Jacques Ellul (1912-1994) was an eminent French sociologist and theologian who wrote nearly a thousand articles and about fifty books which have been translated into 12 languages. He was largely concerned with technological progress and its effects on politics and society.
His most important secular works in English include:
The Technological Society
The Political Illusion
Ellul got his doctorate in 1936 and went on to teach at the Faculty of Law in Montpellier. He also taught in Strasbourg and Clermont-Ferrand. After he was dismissed from his post by the Vichy Government, he became active in the French Resistance in 1940 as a potato farmer. For the most part, he avoided party politics.
He claimed to have had a vision in which God appeared to him in 1930. He never discussed the vision further, other than to say that was the reason for his Christian beliefs. He believed and advocated non-violence and rejected nationalism. He was active in Christian and ecological groups.
Aldous Huxley (author of Brave New World among other titles) promoted Ellul's books and views and Ellul acquired some notoriety in American universities beginning in the mid-1960s.
While I don't care for Ellul's religious writings, I think his secular books are as timely and relevant today (if not more so) as when they were first published.
He was born and died in Bordeaux, France.
Quotes from the Political Illusion:
1. …the country that arms on a grand scale is the one that continually talks of peace and keeps showing the dove and the olive branch; and it is the dictator with his police and party organization who will stimulate his most fervent zealots to make speeches to the effect that freedom has finally been assured and democracy has finally been realized.
2. Freedom always confronts the individual with painful contradictions and with responsibilities that he must exercise in the face of choices and risks. The individual never likes that; he much prefers a necessary, inevitable, clear course: in this way at least no time is lost in deliberation, and there is no binding responsibility. The individual is always ready to submit to necessity, as long as freedom’s vocabulary is preserved, so that he can equate his servile obedience with the glorious exercise of a free, personal choice.