Notes from: Amin, A (ed) (1994) Post-Fordism:
A Reader, Blackwell:
Chapter 1 Amin 'Post-Fordism: models, fantasies and phantoms of transition'.
There are lots of marxist criticisms available, especially via Capital and Class [a marxist journal and theoretical school] : for them, the approach is too functionalist and systematic, ignoring the 'non path dependent, contested and open nature of change' (3). There may be no clear breaks, or no binary contrasts (and this includes criticism of the view that there are now old and new times). There are many determinations instead. However, postfordism in the New Times project already attempts to synthesise the economic and the cultural, and is not without its critics (including Rustin and Sivanadan). Post-Fordism is clearly a floating metaphor, involving different emphases.
There are three broad models of the transition from the British economy of the 1970s to the present: there are also several other important models, including work by Bowles and Gintis, a class based version of regulation theory, Lash and Urry on disorganised capitalism, or Harvey on flexible accumulation.
(1) Regulation (a French school including Aglietta and Lipietz). There are now at least seven specific variants, but all see the key regulating mechanisms of economic life as in decline. Regulating mechanisms are not just economic laws, but are 'embedded social practices'. Key concepts include the 'regime of accumulation' (social norms, relations and forms of exchange which regulate the economy), and the 'mode of regulation' (institutions and cultural habits which reproduce the whole capitalist society). There are also 'dominant industrial paradigms/labour processes', which combine with regimes of accumulation and modes of regulation to produce a specific 'mode of development'. Finally, there are dominant 'societal paradigms' which involve political compromises and hegemonic patterns of domination and which attempt to integrate the whole society.
Amin says the problem here is that the approach is too dualistic, it is ambiguous about the autonomy of choice and the logic of technology, it tends to see competitiveness as the sole hallmark of industrial efficiency, and is far too optimistic in predicting a rosy flexible future.
a postfordist future involve networks of
small firms? New forms of integration of management with skilled
forms of decentralisation and involvement, a new
culture, and a new and optimistic 'Yeoman/artisan
democracy'? At the moment, this is found in leading-edge industries
Taylor and Braverman invoke general logics of economic development, and face the difficulty of reductionism.[Braverman wrote a key marxist text identifying 'deskilling' as a necessary part of the accumulation strategy of advanced capitalism]. Taylorism itself may only apply to fordist production. Flexible specialisation approaches predict by contrast a new skilled humane and flexible workforce, a new stability, the re-emergence of the craft paradigm spreading to large industry, and the reunification of the stages of conception and production. However, have economies of scale diminished? Is technology that multi-purpose? Large volume production is still needed, and the introduction of new technology seems to be going on most quickly within existing large-scale organisations, where it is still used to maximise labour time. Technology still replaces skill, and routinises labour rather than releasing new forms of craft organization. Similar doubts apply to the 'involvement' in Total Quality regimes. There is still management control, and work intensification is still the real driver.
Japanisation invokes a transferable postfordism, and a more humane work regime. However, the Japanese economy still features high-volume production of standardized goods. Is apparently based on 'flexibility in the utilisation of plants, the minimisation of quality problems as they arise, and minimisation of production fllow buffers' (quoting Jurgens). But is intensification the Japanese secret? JIT and TQ is designed to eliminate waste and disruption and job rotation. The non-discriminatory work place culture can be seen as a bourgeoisification of the work force [ ie the defusing of worker opposition?] . The loyalty to the firm in exchange for lifetime employment and salary paid according to seniority is really a sign of management dominance, work intensification or super-exploitation. Is there a genuine class accord or is this a sign of union weakness? The superior work conditions are still seen as a gift of management, especially in times of labour shortage. There is a dual labour market. Lifelong contracts can be seen as limiting transfers of skill. JIT is still very exploitative possibly even Taylorist. Japanese work culture is best seen as a development into the ergonomics of mass-production, possible in the face of serious opposition.
