restricted access Engineering Philosophy: Theories of Technology, German Idealism, and Social Order in High-Industrial Germany

During the so-called “Second Industrial Revolution,” engineers were constituting themselves as a new social and professional group, and found themselves in often fierce competition with existing elites—the military, the nobility, and educated bourgeois mandarins—whose roots went back to medieval and early modern pre-industrial social orders. During that same time, engineers also discovered the discipline of philosophy: as a means to express their intellectual and social agendas, and to theorize technology and its relationship to art, history, culture, philosophy, and the state. This article analyzes engineers’ own philosophical writings about technology as well as the institutions in which they composed them in 1910s and 1920s Germany. It emphasizes engineers’ contributions to well-known discourses founded by canonical philosophers, the role of preindustrial economies and their imagination in such philosophies, and the role of both the history and the philosophy of technology in engineers’ desire for upward social mobility.