Fordism (Sociology)

Topics: Assembly line, Manufacturing, Henry Ford Pages: 6 (1789 words) Published: January 14, 2011
Fordism is a system that arose during the last decades of the 19th Century through to the second decade of the 20th Century. Fordism was first recognized by the Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937). He was the writer of 'Americanism and Fordism'. It was about Fordism representing a new form of capitalism which created a new economic structure which affected social life of the laborer on a large scale. Ford came up with a method of manufacturing inexpensive automobiles using the assembly line which could finish a car in 98 minutes.

It was the dominant method of mass production and mass consumption with the help of assembly-line technology. This process broke down complicated tasks into many smaller and simpler ones, which were suitable of unskilled labor. It was practiced on a large scale, using semi skilled workers. These workers, usually male, had one task each that they had to repeatedly do which is why they did not need to be particularly trained. This method was already used in the slaughterhouses in Chicago in the 1980's but Ford was the first person to use it on a large scale with the single colored and model, mass produced T model car. Ford was the creative force behind the growth to preeminence of the automobile industry, still the world's largest manufacturing activity. As Womack, Jones, and Roos (1990: 11) explain: "Twice in this century [the auto industry] has changed our most fundamental ideas about how we make things. And how we make things dictates not only how we work but what we buy, how we think, and the way we live." This system that he created produced standardized products and workers were controlled via Taylorism.

Taylorism, also known as the scientific method, was a method of controlling a work place started of by Frederick W Taylor. It was a great contribution to apply the principles of scientific analysis to work and it's organization. He was interested in the development of industrial production but did not think the way of production was adequate. The workers had decision making power which caused production to be inefficient. He proposed the idea of workers having just work to do and no decisions to make. He also wrote a book about workers and managers cooperating with each other. He assumed that man's nature was instrumental and that man could be motivated by the prospect of earning more. He began the process of measurement of time, management departments were set up to improve the efficiency of work. The labor was paid according to the products they produced, their wages varied with the amount of hours they worked. This increased efficient production on a large scale. “Taylor believed it was essential to make a direct link between output and pay, and his key proposal was a differential piece-rate. This Taylor argued, would give workers a real incentive to maximize output'' (Harrison, S. 17). Taylorism was not widely spread. The U.S took up it's practice because of it's broad minded atmosphere and industrial work places were more accepting. Although Taylorism was also introduced in Europe and Paris, it was not successful due to resistance and the participation of trade unions.

Furthermore, the main point of Ford's system was standardization -- standardized components, standardized manufacturing processes, and a simple, easy to manufacture standard product. Because the idea was assembly line where each assembler had one task to do over and over again, therefore, there were no technical problems and the process became very easy to do, this made the product close to perfection. Moreover, the moving assembly line was first implemented at Ford's Model-T Plant at Highland Park, Michigan, in 1914, increasing labor productivity tenfold and permitting stunning price cuts -- from $780 in 1910 to $360 in 1914 (Hounshell, 1984; Abernathy, 1978). Hence, the term Fordize: "to standardize a product and manufacture it by mass means at a price so low that the common man can afford to buy it."...

References: & Bibliography
(1) J. Fulcher & J. Scott(2007) Sociology, 3rd Edition, Oxford.
(2) Churton, M (2000) Theory and Method, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
(3) Slattery, M (2003) Key Ideas in Sociology, Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes, 2nd edition.
(4)F. Gambino (1998), A critique of Fordism, 1st Edition, Theo Nicholas, NY
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