symbol-mediated representational systems, such as language, technology and political organization, similarly risk breakdown or failure. Just as drought, famine, disease, predators, temperature extremes, and accidents persist in the material world, a sense of radical insufficiency may inspire a drive to overcome limitations of knowledge, problems of communication, and shortages of supply and influence in order to secure a system’s ability to thrive and control its environment. It is specifically a problem of the human condition and consciousness.

The vision of a rational society depends on the management of human activity and on a high degree of effective communication, which, in turn, must rely on adherence to rules and commands accepted as legitimate and authoritative. Cultures favor or reinforce certain political biases, such as leadership expectations and forms of organization. Some tend to be ambiguous with respect to the regulation of activity, thus permitting latitude and variation within prescribed guidelines.

Man-made systems, such as language, technology, culture, and political organization, are all subject to an insufficiency that may gradually succumb to stasis and confusion. Man’s uniqueness lies in his capacity for reflective thought and a consciousness of the hazards of his precarious estate. As a fabricator of his circumstances, he works to establish control or dominion over his circumstances by organizing scarce resources through all the means at his disposal. With his options inherently limited, a sense of priorities must economize his actions. Dilemmas must be recognized and choices made.

Our representational systems themselves become determinants, giving the appearance of a second nature superimposed on the realm of natural necessity. The libido dominandi – as Augustine called the “lust to rule” others – imposes a larger number of determinants, including the redistribution of material necessities and privations by political actors. Choice is inescapable for those who are conscious of their circumstances. This is man’s radical freedom. 

Some dilemmas concerning organization and freedom 

While interpreting the relation between modern technology and the increasingly rational, purposive organization of our lives, special attention must be paid to political organization. Technology increases the repertory of means for political organization and action. Assessing the impact of modern technological means is a significant point of departure for understanding our present circumstances.

What we may call the impetus of applied technology as a system – whether it is a building project, business, bureaucracy, or state – is toward the increasing organization of all variables that influence its effective operation. Like language and cognition, it is drawn to fill the previously unclaimed or unorganized margins of its operation and to securing its order against threats that are intrinsic to any state of material or operational insufficiency. Whatever cannot be regulated requires compensation or accommodation.

Paul Valéry characterized as “method” the most formidable form of rational organization or technology, particularly “those administrative machines constructed in imitation of the impersonal aspects of the mind.”[11] Techniques and organizations tend to progress toward greater efficiency and refinement in order to manage threats. The perceived disorder recedes as the organization brings its immediate margins under more effective control. By seeking greater security in its operations, organizations generate a demand for more control to compensate for deficiencies. An example is the introduction of more sophisticated psychological techniques into the organization of political and economic life. The dependence of organizations on growth – expansion and complication – replenishes the supply of uncoordinated and unknown variables at the frontiers, which brings the process back full circle.

Bergson postulated a “law of dichotomy” through which he described the dynamic and static tendencies in “creative evolution” as manifestations of one original tendency: the “vital impetus.” His “law of twofold [or double] frenzy” claims that one tendency will predominate for a time until exhausted, to be succeeded by the other.[12] This pattern is fairly descriptive of the evolution of techniques and political forms. Some are more responsive to certain conditions than others. Successful forms may be favored by circumstances until they lose their fitness. They may then be succeeded by other tendencies or forms after a period of transition and conflict.

Institutions are sometimes closed, sometimes more open. A growing organization must be relatively open, but when it surpasses its optimal size, it loses force and focus. Disorder then plagues it from within and without. It is difficult to recognize or apply realistic solutions to this problem. Seidenberg predicted final a stasis, but he also assumed that near‑perfect organization is possible, which contradicts what we know about language, communication, and technology.

The outer limits of organization, while they appear to be inherent, may be fluid and best measured in terms of the margin of benefits over costs. Thorstein Veblen paid heed to the competing claims of persons and institutions to the unregulated margins of organized society. Although he discussed the issue in terms of work and ownership, the problem itself pervades the domains of economics and politics. Veblen deplored encroachments by “vested interests” and the “leisure class” on the disposable net margin of product over cost. For him it was a question of legitimacy: who may enjoy the usufruct of the common stock of knowledge.[13]

Governments also stake claims to these resources. Deficits and various inconveniences, such as a lack of operational coordination, inspire what Ellul calls the “self‑augmentation” of technology or organization – the need to compensate for a loss of coordination and responsiveness.

