The End of Historynby Chilton Williamson, Jr.nThe Technological Bluffnhy Jacques EllulnGrand Rapids: William B.nEerdmans; 418 pp., $24.95nIt seems to me that the staff and allnthe contributing editors to Chronicles,nworking together for a year innparadisiacal California on a lavish grantnfrom the MacArthur Foundation,ncould not possibly produce as pessimisticna work as The Technological Bluffnby the French cultural critic and authornof more than forty books, JacquesnEllul. For that reason, among manynothers, I commend it to the attenhonnof our readers. (One of the othernreasons is a delicious “Excursion onn[Julian] Simon, The Ultimate Resource,”nbeginning on page 20 andnrunning through page 23: “I havenseldom seen a book which is so absurdnin the realm of economics . . . andntechnology. . . . We have here an absolutenform of the technological bluff.n. . . this so-called scienhfic thinkingn…. these pseudoscientific absurdities.n… a good illustration of thentechnolatry that is supposed to be scientificnand to be based on facts.”)nJacques Ellul is professor emeritus ofnlaw and of the sociology and history ofninstitudons at the University of Bordeaux,nhis native city. The examples henuses to concretize his arguments arenthus drawn from contemporary Frenchnsociety, yet those arguments themselvesnraise American echoes from asnfar back as Henry Adams (“The Virginnand the Dynamo”), the Agrarians ofnthe 1930’s (17/ Take My Stand), andnthe writings of Lewis Mumford, whosenwork Ellul cites. Among Ellul’s earliernbooks is one called The TechnocraticnSociety, in which he first put forwardn(in 1954) many of the ideas found innThe Technological Bluff—where,nhowever, he has found it necessary tonradicalize many of them. If miseryn36/CHRONICLESnREVIEWSntruly loves company, American readersnshould be made to feel very comfortablenby Ellul’s portrait of what wasnformerly the nation of the Capets andnthe Bourbons, of Racine and Moliere,nof Toulouse-Lautrec and French postcards.nWe are all of us in the West innthis catastrophe together, and it is far,nfar later than most of us, on both sidesnof the Atlantic, suspect or even fear.nThroughout his book, Ellul frequentlynanticipates that what he is about tonwrite will be found scandalous, but henis never afraid of being dismissed as annattering nabob of negativism, perhapsnbecause his forty books are alreadynmuch better remembered (though theynare hardly ever heeded) than either thenspeeches of Spiro Agnew, or SpironAgnew himself “In fact,” he remarks anquarter of the way into The TechnologicalnBluff, ” think that the game is lost.nWith the help of computer power, thentechnical system has definitively escapednfrom control by the humannwill.”nEllul distinguishes between “thentechnical system” and “the technicalnsociety,” which retains nontechnicalnelements and traditional areas unaffectednby the system itself However,nhe believes that “the technologicalnbluff” assures that these redoubts cannotnmuch longer remain unaffected.nHere, as in earlier works, Ellul distinguishesnalso between “technique” —nwhat in common parlance is calledn”technology” — and technology as it isnproperly understood, that is to say asn”discourse on technique.” It is childish,nEllul insists, to be against technique,nas it is childish and absurd to benopposed to “an avalanche or to cancer”;nit is infantile — and fatal—bothnto engage in and to succumb to “thentechnological bluff,” which he definesnas “the gigantic bluff in which discoursenon techniques envelopes us,nmaking us believe anything and, farnworse, changing our whole attitude tontechniques: the bluff of politicians, thenbluff of the media, the bluff of techniciansnwhen they talk about techniquesnnninstead of working at them, the bluff ofnpublicity, the bluff of economic models.”nThe bluff, he says,nconsists of rearrangingneverything in terms of technicalnprogress, which with prodigiousndiversification offers us in everyndirection such varied possibilitiesnthat we can imagine nothingnelse. . . . There is bluff herenbecause the effective possibilitiesnare multiplied anhundredfold . . . and thennegative aspects are radicallynconcealed. But the bluff is notnwithout great effect. Thus itntransforms a technique ofnimplicit and unavowed lastnresort into a technique ofnexplicit and avowed last resort.nIt also causes us to live in anworld of diversion and illusionnwhich goes far beyond that ofnten years ago. It finally sucks usninto this world by banishing allnour ancient reservations andnfears.nA century ago, Ellul argues, techniquenwas in service to economies, whichndirected them toward the production ofnindustrial goods. Today, technique hasntaken over direction of the industrialneconomy in order to produce gadgetsn— defined by Ellul as products whosenutility is greatly counterbalanced by theningenuity of their designers — that arenthemselves the direct results of technique,nand the profits of which arenreinvested in the production of stillnmore technicized gadgets. Whateverntechnique can do, it must be developednto do, since to refrain would be to denynscience or to “stop progress”—whichnEllul understands as “the course ofntechnique.” These gadgets, however,ndo not represent real wealth, nor, increasingly,ndoes the capital invested innthem represent real money, that is tonsay, money based upon a standard ofnreal value: by geometric progression,neconomics and the societies that supportnthem become increasingly abstract,n