"Engineers' Class Struggle and the Question of 'Technology' in German and American High Industrialism"
My talk is concerned with the earliest sustained debates about the "consequences" of technology in society, carried out among and between engineers in Germany and the United States in the period around the First World War. Engineers raised questions about the relationship between industrialism and the state, technocracy and democracy, and global technological and diplomatic rivalries - but also about their own social status and ethical obligations as a novel expert group in the fast-growing industrial world.
Working through a range of social and technical challenges, German and American engineers turned to each other and traded across the Atlantic ideas, artifacts, skills, and financial and ideological support. Their discussions represent the earliest moments of engineers' active political participation, and they are a prototype of later debates about the abstract, and often hazy, idea of the "impact" of modern technology on social orders.
Co-sponsored by the College of Engineering and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.