Given that engineering significantly affects modern society, ensuring its reliability is essential. How then should society implement engineering ethics to ensure its reliability? Can we expect engineering ethics to be nurtured naturally in the practice of engineering communities? If not, should the subject be compulsory in educational programs? Japan is among the most advanced countries with respect to engineering; however, it was not until the end of the 1990s that current engineering ethics education was introduced into Japanese engineering education programs. While economic globalization played a significant role in promoting this introduction, expectations of Western individualistic ethics and a hesitancy toward a foreign culture laid the foundation. Japan’s Engineering Ethics and Western Culture: Social Status, Democracy, and Economic Globalization examines the broad historical process of developing engineering ethics from the late nineteenth century to the twentieth century. Even though the process was rooted in Japan’s original culture and influenced by the ideologies of respective periods, such as nationalism and democracy, it consistently acknowledged trends from the United States and other Western countries. Natsume Kenichi discusses this history from a comprehensive perspective, including not only engineering education but also science, technology, industry, and higher education policies as well as various issues in science, technology, and society (STS) studies.
Natsume Kenichi is associate professor at the Kanazawa Institute of Technology.
Acronyms and Abbreviations
Because ethics is essential in engineering practice, engineering ethics education is considered crucially important in the formation of engineers in Japan as well as in most parts of the world. Natsume Kenichi—with his meticulous study of historical documents and in-depth interviews with key figures—not only shows how the current mode of engineering ethics education was introduced into Japan in the late 1990s with the strong influence of the United States, but also interweaves analyses of social change, political and ideological movements, institutional development, and professionalism in association with engineering and ethics in modern Japan since the Meiji Restoration. This epoch-making book, most likely the first of its kind written in English, is required reading for all intellectuals who are interested in the history of engineering ethics in Japan. It also provides historical references for those who are in search of the new development of engineering ethics education.
Japan’s Engineering Ethics and Western Culture provides a comprehensive chronological analysis of attempts to incorporate ethics into engineering education during different periods of modern Japan. With the sharp eye of a historian, Natsume has done a magnificent job in identifying how different approaches were affected by specific social conditions, from early modernization in the late nineteenth century to an increasingly intertwined technology-society complex one hundred years later. Though not directly addressing them, this volume serves as a rich reservoir of insights that help answer questions like why Japanese industry was able to quickly ascend to the top of the world, why its position is now in decline, and why serious accidents that result from morally questionable engineering practices occur with such frequency in a so-called ‘high-tech country.’