Industrial engineers and theories of the new middle class.

  • Ian P. McLoughlin

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Social theorists have advanced a number of analyses of the social significance of the position and role of the engineer as mediator of relations between technology and society. Some approaches have stressed the technological determinants of the occupational organisation and social consciousness that defines and guides the engineer in the execution of their professional expertise, and others the influence of prior economic determinants. Implicit in these approaches is the view that questions about the social position and significance of the role of the engineer involve a consideration of their position in the wider system of social stratification. This thesis examines the position and role of the industrial engineer in the context of recent theoretical debates on the identification and character of the new middle class, and examines the utility of class analyses in understanding the organisation and consciousness of British engineers. Part I outlines some of the more salient themes in the analysis of the role of the engineer, and examines the theoretical debate on the formal conceptualisation of the new middle class and the character of organisation and consciousness within it. This forms the basis for the analysis of the organisation and consciousness of British engineers undertaken in Part II. This latter section of the thesis presents an examination of contemporary developments in the occupational organisation of British engineers and reports new findings from a study of the social consciousness of industrial engineers. The major conclusion of the study is that the peculiarities of the position and role of British engineers are best explained by conceptual models which are able to highlight the influence of sociocultural variables in the definition of the occupational roles which form the basis for occupational organisation and social consciousness. Of particular importance in the case of the British engineer is the low cultural value placed upon engineering expertise which is reflected in the narrow definition of the occupation's role, their weak occupational organisation and self-consciousness, and, ultimately their ill-defined position in the system of social stratification.
Date of Award1983
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath

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