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Engineering and War

Author(s): Dean Nieusma | Ethan Blue

Journal: International Journal of Engineering, Social Justice, and Peace
ISSN 1927-9434

Volume: 1;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 50;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: militarism | war | history | labor | epistemology

This paper shows how the connections between engineering and warfare/militarism are closer than is usually recognized. It investigates the nature of that relationship using theoretical perspectives from critical theory and social constructionism. We draw on historical research into the influence of military institutions and interests on the field of engineering, but also look broadly at cultures of warfare that extend beyond formalized military institutions. Focusing on engineering labor and engineering epistemologies, we suggest that engineering today can be understood as a “war-built” discipline—even when practiced apart from military institutions and projects. We put forward “social justice” as an idealized alternative foundation for engineering. In addition to serving as a corrective to the inordinate influence of militarism on engineering, a social-justice-based approach could also sensitize engineers and others to the pervasive role of social context in shaping both what engineers do and how that is understood to serve broad public interests.
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