America by Design: Science, Technology, and the Rise of Corporate Capitalism
“Noble traces the social implications of technology from the last half of the eighteenth century to the 1920s. Engineers, he argues, came to view their responsibility for the human element in a technological enterprise as a process and, just as their objective was to advance technology for the highest profit, they strove to manage society for the same purpose.
The book is divided into two parts. In the first, titled “The Wedding of Science to the Useful Arts,” Noble attributes the beginnings of science based industry to the electrical and chemical industries that emerged in the late 1800s. General electric, AT&T, and Dupont set the pattern for applying science industrial applications and “corporate social production steadily became a conscious process…gaining both direction and momentum.” (50) New colleges and technical schools produced trained engineers who eventually rose to become corporate leaders who perpetuated the process.
Part two is titled “Corporate Reform as Conscious Social Production.” Here Noble explains how engineers modified society to serve the goal of capital accumulation. Scientific standardization was the impetus to standardize human activity. Research laboratories, with their need for educated personnel, became a component of the corporate organization. In the engineers view “education was the critical process through which the human parts of the industrial apparatus could be fashioned for specifications.” (168) Additionally, American patent law was modified to serve corporate needs. Multiple filings restricted competition and employee inventions became proprietary.”