Friedrich Georg Jünger

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Friedrich Georg Jünger (1 September 1898 – 20 July 1977) was a German writer and lawyer. He wrote poetry, cultural criticism and novels. He was the younger brother of Ernst Jünger.


The Failure of Technology (1956)[edit]

This is an English translation of the German original written in 1939 and published in 1946 as Die Perfektion der Technik; see [1].

  • From prophecies and visions we expect infallibility; that they come true with absolute certainty. But of a utopian tale we demand no more than a certain appearance of credibility [...] For what is entirely incredible and unlikely produces only boredom and discomfort; it is not worth bothering with.
    • Ch. I
  • The tale becomes utopian only when the writer leaves the sphere of technical organization – when, for instance, he tries to make us believe that these cities are inhabited by better and more perfect human beings; that envy, murder, and adultery are unknown; that neither law nor a police force is needed. For in so doing he steps outside the technical scheme within which he is spinning his fantasies, and combines it in a utopian manner with something different and alien which can never be developed out of the scheme itself.
    • Ch. I
  • Leisure and free activity are not accessible to everybody, and they are conditions in no way connected with the machine. A man who is relieved of work is not thereby capable of leisure; a man who gains time does not thereby gain the capacity to spend this time in free activity, for leisure is not a mere doing-nothing, a state that can be defined negatively. Leisure, to be fruitful, presupposes a spiritual and mental life from which it draws its meaning and its worth. An otium sine dignitate ("leisure without dignity") is hollow, empty loafing.
    • Ch. II
  • Leisure is the prerequisite of every free thought, every free activity. And this is why only the few are capable of it, since the many, when they have gained time, only kill it.
    • Ch. II
  • The impression we gain as we observe technical processes of any sort is not at all one of abundance. The sight of abundance and plenty give us joy: they are the signs of a fruitfulness which we revere as a life-giving force. Rooting, sprouting, budding, blooming, ripening, and fruition–the exuberance of the motions and forms of life–strengthen and refresh us. The human body and the human mind possess this power of bestowing strength. Both man and woman have it. But the machine organization gives nothing–it organizes need. The prospect of vineyard, orchard, or a blossoming landscape cheers us, not because these things yield profits, but because of the sensation of fertility, abundance, and gratuitous riches. The industrial scene, however, has lost its fruitfulness; it has become the scene of mechanical production. It conveys, above all, a sense of hungriness, particularly in the industrial cities which, in the metaphorical language of technological progress, are the homes of a flourishing industry. The machine gives a hungry impression. And this sensation of a growing, gnawing hunger, a hunger that becomes unbearable, emanates from everything in our entire technical arsenal.
    • Ch. V
  • And the rational mind which stands behind the machine and keeps watch over its automatic, mechanical motion–it too is hungry, and hunger follows it everywhere. It cannot shake off hunger; it cannot free itself from it; it cannot be stilled, however hard it may try. And how, indeed, could that be possible! This mind itself is consuming, gluttonous, and it has no access to riches; it cannot conjure up abundance. No effort of ingenuity, not all the inventive power that is brought to bear here can do it. For rationalization only sharpens hunger and actually increases consumption. This growing consumption is a sign not of abundance but of poverty; it is bound up with worry, want, and toil.
    • Ch. V
  • Technology can be expected to solve all problems which can be mastered by technical means, but we must expect nothing from it which lies beyond technical possibilities.
    • Ch. V
  • In every healthy economy the substance with which it works is preserved and used sparingly, so that consumption and destruction do not overstep the limit beyond which the substance itself would be endangered or destroyed. Since technology presupposes destruction, since its development depends upon destruction, it cannot be fitted into any healthy economic system; one cannot look at it from an economic point of view. The radical consumption of oil, coal, and ore cannot be called economy, however rational the methods of drilling and mining. Underlying strict rationality of technical working methods, we find a way of thinking which cares nothing for the preservation and saving of the substance.
    • Ch. V
  • What is euphemistically called production is really consumption. The gigantic technical apparatus, that masterpiece of human ingenuity, could not reach perfection if technological thought were to be contained within an economic scheme, if the destructive power of technical progress were to be arrested. But this progress becomes all the more impetuous, the larger the resources at its disposal, and the more energetically it devours them. This is shown by the concentration of men and machines in the great mining centers where the mechanization of work and the organization of man are most advanced. The rationality of technology, so impressively displayed here, becomes intelligible only when one has understood the conditions on which it depends. Its concomitant is waste and contempt for all rationality in the exploitation of the resources on whose existence technology depends, as the lungs depend on air.
    • Ch. V
  • The machine invades the landscape with destruction and transformation; it grows factories and whole manufacturing cities overnight, cities grotesquely hideous, where human misery is glaringly revealed; cities which, like Manchester, represent an entire stage of technology and which have become synonymous with hopeless dreariness. Technology darkens the air with smoke, poisons the water, destroys the plants and animals. It brings about a state in which nature has to be "preserved" from rationalized thinking, in which large tracts of land have to be set apart, fenced off, and placed under a taboo, like museum pieces. What all museum-like institutions make evident is that preservation is needed. The extension of protected areas, therefore, is an indication that destructive processes are at work.
    • Ch. V