Veblen gave early expression to many themes in the critique of technology, such as the generation of waste and artificial (or created) needs, the rise of a new class, technocracy, interlocking processes, and technological biases. Like Henry Adams and Paul Valéry, he recognized the importance of the international economic community. Both Adams and Valéry saw in this new interdependence – part of what Valéry called “a conquest by method” – a source of serious political contention.[14] The disappearance of frontiers focuses competition more immediately on international rivals, which are viewed as sources of disorder to be contained.

As a process, the organization of facts, material, and people is an endless contention against confusion and willful malice. The means used to achieve these ends aggravate this condition. It aims foremost at security and continuity, which tend to be measured in terms of efficiency and smooth operation. Indeed, efficiency is valued mainly with respect to more refined techniques, where efficiency may be a matter of survival or inefficiency is destructive of the process.

A common complaint is that organizational efficiency is gained at the expense of such human values as personal freedom and privacy. Such consequences result from a reductive tendency that may be insoluble, although its effects can be mitigated. This “efficiency” may even appear as disorder when its “logic” contradicts more immediate interests. The growth of the federal budget is a case in point. Confusion reigns, along with misappropriation of funds and padding of expenses. Here we may be witnessing a gradual narrowing of benefits over costs. Without the new communications technology, in particular, the growth of government could not have reached its current levels; yet without further such refinements it may lack the capacity to adapt.

Periods of comparative stagnation follow dynamic growth periods, but a static level cannot be maintained indefinitely. Paul Valéry wrote that our accumulating reserves of knowledge must advance or perish.[15] To survive, an organization’s growth or adaptation must stay abreast changing circumstances. Change that is too rapid will result in some form of cultural lag – with new interests ready to fill the vacuum and complicate the situation further.

Old forms may seem to clutter up the political landscape but new forms tend to be opportunistic, often assuming odd shapes as they follow paths left by discontinuities in a system’s growth. The result may give the appearance of disorderly patchwork. With a similar point in mind, Wiener noted the problem of obsolescent survivals, which help shape the course of future developments. He cited the narrow gauge of England’s railways as an example.[16] In some countries, ancient Roman roads and aqueducts are still in use.

It is easy to be impatient with such relics but, if we believe they may be rooted out altogether to begin anew, we delude ourselves. Nicolas Berdyaev held that revolutions are psychologically reactionary, intensifying the very evils they wish to banish.[17] A revolutionary break with the past is no solution.

Established patterns tend to stereotype practical options. Language, like its structural counterparts, performs a security function as well as a formative one. By mediating perception and communication it serves as a protective buffer, similar in its own way to the atmosphere. It can help regulate the proper psychological distances that are necessary for the normal functioning of individuals and societies. Although stereotyped choice has something to do with “sunk costs,” it also has to do with the situational nature of freedom and necessity. Determinants may overlap; freedoms may shift. Superficial freedoms are insecure and may arouse insecurity. In a pinch, they might readily be traded for a greater sense of security, for a cozier web of law and more powerful organization.

Whether a powerful organization like the “servile state” depicted by Hilaire Belloc, A.S. Penty and others,[18] finds its basis in acquisitiveness or a “comforting system" of social welfare, it expresses a desire for greater protection. At the same time, increasing political control creates greater dependency that aggravates the insecurity it induces.

Paul Tillich, writing around the close of World War II, described this overgrowth of organization as the third phase of Leviathan – an outgrowth of the all‑embracing mechanism of the capitalistic economy. 

“The battle against the destructive consequences of this mechanism has led to the totalitarian organization of national life, and Leviathan appears again with a third face combining features of the first and second faces.”[19] 

Those earlier faces were late‑medieval authoritarianism and capitalist liberalism. This new development was stimulated by the transformation of “technical reason” into “planning reason.” Tillich saw all such developments and phases of political organization as intrinsically ambiguous. Bergson’s explanation of such ambiguity was that the vital impetus is inherently limited so that it cannot manifest its diverse and inherent tendencies simultaneously – only in successive “frenzies.”

The closed totalitarian society may represent one such frenzy. Peter Drucker believed that the revolution of the “total state” was a radical break with the past, but also recognized that conditions favorable to its rise were widespread.[20] Militant, ascetic totalitarianism is not the only form it might take. The total state may also project a benevolent image, like Dostoevsky’s inquisitor. Either way, it seeks to control internal forces. Here one is reminded of the paternalistic management of certain large Japanese corporations. As the critics of the servile state recognized, a concern with welfare and social ethics may be incorporated into underpinnings of political organization. Ethical traditions, such as political freedoms, find themselves on shifting ground. Different organizations, including the state itself, may vie for recognition as the legitimate guardians of the people. Decisions that were formerly left to private initiative are now fettered by myriad, often contradictory, regulations. The result is, once again, ambiguous.

