Document Type

Book Chapter


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

This article is a near-last version of a chapter that has been published as: Murphy M., Coyle E. (2012) Engineering Leadership. In: Christensen S., Mitcham C., Li B., An Y. (eds) Engineering, Development and Philosophy. Philosophy of Engineering and Technology, vol 11. Springer, Dordrecht


By 1921 the American sociologist Thorstein Veblen in his book The Engi-neers and the Price System argued for a technocracy in which the welfare of humanity would be entrusted to the control of the engineers because they alone were competent to understand the complexities of the industrial system and processes and thereby optimize and maximize its output. This chapter sets out to explore the extent to which Veblen’s technocratic leadership thesis has come to pass. We first review the role of the engineer in society and in the context of Europe, the US and China, and examine the influence of the engineering profession on the management and economic welfare of nations. Second we review trends in engineering education and formation in Europe, China and the US, and the substantive developmental role of the Grand Écoles in 18th-century France. A comparison is made between the economies of Ireland and China, in the context of their recent economic performance. Third a review of commentary on the interconnectedness of world economies and shift in economic power from nineteenth century United King-dom market dominance to twentieth century United States supremacy and to present day emergence of China as the world’s second largest and fastest growing economy, is made in the context of the role of engineering leadership. We finally ponder whether a hybrid political environment, with blending of meritocracy with technocratic leadership and moderated by non-engineering influences, might be a recipe for sustained economic success of nations.