As industrial ecology (IE) solidifies conceptually and methodologically, and as it gains visibility and legitimacy in academia, industry, and government, it is important that the IE community periodically evaluate the status of its emerging institutional arrangements. At the same time, industrial ecologists should assess the political relations developing between the field and the larger world. We analyze four institutional criteria: professional legitimacy, viable clientele, entrepreneurial acumen, and occupational opportunities, as well as a more controversial fifth measure-political relevance. Drawing a comparison with the field of ecology, we argue that efforts to foster IE institutionally can, ironically, conflict with the objective of seeing IE become “the science and engineering of sustainability”. The article concludes by reflecting on the importance of this kind of critical appraisal and on why many observers of the field remain hopeful.