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RE: Engineering News Record Editorial of 6-2-10

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The author of the article wrote, “The whole matter is complicated by fragmented decision-making within firms and among companies.”   This brought to mind an excellent book I’m reading right now called “Modernity and the Holocaust”, by sociologist Zygmunt Bauman.  While the topic is specifically the Holocaust and the conditions of modern society that made it possible, the points he makes are very relevant to many of our political debates today and to the environmental disaster currently in the Gulf.  Bauman claims that, among other factors, a modern bureaucracy was necessary to carry out the Nazi horrors.  The bureaucracy allowed people who would be otherwise unwilling to commit atrocities to participate, because their actions didn’t have any obvious connection to the killing.  A person might be just a clerk scheduling the transportation of “cargo” (Jews being taken to death camps), or performing some other task that is so isolated from the actual work of annihilation, that they go about their work without thinking about the fact that they’re involved in an efficient process of mass destruction.  Bauman postulates that this bureaucratic isolation was necessary, because it eliminated the emotional and moral responses that would otherwise have caused normal people to rise up and stop the Nazi’s cause.  If the Nazi’s plan was fueled entirely be heated anti-Semitism, it would have quickly burned itself out, as it is difficult to keep people’s emotions in a frenzy for the extended time required to destroy an entire race of people.  But the bureaucracy allows the work to move forward in an organized, efficient, unemotional manner, just how we run a modern business.


I think the engineers involved in the notable engineering disasters mentioned by the author of the ENR article were caught in a similar bureaucratic process, where their decisions are isolated enough from the final product, process, or outcome, that the full impact of their day-to-day decisions is not always apparent.  This environment breeds situations in which we are forced to “take off our engineer hat” and do things for the good of the bureaucracy, rather than for the good of society as a whole, regardless of whatever engineering society’s code of ethics we have pledged to uphold.  Unfortunately, the BP disaster has brought us another painful and costly reminder of where this situation can lead us.


-- Joel Adair, P.E.

    SHW Group

    Plano, Texas



From: Neil Moore [mailto:nma(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 4:35 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Engineering News Record Editorial of 6-2-10


Apparently some of us missed this scathing editorial in the ENR magazine.

Any comments other than the 5 pages of comments from readers of this magazine.

Neil Moore, SE, SECB

On 6/23/2010 1:47 PM, Joe Venuti wrote:

This would be true I think …we all had to sign up again after the foolish incident of December from what I understand.


Joe Venuti,  P.E.

Joven Engineering

La Quinta,  CA


From: Alexander Bausk [mailto:bauskas(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 12:48 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Re: Test


I suspect quite a few people got dropped off from the list back in January which resulted in a certain slowdown since then.

On 23 June 2010 23:21, Jws Consulting <> wrote:

I did not get any email last week.

John W. Sieszycki, P.E.


Alexander Bausk
Civil/Structural design & inspection engineer, CAD professional
Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine
Tel. +38 068 4079692
Fax. +38 0562 470263


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