Has Pos-Fordism Replaced Fordism in Capitalist Society

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The beginning of the 20th century when Henry Ford first time put his genius idea of dividing works into separate parts by using assemble line into practice was marked as the start of massive production. It is also the debut for Taylorism in the massive production area. After that such method of massive standard production was named as Foedism. Based on the ‘scientific management’ theory that comes from Taylorism, the manufacturing area began to be dominated by Fordism. However, since the 1960s when a series of new technologies appeared, manufacturing did not have to be formed in a fixed method. A more flexible production method, which was named as Post-Fordism turned up. From then on a controversy appears between two groups of sociologists. This debate is about whether the post-Fordism has replaced the position of Fordism and Taylorism in the modern society. This essay is about to critically evaluate the explosive view that ‘Taylorism’ and ‘Fordism’ have been replaced by ‘Post-Fodism’ as the ruling paradigm of work in capitalist society. Views and some comments from different sociologists, such as, Michael J. Piore, J.Atkinson and Anna Pollert will be referred to in this article.

The most obvious phenomenon of Post-Fordism is the flexibility. It can now be easily witnessed that flexible practices are kept being introduced into different areas including labor process, technology, contract. So how flexible the manufacturing process is has been a main index to recognize ‘post-Fordism’ and ‘Fodism’ Piore (1986) has a strong mind that ‘Fordism’ and ‘Taylorism’ have been replaced by the ‘post-Fordism’ and flexibility has spreaded across most capitalist countries. The customers do not satisfy with pedestrian products and look forward to more specialized products. (Piore, 1986) So what the customers want, as an example, are cars with personalities and something unique rather than the boring black Ford Model Ts. And on the other hand, the implantations of new technologies make it more economic and easier for companies to adjust what to produce: ‘For example, computer numerical-controlled machine tools can be reprogrammed to perform different tasks. This enables manufacturers to make goods in small batches economically: it no longer costs vast amounts to shift from the production of one product to the production of another.’(Haralambos et al. 2004, p. 641) Thus, it is both desirable and possible for manufacturers to make the production method more flexible. And Piore(1986) also suggests that these developments have contributed to the changes in patterns of work and management. To the aspect of work, for workers in flexible firms may be given different tasks along with the workflow and works are linked to computer more closely; skilled workers are much more desired than ever before. Meanwhile, a rapid reduction occurred to low-skilled tasks in the employment structure. (Piore, 1986) With regard to the pattern of management, the firms structure becomes more flat than ever before, and an effective flexible Japanese circles, which is regarded as a key to Japanese business success is widely adopted by most companies from capitalist society. Similarly, Atkinson (1985) maintains a view that companies and factories in capitalist countries have been more flexible than ever before. But what is different from Piore’s theory, he classifies the flexibility into two forms,’Functional flexibility’ and ‘Numerical flexibility’. In Atkinson’s (1985) theory, ‘Functional flexibility’ and ‘Numerical flexibility’ refer to the ability of allocating ‘core workers’ or ‘multi-skilled workers’ into different area and the ability of controlling its labour size of respectively. Otherwise, he divides the labour source into three parts, namely, core group, first peripheral group and second peripheral group, and believes firms tend to make an increasing use of peripheral group workforce which includes agency temporaries and self-employment workers as a mean to...
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