  • The exploitation of the factory worker (about which socialism is indignant only so long as it is in the opposition) is an inevitable symptom of the universal exploitation to which technology subjects the whole earth from end to end. Man no less than ore deposits belongs to the resources subject to consumption by technology. The ways in which the worker tries to evade this exploitation – associations, labor unions, political parties – are the very methods which tie him forever closer to the progress of technology, mechanical work, and technical organization.
    • Ch. V
  • Mechanical work processes have grown immensely, both in number and in scope, and it is obvious that their automatism, controlled and watched as it is by man, in turn has its effect on man. The power that man gains by his automatic tools gains power over him. He is compelled to give them his thought and his attention. Inasmuch as he works with automatic tools, his work becomes mechanical and repetitious with machinelike uniformity. Automatism clutches the operator and never relinquishes its grip on him. To the consequences of this we shall return again and again.
    • Ch. VII
  • These much admired mechanisms, like the automatons of Albertus Magnus, Bacon, and Regiomantus, were ingenious toys; nothing more serious. They evoked not only wonder, but also fear. The robot of Albertus Magnus, which could open the door and greet the visitor (the fruit of decades of effort), was smashed by the startled Thomas Aquinas with a blow of his stick. The intellectual fascination which machines have held for man from the earliest times is coupled with a presentiment of the uncanny, an almost unaccountable feeling of horror.
    • Ch. VII
  • Natural science is not conceivable without a recognition of the mechanical element in nature. [...] Why can there be no natural science without this mechanism? The answer is, that without mechanics there can be no standards which are constantly valid and calculable. Without mechanical laws, that exactitude could not be achieved which in itself is nothing but the mechanical certainty that identical causes always produce identical effects. Thus we are justified in calling the natural scientist a mechanic who deserves scientific respect only in so far as in his thinking he retraces the mechanism of nature.
    • Ch. IX
  • The natural scientist will always exhibit a tendency to delimit his science as sharply and as narrowly as possible, to make it completely methodical, to systematize it. Natural science thus limits itself to what can be proved mathematically, or to that to which the law of causality applies, or to the purely functional.
    • Ch. IX
  • When we study the apparatus and the human organization that have been created by our technology in step with its evolution, it becomes clear that they too depend on the mechanical concept of time, the only concept which can guarantee technical progress. How clockwork-like is not the whole order of modern civilization, how relentlessly does not technical progress strive to subject everything to this clocklike precision: man's sleep, his work, his rest, and his pleasures!
    • Ch. IX
  • If the universe were to be conceived as a big clock and every movement in it as mechanically measurable and predictable, then the high goal of scientific-technical thinking would be the comprehension of this central mechanism. And the application of that knowledge would mean the complete mechanization of man.
    • Ch. IX
  • As mechanisms gain ground, springing up wherever lifeless time is waiting for them, we can observe how lifeless time has invaded life time. Just as technology has changed our idea of space by making us believe that space has become scarcer, that the earth has shrunk, just so has it has changed our idea of time. It has brought about a situation where man no longer has time, where he is destitute of time, where he is hungry for time. I have time when I am not conscious of time which presses in on me in its empty quality, as lifeless time. He who has leisure thereby disposes of boundless time; he lives in the fullness of time, be he active or at rest. This is what distinguishes him from the man who is merely on leave or on vacation and who, therefore, can dispose of a limited time only. The technological organization of work no longer permits leisure; it grants to the tired laborer only the meager measure of vacation and spare time that is absolutely necessary to maintain his efficiency.
    • Ch. X
  • Kant believed that there was a science only in so far as there was mathematics. The same error can be encountered among many mathematicians and physicists who believe that they alone possess exactness. However, they possess it only within their field. There is exactness also in the movements of animals and in the emotions and passions of man. Homeric hexameter or a Pindaric ode has as much exactness as any causal relation or mathematical formula. But this rhythmic, metrical exactness is of another, higher order. That it cannot be calculated is no reason to call it less exact than the results of this or that quantitative measurement.
    • Ch. XI
  • Why is it that the very thought of organizing pedestrians (really not a far-fetched thought), is somehow ludicrous? Becaus of the discrepancy which exists here, because an activity such as walking is entirely opposed to the forces that would want to organize it. The automobile, a mechanical vehicle, can be organized immediately, and the automobile driver likewise. Even bicycle riders can be organized, although not with the same ease, since the bicycle is not an automaton. Man becomes organizable to the extent to which he practices mechanical activities.
    • Ch. XII
  • In the early days of the machine age, the days when the amount of work done mechanically was small, it was not recognized that mechanization must lead to a new organization of work, a planning to which man himself would be forcibly subjected. But with the advance of technology, the consequences of increasing mechanization of work become more and more apparent. Not only are more and more men employed mechanically, but their work also becomes more and more specialized. To scientific specialization is added technical specialization. The growing specialization of the sciences, which creates artificial isolation and departmental walls, has its counterpart in technology as it breaks down and cuts up human work.
    • Ch. XIII
  • But all technology is of titanic mold, and man the maker, is always of the race of the Titans. And so we meet him first of all in volcanic landscapes. From his titanic kinship stems his love for the enormous, the gigantic, the colossal; his delight in towering works that impress by their quantity and mass, the vastness of their piled-up matter. That trait, incidentally, explains why man the technician so often lacks a sense of beauty and proportion; he is not an artist.
    • Ch. XXXVIII

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