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The Political Illusion

Luke Breuer
2018-04-03 21:35 UTC

The Political Illusion (1965, ET 1967) by Jacques Ellul

Churches and universities have long been neutralized or placed in the service of the state-controlled press and other means of mass communication and, progressively, more recent private movements have been drawn into the state's orbit. The latter establishes its monopoly in this area; none can use the means of psychological pressure except the state—here in fact lies the power that makes it the state. It is always said that the state fights against the freedom of the press; but this struggle is nothing but the modern aspect of the struggle of the state against the feudal barons of the fourteenth and fifteenth century. And so we see the monopoly of force, the autonomy of politics.

This autonomy has yet another source. Let us recall the state's claim that it solves all problems and the concomitant, inveterate belief on the part of most citizens that it is indeed the state's function to solve all problems. This attitude of man toward the state is even more apparent if one considers that man's intentions and desires have changed.[3] He is much less sensitive and receptive to the many problems (over which he could try to exercise some influence); rather he demands the total and complete guarantee of his private existence. He demands assured income and assured consumption. He insists on an existence of complete security, refusing to take any responsibility for himself. But all this, as he well knows, can be assured only by the state organization. As a result, whatever a citizen's "political" opinion may be, his appeals to the state spring from sources much more profound than ideology; they spring from his very participation and place in society. It is no longer true that the better part of all questions facing a society is not political. And even if a question is in no way political it becomes political and looks to the state for an answer. It is wrong to say that politics is everything, but it is a fact that in our society everything has become political, and that the decision, for example, to plant one crop intend of another has become a political matter (see Nikita Khrushchev's speech of December 23, 1961). (77–78)