Disclaimer: This is an example of a student written essay.
Click here for sample essays written by our professional writers.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKEssays.com.

Fordist And Taylorist Production Systems Cultural Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 3516 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

Reference this

Fordism, named after the Henry Ford from US, who refers to a variety of communal theories about production, assembling and related socio-economic phenomena [1] . Although Henry Ford was not the inventor of the automobile but he developed extraordinary methods of production and marketing that allowed the automobile to become reachable to the American working class. Ford always wanted to make cars that his team workers could afford easily. So, the mass production began in Detroit in 1914, when Ford discovered that a moving assembly line using interchangeable parts which could completely reduce the cost of making motor cars. After that he created the Ford Motor Company, which was one of a dozen small automobile manufacturers that emerged in the early 20th century. Mass production was really an unpleasant work, with high turnover because new production system must be oriented towards multi-skilling and rapid re-skilling workers; in order to hold the search for shifting a newly forming market in a post mass production (cf. Piore, M. and Sabel, C., 1984). Just to retain his unskilled workforce, Ford doubled their wages to $5 per day – justified by higher productivity [2] . After three years of production, he introduced the Model T, which was simple and light yet sturdy enough to drive on the country’s very elementary road system. He sold 18m Model T Fords, transforming to America into the first car-owning democracy, at a low price that dropped from $600 to $250 over 15 years. Henry Ford’s success and revolutionary techniques of production were then termed Fordism [3] .

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Essay Writing Service

The scale of mass production is hard to understand. Ford’s River Rouge plant in Detroit, completed in 1928, he extended for a mile along a tributary of the Detroit River and employed 100,000 men workers. Raw materials like iron ore and rubber were unloaded at one end, and finished cars emerged from the other end, 72 hours later. But Ford’s system proved less efficient than GM [4] , which produced a range of models for different pocketbooks.

Labour relations were troubled, sit-down strike, at the big automakers in the 1930s with layoffs and speed-ups, ‘the end of organized capitalism’ has a tendency to become dis-organized in that the labour-employer relationships are fracturing (cf. Lash, S. and Urry, J. 1987) . GM was the first company forced to recognize the UAW [5] union after a sit-down strike closed its plants in Flint, Michigan in 1937. After more battles, the workers won higher wages and benefits, sharing in the American Dream. Unions also negotiated rigid work rules to protect workers from exploitation by foremen. Ford was even more determined to oppose unions than GM, and Henry Ford employed 3,000 “service department” personnel to prevent them taking hold. In 1937 they beat up key UAW union organizers attempting to hand out leaflets near the River Rouge factory. But in 1941, even Ford was forced to yield to union power, to ensure industrial peace during wartime. But the legacy of bitter industrial relations endured.

The decline of mass production is due to Post Fordism; small scale batch production in small medium plants not mass production in large plant, only customized not standardized products, using multi-skilled workers with flexible work roles not fixed job descriptions, robots and computerized work teams instead of moving assembly lines (cf. Murray, R. 1989).

Car manufacture ceased with the outbreak of World War II, but the auto manufacturers made good profits helping with the war effort, producing everything from jeeps to aircraft engines. The mass production helped the Allies win the war, and led to further consolidation in the industry. The war also brought new social groups, like women and black people, into the auto industry, but also increased social tensions in Detroit. Unemployment disappeared, and the UAW’s power grew. The end of the war released an enormous surge of pent-up demand, especially for cars and houses, and Detroit boomed as never before. Car workers’ wages soared and many became homeowners. The Big three car companies dominated production as never before. In 1955 GM became the first company to make $1bn profit. Big cars predominated, promoted by sexy adverts [6] .

The first signs that all was not well with Detroit was the 1973 oil crisis, when Middle East producers declared a boycott. Queues formed at petrol stations, and consumers for the first time switched in large numbers to smaller, more economical cars-often made by the Japanese; which they found more reliable. The Detroit-made cars had more defects, and Detroit’s attempts to build a successful small car failed. The auto industry now is much better prepared to withstand the effects of an oil crisis and meet consumer demand for highly fuel-efficient vehicles than it was during the Middle East oil crisis of the 1970s, Ford Motor Company Chairman Harold A. Poling said [7] .

