Jump to content

Social engineering (political science)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Social engineering is a term which has been used to mean top-down efforts to influence particular attitudes and social behaviors on a large scale—most often undertaken by governments, but also carried out by media, academia or private groups—in order to produce desired characteristics in a target population.


The Dutch industrialist J.C. Van Marken (nl) used the term sociale ingenieurs ("social engineers") in an essay in 1894. The idea was that modern employers needed the assistance of specialists in handling the human challenges, just as they needed technical expertise (traditional engineers) to deal with non-human challenges (materials, machines, processes). "Social engineering" was the title of a small journal in 1899 (renamed "Social Service" from 1900), and in 1909 it was the title of a book by the journal's former editor, William H. Tolman (translated into French in 1910). With the Social Gospel sociologist Edwin L. Earp's The Social Engineer, published during the "efficiency craze" of 1911 in the U.S., a new usage of the term was launched that has since then become standard: "Social engineering" came to refer to an approach of treating social relations as "machineries",[1] to be dealt with in the manner of the technical engineer.[1]

Examples of use[edit]

In the 1920s the government of the Soviet Union embarked on a campaign to fundamentally alter the behavior and ideals of Soviet citizens, to replace the old social frameworks of the Russian Empire with a new Soviet culture, and to develop the New Soviet man. Commissars became agents of social engineering.[2]

In India, social engineering was effectively done by [by whom?] in the state of Bihar, on a grand scale, to unify different castes after 2005.[3][4][5][6]

In his political science book, The Open Society and Its Enemies, volume I, The Spell of Plato (1945), Karl Popper made a distinction between the principles of 'what he called "piecemeal social engineering" and Utopian social engineering.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Östlund, David (2007). "A knower and friend of human beings, not machines: The business career of the terminology of social engineering, 1894–1910". Ideas in History. 2 (2): 43–82. ISSN 1890-1832. Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  2. ^ Kort, Michael G. (17 April 2019) [1985]. "Into the Fire: The Civil War". The Soviet Colossus: History and Aftermath (8 ed.). New York: Routledge (published 2019). ISBN 9781351171861. Retrieved 18 November 2021. [...] class war [...] was a fundamental part of Bolshevik social engineering and the party's mission to build a new socialist world. [...] along with victory in the civil war came the rise to prominence of a new type of party cadre: the tough, utterly ruthless functionary [...] these cadres fit the popular image of the gruff, leather-jacketed commissar rushing from emergency to emergency on his motorcycle.
  3. ^ "Bihar polls 2015: BJP banks on PM Narendra Modi's popularity and its social engineering experiment". Economictimes.indiatimes.com. The Economic Times. 2015-10-12. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
  4. ^ "Bihar, after Delhi". The Indian Express. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
  5. ^ "Nitish's dismal show a case of monumental miscalculation". Indiatoday.intoday.in. Bihar, News – India Today. 2014-05-16. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
  6. ^ Mishra, Mayank (2015-07-11). "Social engineering: Bharatiya Janata Party's Bihar formula to swing a vote?". Business Standard India. Business Standard News. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
  7. ^ Popper, K. 1971 The Open Society and Its Enemies Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press

Further reading[edit]