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Engineers for Change
In the late 1960s an eclectic group of engineers joined the antiwar and civil rights activists of the time in agitating for change. The engineers were fighting to remake their profession, challenging their fellow engineers to embrace a more humane vision of technology. In Engineers for Change, Matthew Wisnioski offers an account of this conflict within engineering, linking it to deep-seated assumptions about technology and American life.
The postwar period in America saw a near-utopian belief in technology’s beneficence. Beginning in the mid-1960s, however, society--influenced by the antitechnology writings of such thinkers as Jacques Ellul and Lewis Mumford--began to view technology in a more negative light. Engineers themselves were seen as conformist organization men propping up the military-industrial complex. A dissident minority of engineers offered critiques of their profession that appropriated concepts from technology’s critics. These dissidents were criticized in turn by conservatives who regarded them as countercultural Luddites. And yet, as Wisnioski shows, the radical minority spurred the professional elite to promote a new understanding of technology as a rapidly accelerating force that our institutions are ill-equipped to handle. The negative consequences of technology spring from its very nature--and not from engineering’s failures. “Sociotechnologists” were recruited to help society adjust to its technology. Wisnioski argues that in responding to the challenges posed by critics within their profession, engineers in the 1960s helped shape our dominant contemporary understanding of technological change as the driver of history.
About the Author
Matthew Wisnioski is Assistant Professor of Science and Technology in Society at Virginia Tech.
Table of Contents
- Engineers for Change
- Engineering Studies series
- edited by Gary Downey
- Matthew Wisnioski,
- Engineers for Change: Competing Visions of Technology in 1960s America
- Engineers for Change
- Competing Visions of Technology in 1960s America
- Matthew Wisnioski
- The MIT Press
- Cambridge, Massachusetts
- London, England
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.
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- This book was set in Sabon by Toppan Best-set Premedia Limited, Hong Kong. Printed and bound in the United States of America.
- Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
- Wisnioski, Matthew H., 1978-
- Engineers for change : competing visions of technology in 1960s America / Matthew Wisnioski.
- p. cm. – (Engineering studies series)
- Includes bibliographical references and index.
- ISBN 978-0-262-01826-5 (hardcover : alk. paper)
- 1. Technology–Social aspects–United States. 2. Technology–United States–Forecasting. I. Title.
- T14.5.W5664 2012
- 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
- “We live in a world of change,” to quote Adam as he led Eve out of the Garden of Eden.
- —Augustus Braun Kinzel, “Engineering and Our Way of Life”
- Series Foreword ix
- Abbreviations xi
- Acknowledgments xv
- 1 Introduction 1
- 2 From System Builders to Servants of The System 15
- 3 Technics-Out-of-Control as a Theme in Engineering Thought 41
- 4 The Crisis of Technology as a Crisis of Responsibility 67
- 5 The System and Its Discontents 95
- 6 Three Bridges to Creative Renewal 123
- 7 Making Socio-Technologists 161
- 8 Epilogue 187
- Notes 199
- References 245
- Name Index 271
- Subject Index 277