Large-Scale Social Engineering: How Governments Shape Society

Governments have long sought to shape and control society through various tactics, including large-scale social engineering. Social engineering involves using policies, laws, and propaganda to influence people’s behaviour, attitudes, and beliefs. While social engineering can serve positive purposes, such as promoting public health or reducing crime, it can also assist more sinister purposes, such as authoritarian control or oppression.

Large-Scale Social Engineering
How governments shape society. Photo by Ricky Esquivel on

Historical Examples of Social Engineering

Governments throughout history have used social engineering to shape society in various ways. In the Soviet Union, for example, the government used propaganda to promote the Communist Party and suppress dissent. In Nazi Germany, the government used eugenics to promote “racial purity” and justify genocide. In the United States, the government used Jim Crow laws to encourage segregation and deny civil rights to African Americans.

Modern Examples of Social Engineering

Modern governments also use social engineering to shape society. For example, China’s social credit system uses data collection and analysis to monitor citizens’ behaviour and social interactions. The system assigns individuals a social credit score determining their access to certain privileges, such as travel and loans—many criticise the system for its potential to infringe on individual rights and freedoms.

The United States has also engaged in social engineering in recent years. For example, the government’s War on Drugs has been criticised for its disproportionate impact on communities of colour and for promoting mass incarceration. The government’s surveillance programs, such as the National Security Agency’s PRISM program, have also been criticised for violating privacy rights.

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Social Engineering

The Impact of Social Engineering

The impact of social engineering can be significant for individuals and all of society. Social engineering can shape cultural norms, influence public policy, and even determine the outcome of elections. However, social engineering can also lead to oppression, inequality, and the violation of individual rights.

The Importance of Ethics in Social Engineering

Given the potential impact of social engineering, governments need to adhere to ethical standards. Governments must consider the potential harm to individuals and society (as a whole) when implementing policies and programs. Governments should also ensure that their social engineering efforts are transparent and accountable to the public.


Governments have used large-scale social engineering throughout history to shape and control society. While using social engineering for positive purposes can also lead to oppression, inequality, and the violation of individual rights. It is essential for governments to adhere to ethical principles and standards when implementing social engineering programs and to ensure transparency and accountability to the public.

— Peyton J. Dracco


Published by Peyton J. Dracco

Author & entrepreneur

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