Imports of Japanese cars soared in the 1980s as consumers gradually grew to prefer the smaller, more reliable cars. The unions and the US companies reacted to the threat by trying to get the US government to block imports, and by the mid-1980s had succeeded in getting Japan to agree intended export chains (cf. Womack, J., P., Jones, J.T., Roos, D., 1990). But the move backfired as Japanese firms became more profitable and moved up market, launching cars like the Lexus. The US companies determined that they could make more money by selling sports utility vehicles, built on a truck chassis. In the 1990s sales of SUVs [8] and minivans soared. Imported SUVs attracted a higher tariff rate, blocking Japanese rivals. They were not very fuel-efficient, but with oil prices at $18 a barrel, no one seemed to mind. As imports flooded in, the car market became increasingly dominated by foreign producers, who imported millions of cars from overseas factories. Companies also increasingly relocated production to Canada and Mexico after the Nafta free trade agreement. GM, Ford and Chrysler thought that the Japanese had an unfair advantage due to an undervalued (low) currency. They also believed that oil prices would return to lower levels.

Lean production, Japanese manufacturers like Toyota and Nissan were also building more factories within the US to escape import controls, ‘threat from Japan’,(cf. Womack, J., P., Jones, J.T., Roos, D., 1990) in the response to eliminate waste by introducing this method. These factories were based on a new and more efficient production system, and they also allowed the transplants to develop new models more quickly. They also developed closer relationships with suppliers, using just-in-time methods. Soon they were competing across the whole range of vehicles, from trucks to compact cars. Green cars, in the last year many Americans have accepted the reality of global warming, and the demand for green vehicles has grown. Toyota sells 100,000 Prius hybrids a year and is rolling the hybrid technology out across its entire range. Both Ford and GM exposed electric-powered concept cars at the 2007 Detroit Motor Show, but they may be years away from mass production.

Taylorism, a system of production devised by F. W. Taylor (1911), and characterized by the division of factory work into the smallest and simplest jobs while closely co-ordinating the sequence of tasks in order to achieve maximum efficiency, as, for example, on a production line. As a result, skilled managers and technicians oversee semi-skilled or unskilled workers who are engaged in simple, repetitive chores. This system of production has had profound spatial implications, as large firms often allocate skilled and unskilled jobs to different locations, creating a division of labour [9] .

Taylorism is often mentioned along with Fordism, because it was closely associated with mass production methods in manufacturing factories. Taylor’s own name for his approach was scientific management [10] . Applications of scientific management sometimes fail to account for two inherent difficulties:

Individuals are different from each other: the most efficient way of working for one person may be inefficient for another.

The economic interests of workers and management are rarely identical, so that both the measurement processes and the retraining required by Taylor’s methods are frequently resented and sometimes sabotaged by the workforce.

Both difficulties were recognized by Taylor, but are generally not fully addressed by managers who only see the potential improvements to efficiency. Taylor believed that scientific management cannot work unless the worker benefits. In his view management should arrange the work in such a way that one is able to produce more and get paid more, by teaching and implementing more efficient procedures for producing a product.

Although Taylor did not compare workers with machines, some of his critics use this image to explain how his approach makes work more efficient by removing unnecessary or wasted effort (cf. Parker M. and Slaughter, J., 1988). However, some would say that this approach ignores the complications introduced because workers are necessarily human: personal needs, interpersonal difficulties and the very real difficulties introduced by making jobs so efficient that workers have no time to relax. As a result, workers worked harder, but became dissatisfied with the work environment. Some have argued that this discounting of worker personalities led to the rise of labour unions.