Legislation, like language, displays a reductive tendency. In practice, the proliferation of laws means new problems, much waste, competition of interests to fill gaps, and the attendant effects of what is referred to as “relative deprivation.”[21] But, in recent times, what besides the state or an agent of the state is able to fill a social vacuum? In practice, the source of legitimate action is the state itself. Georges Bernanos clearly recognized the disintegrative implications of statism. “If everything can be authorized or absorbed in the name of the Nation, why not in the name of a Party, or of the men who represent the party...”[22]

Action that is officially sanctioned tends to be looked upon more impersonally. The domain of personal responsibility is clouded over. Language, like physical distance, acts as a buffer to help detach us from a more complete recognition of the consequences of our actions. It helps keep us from being overwhelmed by the enormity of all that happens around us: things that touch our lives perhaps only imperceptibly.

The question of personal responsibility brings us back to the level of daily life, where all politics begins and ends. Its meaning must be sought outside the flux of immediate political considerations. This poses a theological question.

If most of the elements that comprise our mental picture of reality seem to be clear and distinct, the still persistent problem of meaningfully connecting these elements should make us skeptical of appearances. The thrust of this analysis has been to emphasize the reductive nature of our means of knowing, the incompleteness of our information, and the relational context of our beliefs and ethics. The pursuit of understanding requires ascetic discipline; the hubris of the demigod must yield to a creaturely humility. The literature under review may supply insights.

Berdyaev and Simone Weil embraced a Christian asceticism. For them, obedience to worldly necessity – including submission to social injustice, to what Berdyaev referred to as the “realm of Caesar” – was required for the sake of humility, not for any values of social justice it might promote.[23] From a Calvinist viewpoint, Ellul holds that man is subject to the “order of necessity.” So far as he obeys its “inescapable compulsions,” he loses his moral agency. Although Ellul does not elaborate on this puzzling statement, he devotes special attention to the serial nature of action, focusing especially on violence. Awareness of the seriality of consequences is a basic ingredient for any adequate theory of responsibility.[24]

Politics is the art of the possible. When dealing with such intangibles as seeking meaningful connections between events, it is well to begin by acknowledging doubt and accepting the limits of one’s perspective. Incomplete knowledge, however, is not a good reason to dispense with reasoned judgment. Seasoned experience, which helps us survive, is worth heeding. It is useful to study a wide range of perspectives to stir further thought or more detailed empirical research. There are ways of compensating for the reductive effect of working from one’s single point of view.

Verbal testimony is an important supplement to and molder of experience. If we cannot directly experience what is described in literature, we can at least learn what concerns others to help interpret our own experiences more fully. This is an advantage of interdisciplinary study. Recurrent themes and comparable descriptions are valuable for the evidence they provide about common concerns. Indeed, they provide a basis for understanding history and politics, two otherwise nebulous processes. Indeed, all of our knowledge is a matter of trust and faith.

If the analogy of technology to language as a complex framework – as a system of interactive parts – is accurate, linguistics may offer insights about the technological process. Both are rule-bound systems with implications for the political process. As instruments or tools, they offer means for adjusting the social and material environment. Having originated in risk and insecurity, which demands boldness and ingenuity, they are powerful determinants. Speaking of intelligence, Bergson noted that “the greatest success was achieved on the side of the greatest risk.”[25] Intelligence, which is based on the manipulation of symbols, extends the human organism well beyond its physical bounds. Language and technology are two such living extensions of man. They belong to what Teilhard meant by the “noosphere” and the hominization of the world.

If, as Bergson stated, the greatest success is on the side of the greatest risk, this success has brought new risks as well. What Stuart Chase called “technological tenuousness” involves both sets of risk. In compensating for the dangers of a hostile natural environment, an organization finds it must either grow in size or become increasingly dependent on their service providers.

Optimal size varies according to technological and environmental factors. Often several levels of organization are required to meet different needs. Free enterprise and democracy require decentralization. Common markets and military alliances require some measure of centralization to assure continuity. In a world divided among hostile power blocs the dominance of a central government may be deemed unavoidable. But, whatever the explanation, governments and other organizations tend to surpass their optimal size unless somehow checked in their growth by artificial constraints. Insecurity is felt from within when over‑extension strains the power of the center to hold, thereby dissipating energies needed for the continuing process of adaptation.[26]

Civil society and other elements in what Karl Jaspers called the “social life‑order” must be allowed latitude to find their own level. Otherwise, the organization – the “technical mass‑order” – becomes more inflexible and increasingly ruled by states of emergency. Whatever their size or condition, organizations must handle more information and other variables than can be consciously coordinated or controlled.

