Steve Cisler on Wed, 11 Jul 2001 19:04:29 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Where's Mumford and Ellul

Another name mentioned in Sean Cubit's posting: Jacques Ellul I've been
interested in a group whose work is not destined for electronic fora and
archives:  The Jacques Ellul Society, which is a spinoff of the deep
ecology philosophy.  It's main supporters are rather technophobic and
usually show up at the non-violent globophobe events: Jerry Mander, Andrew
Kimbrell, Stephanie Mills, Kirkpatrick Sale. Then there is the very
thoughtful Langdon Winner who has tenure at an engineering institute in
New York.  Here is what little I found online about the JES:


In the early 1990s, FDE hosted a number of strategic meetings with
international technology critics to discuss the roles that unbridled
industrial megatechnologies are playing in the destruction of ecosystems,
species and communities. These spirited "neo-Luddite" gatherings took
place at FDE's San Francisco headquarters as well as at Schumacher College
in Devon, England. They enlisted dozens of prominent activists to engage
in systemic critiques of megatechnologies and technocracies in the
tradition of Gandhi, Mumford, Schumacher, Illich, and others. By September
1995, a new organization had formed as a separate project within the
International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA) in Washington, D.C.
Following significant discussions, the idea emerged to name the group the
Jacques Ellul Society (JES), after the distinguished twentieth century
French philosopher, who argued that only by analyzing the technological
systems dominating culture and nature could modern society be understood.

Up to that time, the creation of a coordinated, technology-critiquing
movement faced enormous challenges, given the public's quasi-religious
belief in technology as well as policy makers' increasing reliance on new
technologies to address escalating social and environmental problems. Most
critics and activists had been working in relative isolation, their views
dismissed as Luddite or reactionary. With the f ormation of the Jacques
Ellul Society under the direction of writer-activist-attorney Andrew
Kimbrell (author of The Human Body Shop), like-minded thinkers finally
found a forum and a more powerful, concerted voice. Through yearly
meetings, members could share experiences and research, identify and
respond to urgent controversies, and create a body of white papers
documenting collective opinions on a variety of issues, from computers in
education to genetic engineering to mountaintop removal mining.

By the winter of 1998, JES launched the first issue of their journal,
Techne, named after the Greek word that is the root of the word
"technology" and means "the arts and crafts of man." The aim of the
journal was to create an "alternative future vision" and to produce
analyses of technologies that are far too often perceived as neutral,
necessary for progress and without negative consequences. Stephanie Mills,
Jerry Mander, Langdon Winner, Kirkpatrick Sale, Fritjof Capra, and others
contributed articles and essays to that first issue. It was widely
distributed among members of the media, academia, and activist
communities. In the future, editorial responsibilities will be shared by
Andrew Kimbrell and Charlene Spretnak (author of The Resurgence of the

With budgets for technology soaring in schools at the expense of arts,
music, sports and nature classes, JES's Computers in Education Project has
become the organization's top-priority campaign. Techne's second issue
will be focused solely on the topic. A white paper on computer use in
elementary schools is currently being written. A national press campaign
is planned around its release, as well as legal action to challenge the
federal government's computerizing of the education system. Other future
JES projects include a public teach-in (in collaboration with the
International Forum on Globalization) and the compilation of two annotated
bibliographies to serve as essential resource guides for activists and
researchers examining the role of technology in organizing social life in
the modern world.

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