Taylorism" and "Fordism" Have Been Replaced Term Paper

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¶ … Taylorism" and "Fordism" have been replaced by "post-Fordism" as the means of organizing work in a capitalist society.

What is 'Fordism'?

Oh Ford!" exclaim the characters of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (Huxley, 1988, p. 29). Rather than God, in Huxley's standardized dystopia, Henry Ford is the highest moral pinnacle to which an individual can aspire. Fordism is perhaps best exemplified in the early model of the Ford Company itself, devoted to making cars affordable for ordinary Americans, in every color so long as the customer wanted a car colored black. Because of Ford, production shifted once and for all from a stress upon individual craftsmanship to unskilled labor (Brody 1985, p.614). The "systematic deskilling of labor" and prioritizing the perfection of processes over teaching workers how to make quality productions became the hallmark of Fordism (Foster 1988, p.1). Ford was inspired by the principles of scientific management or the maximization of efficiency of worker movement and the conveyor, assembly-line techniques of the Chicago meat-packing industry and used these techniques to produce automobiles. "Within three months of the introduction of the endless-chain conveyor at Ford's Highland Park plant in 1914, the time required to assemble a Model T. had dropped to one tenth of what previously had been necessary" (Foster 1988, p.1)

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However, workers often found Fordism dehumanizing -- and dull (Foster 1988, p.7). Frustrated by their lack of investment in the productive process, workers began to leave Ford's factories in droves. A devout adherent to the idea that profits were linked to high levels of output and a strong opponent of unionization, Ford decided to pay his workers a then-princely sum of $5.00 a day, if they remained and did not unionize. This generosity generated much positive publicity for the Ford Motor Company. Ford's believed that his high wages should be adopted by all industries. "Mass production, Ford said, requires mass consumption, which means [requires] higher wages" for workers to buy goods and services (Foster, citing Wood, 1988, p.1).

TOPIC: Term Paper on Taylorism" and "Fordism" Have Been Replaced by Assignment

Fordism, although it paid well, did not necessarily encourage social mobility. It actively discouraged class solidarity in the form of unionization. Also, Ford's organization was quite hierarchical -- his own son assumed leadership over the company after his father's demise. Fordism did not teach workers skills. Mass production enabled unskilled and therefore cheaper workers to man factories. Workers became as interchangeable as the parts they were assembling, rather than masters of a skill and producers of a product that was uniquely 'theirs.' They were easily replaceable, and could be easily eliminated if demand dropped sharply.

Ford used his high wage scale to justify his requirement that the workers standardize their behavior outside of the factory, monitoring even the friends of his employee's children. "In this way, the legendary $5 day which had made Ford a national hero, became a means of human engineering, allowing the employer to determine not only the production conditions within the factory to the minutest detail, but also the conditions under which labor power was reproduced within the home" (Foster 1988, p.7).

What is Taylorism?

Taylorism might be called the philosophical foundation of what Fordism evolved into, over time, although Taylor disliked Ford's implementation of his principles, believing that they did not accord sufficient dignity to the employee. Taylor did not necessarily believe that his principles of scientific management required unskilled workers -- in fact, the first example he uses in his book the Principles of Scientific Management (1911) is that of a cobbler. Taylor's main impetus was to break tasks down into their smallest components to maximize efficiency, and Ford used this breakdown to analyze productive processes and to make both parts and workers interchangeable.

Taylor justified his minute analysis of the physical motions workforce as beneficial to employer and employee alike: "the greatest prosperity can exist only as the result of the greatest possible productivity of the men and machines of the establishment that is, when each man and each machine are turning out the largest possible output; because unless your men and your machines are daily turning out more work than others around you, it is clear that competition will prevent your paying higher wages to your workmen than are paid to those of your competitor" (Taylor, 1911, p.11)

Define Post-Fordism

Taylor's theories, as is noted by his assertion that high production levels should be the aim of all commercial enterprises, are supply-driven -- a high level of supply creates demand, he suggested, a theory that Ford, as the major producer of automobiles in the world at the time, willingly embraced. However, the post-Ford economy is demand-driven. Quality and skill of goods and employees, now means that more is not always better, and workers are not always interchangeable (Jessop, 2008). People, confronted with more choice, now demand more colors of their car, in other words, than black, and the pervasiveness of technology in every facet of the workforce ensures that even the lowest-level employees cannot function as an automaton.

