Re: Social Engineering (was: Different patriarchy Model)

Paul F. Bramscher (
Wed, 28 Dec 1994 03:17:02 GMT

In article <>, (Gerold Firl) says:
>In article <3cfbg4$> (PioneerTom) writes:
>>examples of bad planning abound in recent history.
>Right. It seems like every time we try to "improve" our culture, or some
>other culture, we do more harm than good, no matter how well-intentioned.
>Of course, I may be looking too short-term; consider the british ban on
>slavery in the early 19th century. It caused enormous suffering in africa,
>as the primary source of export revenue was suddenly eliminated, but in the
>long run this must be seen as a positive example of social engineering.

We should remember, however, that "social engineering" in terms of human
meddling with the social structure, is always in operation. During the past
quarter century (arguably coinciding with the rise of computers) many
social sciences went through a paradigm shift of sorts. In archaeology
we call it the "New Archaeology" or Processual Archaeology. Scientific
inquiry was, and still is to a great extent, interested in a search for
social systems, processes -- with the construction of flowcharts and
computer simulation to illustrate them.

So, once it is understood that there are various "systems" implicit in the
structure of all societies, our own included, the maintenance of such a
system requires (using the same metaphor) "engineers". The megacorporation
which is responsible for importing or exporting 250,000 automobiles to
another country, a chemical company that pollutes a river system, a CEO
who lays off 4-5 dozen employees and hires on no-benefit temporary help,
a non-profit organization which seeks to preserve the wetlands, ad
infinitum -- these are examples of social engineering, with varying degrees
of social impact. The conservative agenda of moving wealth upwards on
the social scale is therefore just another example of this phenomenon.

What I find most unfortunate is that we've decided to let politicans and
private industry utterly overshadow the role social scientists can play
in the "engineering." I liken it to the doctor/patient analogy. There's
really no debate in the operating room,the patient doesn't argue with the
doctor on whether his appendix should be removed. The problem exists,
the steps are taken to remedy it... But in the process of politicization,
the patient often dies or goes through unneeded suffering... Just food
for thought.

Paul F. Bramscher
Interdisciplinary Archaeological Studies
University of Minnesota -- Minneapolis