Published Humanitas, Volume VII, No. 2, 1994
New Mexico State University
In recent decades the discipline of political philosophy has become increasingly permeated by a growing body of critical literature that calls into question some of the major philosophical premises of modern political theory. Figures such as Eric Voegelin, Leo Strauss, Hannah Arendt, and others have spawned a renewed interest in a variety of pre-modern modes of thought as a remedy for the various ailments that have emerged alongside the considerable civilizational achievements of the modern West. Based on the recent work Anarchy and Christianity, one is now tempted to place the sociologist Jacques Ellul into this category. Ellul is best known for his exhaustive research on the role of science and technology in shaping Western civilization. Works such as The Technological Society earned him an international reputation as a persuasive interpreter of the post-industrial world. Part of this reputation stems from Ellul’s attempt to understand the contemporary West in explicitly theological terms. With the publication of Anarchy and Christianity Ellul has continued this tradition of insisting upon an essentially spiritual response to the problems of modernity.
For the most part, the argument in Anarchy and Christianity is quite consistent with Ellul’s earlier works in political and social theology, and one may safely conclude that the book is (despite its brevity) a fair representation of Ellul’s mature thoughts on political theology. In addition, the book offers the reader a unique glimpse into Ellul’s personal convictions on the level of action. That is, we are not given a scholarly analysis so much as an extended answer to the question: what shall we do with our lives, given the spiritually debilitating conditions of the technological society?
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