Are Engineering and Social Justice (In)commensurable? A Theoretical Exploration of Macro-Sociological Frameworks

Jon A. Leydens, Juan C. Lucena, Jen Schneider


The degree to which engineering and social justice as fields of practice are (in)commensurable remains an open question. To illuminate important dimensions of that question, we explore intersections between those fields and two macro-sociological frameworks. Those theoretical frameworks—structural functionalism and social conflict—represent contrasting perspectives on how society should be organized. Specifically, we reveal conceptual alignments between structural functionalism and engineering/engineering education and between social conflict and social justice. Those alignments suggest some salient potential catalysts for tensions between engineering and social justice and provide a useful ideological mirror for reflection by all who are committed to the engineering profession and/or to social justice.


social justice; engineering; theory; structural functionalism; social conflict

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