Post Fordism, Post Modernism and Its Critique

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Implications for Researching the Organisation

[a] Post Fordism?

i) The 1980s: Flexible Specialisation and 'Disorganised Capitalism':

Piore and Sabel (1984) argue in The Second Industrial Divide[i] that new production systems must orientate towards multi-skilling and rapid re-skilling in order to accommodate the search for shifting and newly forming niche markets in a post mass production/mass consumer world. This implies economies of scope rather than economies of scale and a more creative workforce, which, by implication is less alienated and more empowered than under Fordism.

What was the ‘First’ Industrial Divide?

Lash and Urry (1987) in The End of Organised Capitalism[ii] argue that there has been a tendency for capitalism to become dis-organised in that the old institutions of collective bargaining and state-labour-employer relationships are fracturing. Pay determination, and collective bargaining become fragmented and focussed on the enterprise rather than the state or sector. The decline of mass consumption/production is inter-linked with this process.

Fordism and Post Fordism

|Fordism |Post Fordism | |Mass production |Small scale/batch production | |Standardised products |Customized products | |Semi-/unskilled workers |Multi-skilled workers | |Fixed job descriptions |Flexible work roles | |Moving assembly lines |Robots, computerization and work teams | |Large plants |Small-medium plants |

After Murray (1989)[iii]

ii) The 1990s: Lean Production

In a response to the ‘threat’ from Japan Womack et al (1990) in The Machine That Changed the World[iv] argue that efficient and excellent companies can only thrive if they adopt Japanese practices (‘Toyotaism’) and eliminate waste by introducing lean production methods.

The principles of lean production
just-in-time production
multi-skilled workers
on-the-job worker participation
zero defects
high intensity effort
simplified product designs
employment security
after Womack et al 1990

There is much debate as to whether
• Workers are ‘working harder or smarter’ under lean production • Lean production is, or is not, an extension of Taylorism by other means.

Berggren (1989)[v], for example, argues that LP is a hybrid situation whereby the goals of Taylorism remain whilst additional strategies are introduced which strip workers of their ideas (flexible Taylorism).

Parker and Slaughter (1988)[vi] argued that an intensification of Taylorism was taking place under LP. In the case of the US/Japanese auto company, NUMMI, team working and LP were introduced. Management claim that Taylorism is rejected as workers’ knowledge is used and recognised to improve the production process. Parker and Slaughter (in contrast) suggest that what is occurring is management by stress (MBS) as improvements to efficiency must be continually sought and implemented. Workers then end up working to standard patterns, similar to Fordism.

Milkman (1997)[vii] suggests that some (American) workers welcome the opportunity to suggest improvements, particularly as the alternative may be a non-unionised, oppressive and authoritarian work regime. Keen workers are also given the opportunity to shine.

But is it the case that all production processes are now Post Fordist and Post Taylorist?

[b]HRM in the Organisation

Human resource management techniques have...
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