The lack of real assurance of success helps stimulate invention. An increasing rate of innovation may indicate that organizations are engaged in an intense search for a more secure position. If we look at technology and organization as extensions of ourselves, this spectacle of exponential growth might call to mind the Malthusian hypothesis of population growth. People who adapt to these changes rather slowly may feel hemmed in, assaulted by a welter of stimuli and hurried beyond tolerance. We may feel physically crowded quite apart from actual bodily intrusion, depending on how we define our personal boundaries. An increasing rate of change may correlate with the rise in stress diseases. Its effect may be a greater feeling of insecurity and, with it, a rise in popular demands for law and order.

Our definitions of personal space, property, the pace of activities, community privileges, and national interests are being radically modified by a powerful impetus to assert control over unorganized or unassimilated frontiers of all kinds, which otherwise act as buffers between people and institutions.

The invasion of our privacy and loss of freedom comes into focus here. Observers like Veblen are primarily concerned with who has a legitimate claim to control the unorganized margins. More than a question of law, power, efficiency, or right, it transcends politics. It concerns the nature of man and the purpose of government.

In what way may people be free? For determinists like B. F. Skinner, conditioning makes freedom an illusion, as with Leo Tolstoy’s theory of history. Any “freedom” which may be conferred through language, action, legislation and organization may be just as easily be withdrawn. But genuine freedom is not static. In the realm of necessity – for example, a government which regulates our interpersonal relations – our freedoms lie on the margins of its purview.

Our choices are limited by specific situations. The political freedoms we claim are rights only because we agree to so designate them. They are not effectively guaranteed by law, force, or petition. The price we must pay to enjoy them differs according to the situation. Compromise is unavoidable. The political means available to protect our freedoms and rights are inherently ambiguous. The risks of liberty in one place may include imprisonment and exile. In another place they may include public censure, eavesdropping, and economic penalties. The legal net that traps the thief also snares the conscientious critic. Reinhold Niebuhr recognized the dimensions of this predicament: 

“Nations crucify their moral rebels with their criminals upon the same Golgotha, not being able to distinguish between the moral idealism which surpasses, and the anti‑social conduct which falls below that moral mediocrity, on the level of which every society unifies its life. While critical loyalty toward a community is not impossible, it is not easily achieved. It is therefore probably inevitable that every society should regard criticism as a proof of a want of loyalty.”[27] 

Berdyaev contends that the alternative to humble submission to an order that tolerates social injustice – or turns a blind eye to it – is not to rise up and vanquish it by force but to be defeated. Violent resistance carries the seeds of sorrow and insecurity. Yet, though we will not ultimately abolish social injustice, we may alleviate its effects. Submission to the authority of an imperfect order should not be understood as defeat. By submission, Berdyaev meant something other than simply yielding to necessity. So did Ellul when he wrote: “I do not say violence is a necessity, but rather that a man (or a group) subject to the order of Necessity follows the given trends, be these emotional, structural, sociological, or economic.”[28] Such trends help define circumstances in which we live.

This brings us back to the shortcomings that bias or distort all our means of action. Berdyaev regarded revolutionaries as psychologically reactionary – hypnotized by hatred of established ways and driven by the negative ambition of overthrowing them – merely blaming institutions, policies, and personnel is slavish rather than libertarian. Like any reductive viewpoint, it mistakes a part of the truth for the whole picture. Confusion and malice – including pride, envy, ambition, and arrogance – corrupt all human institutions.

We may submit to authority and, at the same time, actively try to modify our situation. While this approach may allow existing institutions to adapt and survive – imperfect as they are – it broadens the scope of choice. It does not preclude visible opposition to particular evils. We certainly cannot modify our circumstances through mere passivity. 

Summary and prospect 

In brief, the impetus of technological progress is to tighten a web of rational control to encompass all of life at the expense of self-sufficiency and a sense of mastery.[29] This problem cannot be remedied through new laws or institutions without further adding to the tangle of regulatory control and dependency. The “active knowledge” needed to maintain a technological society requires a creative freedom which subsists in individuals and their interaction, not in what Paul Valéry called an “intelligence class.” Everywhere he looked, Valéry saw creativity discouraged or suppressed. Ruling administrative systems want predictability; they seek to endure “by means.” Yet thought advances only “by extremes.” The political dilemma is how to reconcile individual liberty and the security of collective order. While resistance may be unorganized, people still seek to live and breathe more freely. It is through such choices that we are most radically and uncomfortably free. 


