The Empire of Non-Sense

Art in the Technological Society

Jacques Ellul

Introductory essays by Samir Younés & David Lovekin

Translated into English for the first time, Jacques Ellul’s ground-breaking Empire of Non-Sense analyses the relation between technology, art, rationality and human freedom.

260 x 210 mm

168 pages


ISBN: 978-1-906506-40-7


Subjects: Art & Design, Art Theory

Many modern artists and architects continue to imagine and build the world technologically. They remain firm believers in technology as a liberator from previous artistic traditions and a provider of vast means of production. All artistic traditions were seemingly put aside by the paintings of Cézanne, the poetry of Baudelaire, and the architecture of Le Corbusier. Behind this apparent freedom French critic, author of the classic The Technological Society, Jacques Ellul found an absolute slavery. The artist was the handmaiden of technology, a relation the artist no longer understood, like other citizens of technological culture. Artists acclaimed their unbridled individualism while being intensely determined by the forces of technological culture. Ellul examines this process in modern art from the beginning of the twentieth century where the sense of art—its meaning and embodiments—is reduced to non-sense. Published in collaboration with the University of Notre Dame.

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Jacques Ellul

Jacques Ellul (1912–1994) was a French sociologist, historian of legal institutions, lay minister, philosopher and educator. From 1947 onward, he taught history, sociology and law at the Université de Bordeaux. In his long scholarly career, Ellul wrote forty books and eight hundred essays. Samir Younés is Professor of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame, U.S.A. His latest book is The Imperfect City: On Architectural Judgment, published in 2013. David Lovekin is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Hastings College, U.S.A. He is the author of Technique, Discourse, and Consciousness: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Jacques Ellul.

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"Ellul is the most important philosopher of technology, a world of tactics, management, and gadgets without connection to a transcendent reality. It is the hollow cave of Plato and of Polyphemus without the presence of Socrates or Odysseus. The excellent translation of this seminal work gives further access to the impressive library of Ellul’s thought."
Donald Phillip Verene, Candler Professor of Metaphysics and Moral Philosophy at Emory University

"We have been waiting for over thirty years for Jacques Ellul’s Empire of Non-Sense to be available in English translation. With Samir Younés and David Lovekin’s skillful introductory essays, Empire rewards our wait in full.  Artists, architects, technologists, historians of art, cultural analysts, and thoughtful people everywhere will find this volume among the most challenging and insightful in this decade."
David W. Gill, Professor of Ethics, Gordon-Conwell, and President of the International Jacques Ellul Society