Are we really in the Post-Fordism Age?

It should be noted, that some suggest that the more fluid relationship between management and labor defined in the economy's shift neo-Fordism has been contested. "Decisive defeats for labor preceded substantial restructuring," meaning that labor, according to some economists, remained dissociated from the current hierarchical corporate structure of upward advancement and social mobility in the Fordist model (Dunn 2004, p. 202). Although lower-level workers may be more skilled than before, a hierarchical division between management and labor still exists. The now-unionized Ford Company itself presents a potent example of the paradox of the Fordism vs. post-Fordism debate. Divisions between management and labor unions at the company polarize its membership, reflecting the entrenched divisions of the company and the decidedly blue-collar nature of automotive construction vs. corporate management. Wal-Mart, with its stress upon providing cheap rather than quality goods and its refusal to accord ordinary workers with high wages and benefits, might even be seen as a perversion of Fordism, as poor Wal-Mart employees must shop, scrimping and saving, at the company that exploits their labor and does not even pay them a living wage (Ehrenreich, 2002).

Does Fordism still exist? If so where? Use example

It is true that while some industries, such as automotive industry, still use relatively unskilled labor, it is difficult to deny that in most sectors of the developed world's economy exhibit a reduced need for unskilled labor. The workforce today requires a new level of self-direction and empowerment on the part of workers (Fordism, Post-Fordism, and the Flexible System of Production," Willamette University, 2008). Thus, it may be that certain pockets of the economy are in a state of post-Fordism, while others are not. For example, socialist anthropologist Anna Pollert wrote of poor workers in a Bristol tobacco factory as lodged "tightly between their two worlds of home and factory, surviving from day-to-day, they could conceive of no practical strategy of change" (Pahl, 1984, p. 124). This might also be characteristic of workers in the developing world, laboring for large corporations with little hope of advancement in monotonous work. And finally, not only in Wal-Mart but also fast food chains, modern Fordist standardization even governs the once individuated preparation of food, and how people are greeted at the door of a department store or at the window of a drive-through (Schlosser, 2005).

Do we have neo-Fordism? If so where? Use example.

In fact, the McDonalidzation of the franchises that dot the highway of the nation might be called a kind of neo-Fordism. Even the youngest employees can fill these positions. Assembly of food is standardized, and sameness of taste, rather than quality is prioritized. The family-friendly image of McDonald's has an eerie parallel with Ford's obsession over his worker's private morality, as does the obsession with 'time theft' at such companies, where workers are closely monitored, and forced, even during lulls in the workday, to constantly maintain a surface appearance of 'busyness' by mopping the floors or cleaning the bathrooms (Schlosser, 2005).

Has Fordism and Taylorism been replaced?

Thus, in certain sectors of the economy, Fordism remains -- workers do not learn a craft at a franchise, they learn to function as a cog in the assembly line of the carefully standardized, time efficient processes of a franchise, created at corporate headquarters far away. But management theorists Michael J. Piore and Charles Sabel have suggested that a new alternative to Mass production is evolving. A modem version of craft production is seen as small firms equipped with computer technology can become more adaptable to corporate as well as to small-unit operation, in certain fields like consulting or the provision of special goods and services (Brody 1985, p.614). Even the intense specialization of labor at a large technical company like Google requires a kind of post-Fordian level of craftsmanship. Virtually every level of the company inculcates most employees, regardless of title, with an education in transferable skills. But while craft production may still exist on a small scale, in consulting firms… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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