A CRITIQUE OF THE NEW COMMONPLACES by Ellul Jacques

A CRITIQUE OF THE NEW COMMONPLACES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Flaubert lampooned bourgeois thinking with the mocking A Dictionary of Accepted Terms. It is too bad Jacques Ellul did not try for the same pithy style and sparkling objectivity. Instead we get a rather academic and solemn exercise in Nietzschean polemics. Leftist or ""progressive"" cliches constitute Ellul's bugbear, and while phrases such as ""We Must Follow the Current of History"" or ""Freedom Is Obeying Necessity"" are well worth deflating, the pin pricking must be accompanied with the deft touch. Ellul's bitterness, Iris disgust with other French intellectuals, especially Sartre, and his profound hatred of neo-Marxist casuistry, do not give him the necessary balance and elan which are fundamental to insure the success of his current undertaking. Moreover, there is something personally unappealing, even megalomaniacal, about the stridency of his arguments, a positive gloating over the inconsistencies and pomposities of the New Left: ""M. Jean Vilar, the great authority on culture, announced in January 1965, 'Culture is politics.' Anything goes: making love is politics; swimming is politics; driving a car is politics."" These pronouncements tend to give the book the air of a private Parisian squabble, and we all know nothing can be more provincial than that, Ellul's great work. The Technological Society, is a brilliant, cautionary study of the inherent regimentation behind all industrial utopias. In the Critique, this theme is sounded with extreme vigilance and very little subtlety.

Pub Date: May 13th, 1968
Publisher: Knopf