A lot of
the optimistic forecasts seem to
depend on there being some whole logic where employers are forced to
workers. However, computerisation is fully compatible with
and need not involve a reintroduction of craft. New technology is about
rather than innovation, and JIT is best seen as a [temporary?]
alternative to full
automation. Even reskilling can involve a new form of integration and
intensification. New developments are best seen as continuous
rather than spectacular breaks: as a result, marxism can still explain
especially via theories of machinofacture. Fordism was never universal,
best seen as one solution available in one sector (flow manufacture),
time savings were maximised. The era after Fordism is still about
since the mechanisation of information, 'informational
principles' drive production, determine
work teams, and
decide upon automation. Work is even more integrated as a result,
process is still unevenly applied. The process even affects batch
which it also intensifies (for example
market information gathered by electronic means). Overall what we see
continuation of trends, a flexible Taylorism. Even subjective knowledge
harnessed to production, as in TQ. Social integration takes place only
provides workers with additional responsibilities for which they are
rewarded: for example they are urged to constantly search for a way to
Fordism was never the single factor producing post-war economic success, and was certainly not universal. The increase in demand from a new middle class and from the military was equally important. Therefore it is wrong to see Fordism as a necessary logic: it is really a particular balance of class forces, a specific deal to integrate working class by high wages and standards of living.
However, there might still be contradictions since subordination is never total
6 Storper, M "Flexible
Specialisation in the
Fordism is a system of vertical integration, mass production, state oligopoly, welfare state and mass consumerism. Flexible specialisation involves the flexible production of goods which is vertically disintegrated, with networks of firms, flexible multi-purpose technology, and less technical division of labour. There is a balance of competition and cooperation, producing regional clusters of agglomerates. Instead of an industrial divide approach, there is a tree structure.
can be seen as a particular case in
Originally, films were made using a craft process which rapidly became a fordist one. The film production companies were in fact among the first to adopt fordist techniques. They integrated production and distribution, and instituted formula movies. It is possible to see the continuity script as a good example of Taylorist division of labour, which also had the advantage of breaking actors' skill in improvisation and thus control over production [actors shoot a variety of scenes regardless of their place in the story -- all the scenes at a particular location, for example -- and then the continuity people edit them together]. Film production featured an advanced division of labour with pre-production and post-production, with their own teams of specialists. Films moved forward as if on an assembly line leading to maximum capacity utilisation. This was the 'studio system'of the 1920s-40s. The industry produced a cluster of workers, oligopoly, and market concentration. It was eventually destabilised by: (a) anti-trust legislation which forced the studios to sell off cinema chains and disrupted their assured market; (b) the arrival of television, which produced a more segmented market, decline in attendances and profits.
The answer was to cut production and increase flexibility. Standardized pieces were dropped, especially shorts and newsreels. There was a focus on the spectacular to differentiate cinema from TV, including the introduction of Technicolor and Cinerama. Fewer but more expensive films were produced instead of volume. Specialised producers now arose, outside the control of studios, able to innovate, and also to take advantage of the casualisation of the work force. The end of long-term contracts ended the star system too -- the best ones could command high salaries which required further cost cutting, and a shift of control back towards actors.
Attempts were made
to destabilise the industry
in the 1960s.
Studios themselves were unable to concentrate enough labour to assemble all these skills, leading to decentralisation, and joint production with independents. By the 1980s 50 per cent of films were produced by independents. Lots of pre-production was contracted out, including editing, lighting and special effects.
required new financial alliances
in order to spread risks, including 'horizontal
integration' (for example film spin-offs).
became multi-purpose -- e.g. Cinnabar first built sets then went into
then produced their own commercials which used their effects.
Was there an
underlying logic to all this? In
general, it is a story of shock and uncertainty, leading to
seeking out new production techniques, always trying to control
control fails, subcontractors can grow into specialists and then
and then form horizontal networks offering a product variety. These
don't offer internal economies of scale, but other economies instead.
became an irreversible change. It is these external economies arising
horizontal networks that are crucial, and these have been