Skip to main content

piecemeal social engineering

piecemeal social engineering In The Poverty of Historicism (1957), the philosopher Sir Karl Popper criticized historicist (notably communist and fascist) attempts to foretell the future, and argued that the holistic social experiments based on these theories were doomed to failure, because the course of human history is strongly influenced by the growth of knowledge, and we cannot (rationally or scientifically) predict the future growth of scientific knowledge. Rather, by analogy with the central role of piecemeal experiments in the sciences, he argues that the only form of social engineering that can be rationally justified is one which is small-scale, incremental, and continuously amended in the light of experience. The crucial point about this approach is that it is based on trial and error rather than a prior historicist vision; or, as Popper puts it, ‘we make progress if, and only if, we are prepared to learn from our mistakes: to recognize our errors and to utilize them critically instead of persevering in them dogmatically’. Piecemeal social engineering is, therefore, nothing less than the introduction of ( Popper's conception of) scientific methods into planning and politics.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"piecemeal social engineering." A Dictionary of Sociology. . 19 Jun. 2019 <>.

"piecemeal social engineering." A Dictionary of Sociology. . (June 19, 2019).

"piecemeal social engineering." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Retrieved June 19, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.