Fordism

1 January 2017

Has a new system of production and consumption replaced Fordism? Named after American industrialist Henry Ford, Fordism is essentially a modern socio-economic system designed on the bases of industrial mass production in the 20th century. There are many aspects of Fordism in terms of its social and economic organisation, such as the relation to production line techniques, the nature and pattern of consumption, and overall state regulation.

This essay will firstly outline the three major characteristics of Fordism; the standardisation of goods produced, the synchronisation of assembly line workers, and the concept of how higher waged workers are able to afford the goods they produce. Moreover, the 21st century patterns of production, consumption and regulation have distinctively altered the core of Fordism, particularly since the rise of the information and communication technology sector, such as the Internet and personal computers.Therefore, the major features and implications of Taylorism and Post-Fordism will also be explored, in relation to whether contemporary systems of production and consumption have replaced the initial Fordism system. Fordism took its name when the pioneer of mass production for motor cars, Henry Ford, conjured up a method of producing cars that simplified the overall production process into small, individualised, and highly-specialised parts (Harvey, 1990). By introducing a complex division of labour involving assembly lines of workers repeatedly performing the same actions, Ford reasoned that costs could be lowered and profits increased.Major success of this was derived from three main principles. The first principle of production refers to the transition of craft production and manpower into mass production and the usage of machines.

Fordism Essay Example

This provided a more rapid production process and fault-free products, creating the market of today’s production industry (Bagguleu, 1991). Based on economics of scale, this newly formed market space gave rise to giant organisations and businesses built upon a specialisation of minute divisions of labour, resulting in a much higher profit margin.The second principle uses the concept of assembly lines to permit low and single-skilled workers to perform the same tasks over and over in an organised fashion. With the help of machines, this assembly line method can increase the speed of production process immensely and produce maximum efficiency and the greatest number of goods. Due the high labour, low pay notion, a sense of capitalism was inherently created, as Henry Ford and the superiors of the company were making the majority of the profit.Meanwhile many labour workers simply could not afford the products that they were producing, resulting in overall adequate consumption of product (Gabriel & Lang, 2008). Ford then came up with the third principle of paying higher wages to the workers, and as a result, they could afford to purchase the goods that they produced themselves.

After the rearrangement of people and machines, the systematic alterations of organisational manner at the Ford Highland Park factory radically changed the work routines and the lives of many American automobile workers.Unfortunately, the established Fordism system had some paradoxical effects. It firstly transformed the various work routines and duties of the workers from various work tasks and routines into repetitive and monotonous processes, alienating them from the modern industrial world (Kumar, 1995). This also characterizes the Marxist theory of alienation; the worker is utilised as an instrument, where their traits of personality, dignity, and enjoyment of life are depleted and lost as they can only express labour through a tailored system of industrial production (Ferkiss, 1991).Secondly, Fordism altered the traditional social atmosphere in the workplace with the declination of skilled craftsmen and an increase of single-skilled and unskilled workers. A production efficiency methodology named Taylorism was employed for the purpose of breaking down the manufacturing process into simple tasks to suit the roles of individual workers. This synthesised, scientifically managed workflow was meant to improve labour productivity and economic efficiency.

And thirdly, rather than having machinery at the centre of the factory and workers moving to and from the product, assembly lines were used.This meant that the workers remained stationary and the product simply flowed past them (Murray, 1989). They were essentially treated as robots and dictated by machines; operating to the duplicated, repetitive tasks daily and not given the opportunity to express potential for advancement or improvement. This wave of protest led to the establishment of a new type of management, which was believed to help workers integrate into the capitalist system, known as Post-Fordism (Dicken, 2003).Beginning in the late 20th century, Post-Fordism is characterised by any different attributes, such as smaller batched production, specialized products and jobs, new-age technologies, the rise of service and feminization in the work force, and the emphasis on consumer niche markets, as opposed to simply considering social class (Allen, 1992). However, due to limited wording, three main characteristics of Post-Fordism will be exclusively discussed; consumer sovereignty, the fragmentation of careers, and globalization in terms of the interactivity and future opportunities it encompasses.The dominance and triumph of the consumer demand have become an epidemic.

Consumers now dictate the right of production, fuel the drive for innovation, and the result is essentially a new range of service sectors, niche markets, and highly tailored products. “Consumers embody a simple logic, the right to choose. ” (Gabriel & Lang, 2008). This is a very drastic change from the Fordism era, as products and services are now fragmented into highly individualised, niche markets.During Fordism, mass-produced goods became extremely accessible and virtually universal. As a result, middle to high-classed consumers often strive to individualise themselves from such convention and common, standardised goods. Today, instead of all having to purchase the same style of Ford T model cars, consumers now have vast options ranging from luxury brands (Rolls Royce, BMW) to practical brands (Toyota, Honda), different hybrid functionalities, speed adjustments, convertible characteristics, and so on.

