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. 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...
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