Engineering ethics and STS subcultures

Joseph R. Herkert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose - Mainstream science, technology, and society (STS) scholars have shown little interest in engineering ethics, one going so far as to label engineering ethics activists as "shit shovelers." Detachment from engineering ethics on the part of most STS scholars is related to a broader and long-standing split between the scholar-oriented and activist-oriented wings of STS. This chapter discusses the various STS "subcultures" and argues that the much-maligned activist STS subculture is far more likely than the mainstream scholar subculture to have a significant impact on engineering ethics education and practice. Approach - The chapter builds on analyses of STS subcultures in research and education from the literature and identifies a similar set of subcultures for engineering ethics research and education. Findings - Reconciliation of the STS subcultures will tap an activist tradition that already has strong ties (practical, historical, and theoretical) to engineering ethics research and education. Acknowledging that STS and engineering ethics each have legitimate, activist-oriented subcultures will position STS scholars and educators for providing needed insights to engineering activists and the engineering profession as a whole. STSers should recognize and appreciate that many engineering ethicists and engineering activists are concerned both with issues internal to the profession and broader social implications of technology. Originality/value - The chapter presents an analysis of STS subcultures and their relationship to engineering ethics. As such, it will be of interest to STS scholars and engineering ethicists alike, as well as engineering ethics and STS educators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-69
Number of pages19
JournalResearch in Social Problems and Public Policy
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Engineering ethics and STS subcultures'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this