A critique of the new commonplaces by Jacques Ellul

By Jacques Ellul

Jacques Ellul-much much less solemn in temper than usual-here cracks open political and sociological commonplaces, destructively and wittily demonstrating how our unthinking recognition of them encourages hypocrisy, smugness, and psychological inertia. one of the stereotypes of inspiration and speech therefore exploded are such words as "You cannot act with no getting your arms soiled" "Work is freedom" "We needs to keep on with the present of heritage" and "Women locate their freedom (dignity) in paintings" a undeniable variety of those previous saws preside over our way of life. they enable us to appreciate each other and to swim within the traditional present of society. they're authorized as so definite that we nearly by no means query them. They serve immediately as adequate causes for every little thing and as "clinchers" in too many arguments. Ellul explores the ways that such clichés misinform us and forestall us from having autonomous thoughts-and in truth hold us from dealing with the issues to which they're theoretically addressed. they're the "new commonplaces" simply because the 19th century introduced forth many such commonplaces (they are enshrined in Leon Bloy's Exégése and Flaubert's Dictionnaire des idées reçues), so our century has been busy developing its personal. What Ellul has performed is to face nonetheless lengthy sufficient to examine them conscientiously, assault them with cool cause, and go away them nakedly uncovered. during this outstanding rfile, Ellul's caustic fearlessness is on the carrier of truths that frequently are merciless, yet regularly are lucid and impassioned. He represents the voice of intelligence, and whereas doing so is usually hilarious and continuously healing approximately issues of first value.

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Temesvar, Corfu, the Croatians, later the Sudeten Germans: it was explained to them that their case was quite different. And it was in the name of this immortal principle that some like Czechoslovakia and Yugoslawere concocted, with peoples who obviously practiced self-determination! We know the special love of the Czechs remarkable political units via A Critique of the New Commonplaces for the Slovaks, [ 55 and of the Croatians for the Serbs and the Slovenes. From the outset, the immortal principle yet a commonplace, but an invention of ( which was not jurists: common- places come from all sources) raised a slight problem for minds that were so perverse as to be truly negligible.

But this practical, pragmatic wisdom was body of istics. After the fruit of long experience, of an invisible creation, of moment who used to observation repeated a thousand times until the when it could be distilled in proverbs. harp on the lessons of La Wisdom If those of Nations often Fontaine, it adopted the moral must be said that this was owing between popular experience to a remarkable coincidence and formal expression. And the primary school certainly helped. This pragmatism was perfectly sound.

But, mind you, if the United States tries to intervene in Colombia or Cuba, that is an intolerable demonstration of imperialism. The United States does not have the right to play politics: it must use only pure methods and preserve virtue and morality. Of course, there is a large measure of truth in this demand, since the United States is hypocritical enough to proclaim itself the defender of morality, freedom, and virtue! And I do not rule out this judgment! But I am amazed that it is made by the very people who regard dirty hands as a necessity of politics and of action and who use them to justify all political action.

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