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utopian engineering

Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


P olitical philosophy Popper 's term for a methodological approach to bringing about social and political change. Utopian engineers draw up an initial blueprint of society as a whole and then attempt to realize this ideal state by deciding the best means to achieve the predetermined ends. This approach entails large-scale social revolution and is represented by the program for society in Plato 's Republic. In contrast, piecemeal engineering focuses on existing social problems and practices to propose a series of relatively modest individual changes. According to Popper, piecemeal engineering is a rational means of pursuing change, while utopian engineering, because it aims at a perfect state, will demand centralized rule and lead to dictatorship. Although utopian engineering starts with an apparently good plan, it can lead to disaster because of the complex realities of human nature and of social life. All change produces unintended as well as intended consequences. With piecemeal engineering it is easier to recognize when unintended consequences are negative and to trace these consequences to their origins in order to eliminate or to control them. “The Platonic approach I have in mind can be described as that of utopian engineering, as opposed to another kind of social engineering which I consider as the only rational one, and which may be described by the name of ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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