Power Failure

Christianity in the Culture of Technology

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"Borgmann brings his perceptive and compelling analysis of the technological shape of ordinary life into conversation with his Christian commitment to the eloquent life of grace and sacrament. The result is a demanding but profoundly rewarding glimpse into the possible future of Christianity."--Richard R. Gaillardetz, University of Toledo

We live in a culture defined and sustained by technology. Usually we equate this access to technology with opportunity, affluence, even happiness: "the good life." Albert Borgmann's Power Failure raises some crucial, if disconcerting, questions: If technology liberates us, exactly what kind of liberation does it promise? Do we really feel free? Are we prospering, and by what definition? 

Borgmann looks at the relationship between Christianity and technology by examining some of the "invisible" dangers of a technology-driven lifestyle. Specifically, he points out how devices and consumption have replaced physical things and practices in everyday life. Power Failure calls us to vigorous Christian practice in a technological age. These practices include citizen-based decision making, communal celebrations, and a vital connection with the table and the word through daily shared meals and the discipline of reading.

Examining the influences that shape people, this unique and insightful text will appeal to anyone interested in technology, philosophy, or cultural critique. Chapters include "The Moral Significance of the Material Culture,"Contingency and Grace,"Power and Care," and "The Culture of the Word and the Culture of the Table."


"Albert Borgmann may well be one of the most important social commentators in America today. In his new book, Power Failure, Borgmann brings his perceptive and compelling analysis of the technological shape of ordinary life into conversation with his Christian commitment to the eloquent life of grace and sacrament. The result is a demanding but profoundly rewarding glimpse into the possible future of Christianity as something other than cultural ornamentation--the promise of a truly grace--full human existence."--Richard R. Gaillardetz, University of Toledo

"Albert Borgmann's Power Failure is a penetrating critique of contemporary culture, shaped as it is by the seductive and dominating presence of technology. Borgmann's brief but rich analysis will challenge and stretch the expert as much as the novice. His meditations on the gifts of Christianity could bring to our needy culture are insightful, eloquent, and on numerous occasions, flat-out inspiring and moving."--David Gill, co-director, Institute for Business, Technology, and Ethics

"Read Borgmann before it's too late! We waste our time trying to live Christianly in a technological society if we don't understand its paradigm and why the resultant commodification threatens faith. But Borgmann doesn't only critique consumerism. This book's ending, with its suggestions toward a culture of the Word and the table, could be the starting point for a renewal of Christian vitality amidst postmodern affluence. A crucial book!"--Marva J. Dawn, author of Unfettered Hope: A Call to Faithful Living in an Affluent Society

"Each chapter of this compelling new book is a marvel. Step by step Borgmann uncovers the ways in which technology obscures the reality of our situation. By helping us to understand more deeply our cultural crisis, he gives us not only critical tools but genuine alternatives. Anyone concerned about where modern culture is going can profit from this book, but for Christians it is particularly valuable. He helps us understand not only why we have difficulty getting a hearing for the gospel in contemporary society (in spite of surface piety) but why it is just our kind of society that needs it more than ever."--Robert N. Bellah, coauthor of Habits of the Heart

The Author

  1. Albert Borgmann

    Albert Borgmann

    Albert Borgmann is professor of philosophy at the University of Montana. His previous publications include Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life, Crossing the Postmodern Divide, and Holding on to Reality.

    Continue reading about Albert Borgmann


"Borgmann challenges Christians to strengthen reverence and piety wherever they find it. . . . [His] prose is fairly erudite, and his arguments are compelling."--Cindy Crosby, Christianity Today

"A compelling read, the book's subject matter is definitely pertinent for the era we live in and could lead to some interesting discussion as a result."--Christa Farris, CCM

"Borgmann's analysis and argument should stimulate a new and penetrating discussion of technology and its contemporary power. . . . Recommended."--J. A. Kegley, Choice

"Borgmann helps his readers to comprehend his insights by including excellent analogies and examples. Professors in ministry, philosophy, and sociology would find this an excellent resource text and should consider requiring its reading in graduate programs. Positive points and illustrations from the text could also be absorbed into lecture material in undergraduate settings. . . . The strength of this text lies in its competent insistence on awareness and self-disciplined responses to the influences of culture today."--Ron Belsterling, Journal of Youth Ministry

"A unique book. . . . [Borgmann] calls us to genuine, face-to-face celebration, as Christians and as inhabitants of culture. Such celebration takes real work and real communication, but it produces a more Christian and humane society. This is a philosophy book that does not try to win an argument. It is philosophy in the sense of examining what it means to be human and what actions this meaning should promote."--Martin LaBar, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith

"[Borgmann] harnesses a dizzying array of sociological, economic, political, behavioral, and philosophical perspectives. . . . [He] presents a convincing and provocative account of material culture that Christian theology dare not ignore."--Alejandro Garcia-Rivera, Theological Studies

"Borgmann offers detailed direction and advice on how one should begin from communal celebration of such things as civic holidays and advance to worship, advance from the reading of good books to Scripture, from daily meals around the table to the Eucharist. . . . Borgmann provides the Christian cultural critic with many valuable insights and observations."--Leo Serroul, Toronto Journal of Theology