Fordism and post fordism

Essay by shity November 2004

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In the early 1920s, when Henry Ford's assembly line had dramatically increased the amount output, the economy and labour system are no longer the same as before. Fordism, which is associated with mass production and mass consumption (Cooke, 1989), has influenced many countries. However, as some sociologists have argued, with the increase of product and consumer differentiation, post-Fordism, with a smaller scale of production as well as consumption is taking place. Yet some other sociologists do not agree with it. They claimed that we are living in a neo-Fordist society, admitting that there are some changes, but not enormous enough to be called a post-Fordist society. To consider which society we are actually living in, different situations and industries need to be looked at in terms of management, technology and work, which also involve cultural differences. It may be concluded that we are living in neither extreme but somewhere between Fordism and post-Fordism, depending on what situation is being considered.

Fordism is supposed to be the most important production system in the early twentieth century. It is "the manufacture of standardised products in a huge volumes using special-purpose machinery and unskilled labour."(Tolliday and Zeitlin, 1986, p.1) In terms of technology, the use of fixed machine allows each part of the product to be fitted to the same model in the same way. In this way, mass production is created, and to replace any items of the product would be very easy. With the high level of economies of scale, costs of each unit are remarkably reduced, which brings down the prices of products. Labour process becomes rather simple, for tasks that used to be complicated are broken down into specialised pieces. Workers are required for little skill to finish the tasks, for they would be...