As for service sectors, there are now both private and public options of schooling, health provision and tourism, as opposed to limited choices in the Fordism era. It is apparent that consumer markets are becoming more demanding and volatile, as product uniqueness recycles more rapidly. This allows for expressions of individuality and taste to emerge among consumers, however the key to survival for many industries is the ability to respond immediately to changes in market demand (Gabriel & Lang, 2008).Another feature regarding the transition from Fordism to Post-Fordism is the casualization of jobs. In the Fordism era, many workers only possessed one or two jobs in their entire career timeline, due to inflexibility of choices and transition. Today, as new technologies enable easy transfer of information and relocation of jobs, the concept of ‘job for life’ has dissipated and lost its meaning (Tomaney, 1995). Many people now explore across a range of industries, even if it is not in their field of specialisation.

A young worker can begin their employment journey at a labour-oriented job that requires minimal experience, such as a food server, while they complete their studies at school. After graduation, they may transition onto their first careered-oriented job that is relevant to their degree, such as an accountant, assuming they graduated with a commerce or finance degree. From then on, the individual might receive a more lucrative offer from a different company and therefore decides to make another transition for better opportunities and work prospects.This results in a more fragmented and “casualised” career of rapid job moves and certain periods of unemployment (Heery & Salmon, 2000). In saying this, casualisation does not necessarily refer to unemployment; on the contrary, it also can imply self-employment and temporary work, which is “the new benchmark” (Harvey, 1990). Boundless new opportunities of employment have emerged in the service sectors, and they rely on people with the courage and spontanousness to transfer from job to job to fill those new positions.With the creations of new products since the Fordism era, many relative goods and services are exponentially evolving and being constructed (Dicken, 2003).

For example, since the emergence of the Internet, consumers now embody the convenience of social media, online shopping, online newspapers, online banking, search engine (Google, Bing) maintenance, and so on. All of these sectors require employees and contributors to aid their persistence, and this essentially altered the nature of the occupational structure during the Fordism era.Furthermore, the broad spectrum of work choices and the casualisation of jobs are now very apparent. Bauman (1996) claims that today’s producers and consumers must rely on “opportunism”, seeking to be in the right place at the right times. This new epidemic of advanced economies and heightened interactivity has led to the arrival of the information society and ultimately, globalisation. A key contributor to this argument, Daniel Bell (1996) claimed that, in the post-industrial society, knowledge has replaced productive labour as a source of value.With knowledge, one has the potential to transform a vast range of activity in an economy, as opposed to labour, which requires knowledge to dictate its path in order to function successfully.

In the last decade, extraordinary social and economic changes have reshaped the nature of production and consumption worldwide (Allen, 1992). The emergence of developing countries such as China, India and Brazil have introduced huge consumer markets and extended the possibilities of contemporary production and consumerism.The service sector has vastly increased since the Fordism era, as there are simply more variants and inventions of what was previously regarded as convenient and tech-savvy. Instead of the telephone, consumers are now bombarded with the never-ending selection of cell-phones and smartphones. Instead of the typewriter, there is now the multi-purposed computer, which extends to much other functionality, such as direction navigation (Google maps), search engines for researching purposes (Google, Bing, Yahoo), social media for interactivity, games for entertainment, and the list continues.These technological advancements have resulted in the decrease in many factory and labour-oriented work, such as car part assemblers, and up-graded to a world that characterises the new ‘informational capitalism’ (Castells, 1996). The concept of work has become much like the concept of school in the most fundamental way; it is a platform for learning.

Castells (2001), claims that, in an economy of thriving opportunities, information and skill can become obsolete in a short span of months or even weeks.What is now important is the ability to alter generic information and tailor it into specific knowledge that can be applied to new and evolving situations. On the other hand, one of the shortcomings with Fordism was that it was very difficult to forecast demand. If too little was produced, the company lost market share. On the other hand, if too much was produced compared to the quantity demanded, stock had to be stored at high cost or sold at a discount. (Allen, 1992). In Fordism, the state’s management of labour market policies controls the persistence of the economy.

Therefore, consumerism is encouraged to aggregate market demand, and this is believed to lead to economic growth overall; characterising the concept of Keynesianism (Jessop, 1992). In saying this, when the balance of supply and demand became unstable and fragmented, the consumerism cycle is disrupted and jobs are lost as a result, leading to a halt in economic growth. People who participate in the casualisation and frequent transitioning of jobs in the Post-Fordism era can then experience redundancy from their work, as companies often retain their most “loyal” and long-term employees for reliability as opposed to newcomers.In 2009, Barack Obama launched a 787 billion dollar stimulus program in aim to improve the flow of the United States economy and aid unemployment during a recession (Epstein, 2011). The private sector was said to be experiencing a very slow progression, and as a result, Obama decided to turn to the federal government to trigger economic growth and aid employment rates. However, Keynesianism can suffer from a “real world perspective”, meaning it lacks the considering that the government cannot inject money into the economy without first taking money out of the economy.This results in no increase in aggregate demand, as “Keynesianism doesn’t boost economic income, it merely redistributes it.

” (Harvey, 1990, pp. 181) The concept of Fordism was advancement from what pre-existed, however there were many flaws in regards to the system. While it increased the production speed and efficiency of goods, it also, by contrast, created an environment of manual labour, repetition, marginalised potential on the workers’ part. Advancing towards Post-Fordism, the case of consumer sovereignty over production and innovation of goods has led to the fragmentation of niche markets.

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