The belief that inanimate objects have a natural antipathy toward human beings, and therefore it is not people who control things, but things which increasingly control people.
For a while, our staff concentrated on coining a term for the seemingly spiteful failure of certain inanimate objects — those closure slits on the tops of cereal boxes, for example — to work properly. Alas, we find there's already a word for that: resistentialism.
—Pat Cunningham, "Pat's Stuff," Rockford Register Star, September 21, 2002
Resistentialism provided a lamp to guide many of us through the anfractuous years of early puberty and beyond. The philosophy was actually invented in France with the phrase les choses sont contre nous (things are against us). It provided the first systematic test of the marmalade-and-toast hypothesis, that the marmaladed-side would land on the carpet when the toast fell from the breakfast plate. Resistentialism added the further, critical, element that the likelihood of the toast landing this way increased with the cost of the carpet.
That has now all been subsumed in Murphy's law and other secular vulgarisations of the original resistentialist creed. Resistentialism postulated a fundamental, rather than an accidental, opposition between man and the inanimate kingdom. So it came to be an inspiration to all those who were making their first tentative attempts to ride a British motorcycle.
—James Morgan, "Give us something to believe in," Financial Times (London), April 26, 1997
It is the peculiar genius of the French to express their philosophical thought in aphorisms, sayings hard and tight as diamonds, each one the crystal centre of a whole constellation of ideas. Thus, the entire scheme of seventeenth century intellectual rationalism may be said to branch out from that single, pregnant saying of Descartes, 'Cogito ergo sum' — 'I think, therefore I am.' Resistentialism, the philosophy which has swept present-day France, runs true to this aphoristic form. Go into any of the little cafes or horlogeries on Paris's Left Bank (make sure the Seine is flowing away from you, otherwise you'll be on the Right Bank, where no one is ever seen) and sooner or later you will hear someone say, 'Les choses sont contre nous.' 'Things are against us.' This is the nearest English translation I can find for the basic concept of Resistentialism, the grim but enthralling philosophy now identified with bespectacled, betrousered, two-eyed Pierre-Marie Ventre. In transferring the dynamic of philosophy from man to a world of hostile Things, Ventre has achieved a major revolution of thought, to which he himself gave the name 'Resistentialism'. Things (res) resist (resister) man (homme, understood).
—Paul Jennings, "Report on Resistentialism," The Jenguin Pennings, 1963
Today's word could be described as tongue-in-cheek-but-not-too-far-in-cheek. Resistentialism began its life as a brilliant spoof of existentialism, and it was coined by the British humourist Paul Jennings back in 1963. (Or possibly earlier; I saw conflicting dates, which were probably just resistential computer errors.) Why post a term that is now nearly 40 years old in a forum dedicated to new words? Luckily for me, the Word Spy's mission is also to wave in peoples' faces words that have made comebacks or that have become recently popular. Over the past five years or so, many people have rediscovered resistentialism and realized that its central idea "things are against us" perfectly describes our bug-ridden and glitch-filled interactions with modern machines. If you've ever begged a computer to please, please give you back the file containing the draft of your first novel, or pleaded with a toaster to actually toast the bread this time, then you are ripe for the resistential worldview.
A related term that makes the occasional appearance is FOBIO - Frequently Outwitted By Inanimate Objects. I hereby propose what I humbly suggest is a better term: FOILED Frequently Outwitted by Inanimate, Lame Electronic Devices.