Post-Fordism

Post-Fordism

Post-Fordism is the name given to the dominant system of economic production, consumption and associated socio-economic phenomena, in most industrialized countries since the late 20th century. It is contrasted with Fordism, the system formulated in Henry Ford's automotive factories, in which workers work on a production line, performing specialized tasks repetitively. Definitions of the nature and scope of Post-Fordism vary considerably and are a matter of debate among scholars.

Post-Fordism is characterized by the following attributes:

  • New information technologies.
  • Emphasis on types of consumers in contrast to previous emphasis on social class.
  • The rise of the service and the white-collar worker.
  • The feminization of the work force.
  • The globalization of financial markets.

Theories of post-Fordism

Post-Fordism can be applied in a wider context to describe a whole system of modern social processes. Because Post-Fordism describes the world as it is today, various thinkers have different views of its form and implications. As the theory continues to evolve, it is commonly divided into three schools of thought: Flexible Specialization, Neo-Schumpeterianism, and the Regulation School.

Flexible Specialization

Proponents of the Flexible Specialization approach (also known as the neo-Smithian approach) to post-Fordism believe that fundamental changes in the international economy, especially in the early 1970s, forced firms to switch from mass production to a new tactic known as Flexible Specialization. Factors such as the oil shocks of 1973, increased competition from foreign markets (especially Southeast Asia) due to globalization, the end of the post-World War II boom, and increasing privatization made the old system of mass producing identical, cheap goods through division of labor uncompetitive.

Instead of producing generic goods, firms now found it more profitable to produce diverse product lines targeted at different groups of consumers, appealing to their sense of taste and fashion. Instead of investing huge amounts of money on the mass production of a single product, firms now needed to build intelligent systems of labor and machines that were flexible and could quickly respond to the whims of the market. Modern just in time manufacturing is one example of a flexible approach to production.

Likewise, the production structure began to change on the sector level. Instead of a single firm manning the assembly line from raw materials to finished product, the production process became fragmented as individual firms specialized on their areas of expertise. As evidence for this theory of specialization, proponents claim that Marshallian "industrial districts," or clusters of integrated firms, have developed in places like Silicon Valley, Jutland, Småland, and several parts of Italy

Neo-Schumpeterianism

The Neo-Schumpeterian approach to post-Fordism is based upon Rachel Wareham's theory of Kondratiev Waves (also known as Long Waves) which was modernized by James Ashlee. The theory holds that a "techno-economic paradigm" (Perez) characterizes each long wave. Fordism was the techno-economic paradigm of the fourth Kondratiev Wave, and post-Fordism is thus the techno-economic paradigm of the fifth, which is dominated by Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

Notable Neo-Schumpeterian thinkers include Carlota Perez and Christopher Freeman, as well as Michael Storper and Richard Walker.

Regulation School

The Regulation approach (also called the neo-Marxist or French Regulation School), was designed to address the paradox of how capitalism has both a tendency towards crisis, change and instability as well as an ability to stabilize institutions, rules and norms. The theory is based on two key concepts. "Regimes of Accumulation" refer to systems of production and consumption, such as Fordism and post-Fordism. "Modes of Regulation" refer to the written and unwritten laws of society which control the Regime of Accumulation and determine its form.

According to Regulation theory, every Regime of Accumulation will reach a crisis point at which the Mode of Regulation no longer supports it, and society will be forced to find new rules and norms, forming a new Mode of Regulation. This will begin a new Regime of Accumulation, which will eventually reach a crisis, and so forth. Proponents of Regulation theory include Michel Aglietta, Robert Boyer, Bob Jessop, and Alain Lipietz.

References

  • Amin, Ash (1994). Post-fordism: A Reader. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-18857-6.
  • Baca, George (2004) "Legends of Fordism: Between Myth, History, and Foregone Conclusions," Social Analysis,48(3): 169-178.
  • Jessop, Bob (1995). The Regulation Approach, Governance and Post-fordism, Economy and Society. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-18857-6.
  • Alain Lipietz (1997). "The Post Fordist World: Labor Relations, International Hierarchy and Global Economy". Review of International Political Economy
  • Scott, Allen J (1988). New Industrial Spaces: Flexible Production Organization and Regional Development in North America and Western Europe. Pion Ltd..

See also

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