[1]Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society (New York: Avon Books, 1967), 259.

[2]Several theories of cognition are found in Adam Schaff, Language and Cognition (New York, McGraw‑Hill, 1973.

[3]See Ritchie Ward, The Living Clocks (New York, New American Library, 1971), 136.

[4]See Edward T. Hall, The Silent Language (Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett Publications, 1959); Edward T. Hall, The Hidden Dimension (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1966). The word “bias” was frequently used in a similar manner by the economic historian and communications theorist, Harold Adams Innis.

[5]Pitirim Sorokin, The Crisis of Our Age: The Social and Cultural Outlook (New York, E. P. Dutton, 1941), 247‑52.

[6]Ernst Juenger, “Technology as the Mobilization of the World through the ‘Gestalt’ of the Worker,” Philosophy and Technology: Readings in the Philosophical Problems of Technology, ed. Carl Mitcham and Robert Mackey (New York, The Free Press, 1972), 273.

[7]Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society (New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1964), 19, 21.

[8]Ibid., 85; see also Juenger, “Worker,” Technology, 277‑289.

[9]Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Future of Man (New York, Harper and Row, 1969), 127, 170‑76; see also Roderick Seidenberg, Posthistoric Man: An Inquiry (Boston, Beacon Press, 1957), 104‑107. Seidenberg borrowed many of his terms and concepts from Henri Bergson. Similar parallels occur between several critics. Some of the arguments presented in this essay are indebted to earlier formulations and terminologies: for example, Seidenberg’s observations about the tendency of organizations to expand have been elaborated upon. Ellul drew similar conclusions.

[10]See notes 8 and 9 supra; Herbert Marcuse, “Some Social Implications of Modern Technology,” Studies in Philosophy and Social Science, IX (1941), 414‑39.

[11]Paul Valéry, The Collected Works of Paul Valéry. Bollingen Series 45, Volume 10: History and Politics (New York: Pantheon Books, 1962), 78.

[12]Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution (New York: Random House, 1944), 155‑56; Henri Bergson, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1935), 292‑27

[13]Thorstein Veblen, The Vested Interests and the Common Man: The Modern Point of View and the New Order (New York, Capricorn Books, 1919), 54‑57.

[14]Henry Adams, The Degradation of the Democratic Dogma (New York: Harper and Row, 1969), 110‑11; Paul Valéry, op. cit., 14‑18, 55‑56.

[15]Valéry, op. cit., 137.

[16]Wiener, op. cit., 137.

[17]Nicolas Berdyaev, The Meaning of the Creative Act (New York, Collier Books, 1962), 255‑258.

[18]E.g., Hilaire Belloc, The Servile State (London: T. N. Foulis, 1912), the cover of which features the epigraph “. . . If we do not restore the Institution of Property we cannot escape restoring the Institution of Slavery; there is no third course.”; Arthur J. Penty, Old Worlds for New: A Study of the Post‑Industrial State (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1917); William Morris, “A Society of Inequality,” Selected Writings and Designs, ed. Asa Briggs (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1962).

[19]Paul Tillich, The World Situation, Social Ethics Series, no. 2. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1965), 9.

[20]Peter Drucker, The End of Economic Man: The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harper and Row, 1969)

[21]See Ted Robert Gurr, Why Men Rebel (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1970).

[22]Georges Bernanos, The Tradition of Freedom (London: D. Dobson, 1950), 125.

[23]See Berdyaev, op. cit., 263; Simone Weil, The Need for Roots: Prelude to a Declaration of Duties Toward Mankind (New York, Harper and Row, 1971), 13‑15.

[24]See, e.g., Jacques Ellul, Violence: Reflections from a Christian Perspective (New York: The Seabury Press, 1969), 91‑92; Simone Weil, The Iliad or the Poem of Force (Wallingford, PA: Pendle Hill, 1956); Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1959).

[25]Bergson, Creative Evolution, 158.

[26]Note Hans Selye’s “Spendthrift” analogy concerning the depletion of needed reserves. Hans Selye, The Stress of Life (New York, McGraw‑Hill, 1956), 275.

[27]Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics (New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1960, 88‑89.

[28]Ellul, Violence, 91

[29]Originally written in 1974. See the author’s companion piece: Steven Alan Samson, “Paul Valéry: The Politics of Method,” Modern Age, 36 (Fall 1993): 6-16,




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