Jacques Ellul might have appreciated the irony involved in my tech-mediated consumption of his writings. I certainly appreciate any irony that comes my way (unless it is of the mean-spirited variety, which seems rather dull and pathetic). And it never hurts to expand your horizons to include a few interesting Christian anarchists of the un-selfrighteous variety….. My apologies in advance for any way in which the advertising below might be disturbing. Many of these ads were actually considered “extremely succesful” by marketing experts.
The primary purpose of advertising technique is the creation of a certain way of life. And here it is much less important to convince the individual rationally than to implant in him a certain conception of life. The object offered for sale by the advertiser is naturally indispensable to the realization of this way of life. Now, objects advertised are all the result of the same technical progress and are all of identical type from a cultural point of view. Therefore, advertisements seeking to prove that these objects are indispensable refer to the same conception of the world, man, progress, ideals – in short, life.
One of the great designs of advertising is to create needs; but this is possible only if these needs correspond to an ideal of life that man accepts. The way of life offered by advertising is all the more compelling in that it corresponds to certain easy and simple tendencies of man and refers to a world in which there are no spiritual values to form and inform life. When men feel and respond to the needs advertising creates, they are adhering to its ideal of life. This explains the extremely rapid development, for example, of hygiene and cocktails. No one, before the advent of advertising, felt the need to be clean for cleanliness’ sake. It is clear that the models used in advertising (Elsie the Cow, for instance) represent an ideal type, and they are convincing in proportion to their ideality. The human tendencies upon which advertising like this is based may be strikingly simpleminded, but they nonetheless represent pretty much the level of our modern life. Advertising offers us the ideal we have always “wanted”.
As Munson says “In peacetime, morale building aims at creating among the troops the state of mental receptivity which makes them susceptible to every psychological excitation of wartime.” And this “receptivity” must also be installed in every other human group in the technical culture, and especially in the masses of the workers.
“The Technological System” by Jacques Ellul (PDF)
We must be convinced that there are no such things as ‘Christian principles.’ There is the Person of Christ, who is the principle of everything. But if we wish to be faithful to Him, we cannot dream of reducing Christianity to it certain number of principles (though this is often done), the consequences of which can be logically deduced. This tendency to transform the work of the Living God into a philosophical doctrine is the constant temptation of theologians, and also of the faithful, and their greatest disloyalty when they transform the action of the Spirit which brings forth fruit in themselves into an ethic, a new law, into ‘principles’ which only have to be ‘applied.
If man–if each one of us–abdicates his responsibilities with regard to values; if each one of us limits himself to leading a trivial existence in a technological civilization, with greater adaptation and increasing success as his sole objectives; if we do not even consider the possibility of making a stand against these determinants, then everything will happen as I have described it, and the determinates will be transformed into inevitabilities.