Jacques Ellul (1912-1994) is a thinker who often gets mentioned in the same breath as Ivan Illich. An historian, sociologist, philosopher, Christian theologian, and social critic, Ellul is perhaps best known for a book called The Technological Society. A generation of activists and others concerned with the perils of industrial society viewed this book (published in English in the early 1960s) and Illich's Tools for Conviviality (along with a number of titles by Lewis Mumford) as key texts for understanding the history and nature of technology and its impact, symbolic and otherwise, on society and humanity.
In 1993, in Bordeaux, France (a city that Ellul once served as mayor), Illich gave an address in honor the Frenchman, expressing "my gratitude to a master to whom I owe an orientation that has decisively affected my pilgrimage for forty years." Illich's address is well worth reading, if only for its sly humor in a certain passage concerning the Church and its views on contraception.
We're pleased to have discovered just now that the International Jacques Ellul Society has made available on its website a seemingly complete collection of back issues of its newsletter. We've subscribed to this newsletter off and on for several years, now, but here we find many issues we've missed. And among them are several that feature essays by and about Illich.
The Ellul Studies Forum for January, 1992 (PDF), for instance, offers a collection of seven pieces on "Illich's critique of technology and its theological implications." As guest editor, Carl Mitcham chose to include several pieces by Illich himself, two by Lee Hoinacki, and one by David B. Schwartz. Also included is an interview conducted with Illich in 1990, in Berlin.
The Spring 2003 issue, partially devoted to "remembering Ivan Illich," includes essays by several of his collaborators.
July, 1996's issue offers a review of Illich's In the Vineyard of the Text.
The issue for July, 1994, "In Memory of Jacques Ellul," includes Illich's Bordeaux address.
We look forward to exploring this rich trove of material.