It can also be said that the rise in labor unions is leading to a push on the part of industry to accelerate the process of automation, a process that is undergoing a renaissance with the invention of a host of new technologies starting with the computer and the Internet. This shift in production to machines was clearly one of the goals of Taylorism (cf. Berggren, C., 1989), and represents a victory for his theories. It may not be adaptive to changing scenarios; it overemphasizes routine procedures, i.e. strictly following a given set of rules and regulations, work procedures, production centeredness etc.

Find Out How UKEssays.com Can Help You!

Our academic experts are ready and waiting to assist with any writing project you may have. From simple essay plans, through to full dissertations, you can guarantee we have a service perfectly matched to your needs.

View our services

However, tactfully choosing to ignore the still controversial process of automating human work is also politically expedient, so many still say that practical problems caused by Taylorism led to its replacement by the human relations school of management in 1930. Others (cf. Braverman, H., 1974) insisted that human relations did not replace Taylorism but that both approaches are rather opposite: Taylorism determining the actual organization of the work process and human relations helping to adapt the workers to the new procedures.

However, Taylor’s theories were clearly at the roots of a global revival in theories of scientific management in the last two decades of the 20th century, under the moniker of ‘corporate reengineering’ or ‘business process re-engineering’ (cf. Milkman, R., 1997). As such, Taylor’s ideas can be seen as the root of a very influential series of developments in the workplace, with the goal being the eventual elimination of industry’s need for unskilled, and later perhaps, even most skilled labor in any form, directly following Taylor’s recipe for deconstructing a process. This has come to be known as commoditization, and no skilled profession, even medicine, has proven to be immune from the efforts of Taylor’s followers, the ‘re-engineers’, who are often called derogatory names such as ‘bean counters’.

A complex division of labour [11] and the expansion of economic interdependence accompanied the emergence of industrial capitalism. The division of labour reached its logical conclusion in the emergence of Taylorism and its mass production partner, Fordism. These had their weaknesses including high start-up costs and a relatively rigid production process. Such ‘low-trust’ systems can be contrasted with ‘high-trust’ systems, where workers operate with greater autonomy and cooperation.

A whole series of techniques and initiatives are described by the term ‘post-Fordism’ including group production and mass customization. These are epitomized by the Quality Circle, a concept alien to Taylorist assumptions that workers need to be stripped of opportunities for creative input. Such systems tend to be marked by high skill levels and rapid turnover of product designs. The decline of manufacturing industry as an employer can be explained both by competition from the Far East and the increasing rate of technological change. Global production systems have also contributed to the movement of industry around the world. These processes have led to a steady decline in trade union membership since the 1970s.

The separation of home and work contributed to the marginalization of women from paid employment, a pattern gradually reversed during the twentieth century. Within the economy women remain concentrated in poorly paid routine occupations [12] . Either work becomes recreated as ‘women’s work’, or heartlands of female employment slowly have their status eroded over time. Labour-force participation is higher among childless women, though many more females now return to their full-time jobs after childbirth than they did a decade ago. Women dominate part-time employment, though their reasons for remaining in such jobs remain the source of controversy [13] .

The most notable change in working life in developed countries has been the expansion of female participation in the paid labour market and resulting erosion of the male breadwinner model within families. Among men, the trend has been away from manual work and currently also away from routine non-manual labour. These trends have levelled off in recent years, with women remaining over-represented in routine white-collar jobs and men over-represented in skilled manual work. Despite women’s advances across the economy, the top posts remain the preserve of men. Women in the most recent generation have benefited from the legislation passed in the 1970s, but the pay divide remains substantial over a lifetime. Debates on skills in the workplace have tended to become polarized between those, (cf. Braverman, H., 1974), who see capitalism as continually deskilling the workforce as new machines and technologies replace crafts and creativity; who argue that it is not technology but the way this is used that is most important [14] .

Unemployment has a long history and has ebbed and flowed throughout the twentieth century. There are significant effects for individuals, communities and the wider society. These are disproportionately borne by the young and ethnic minorities. A key task for individuals will be to find ways of forging long-term life plans in a society that privileges the short-term. In 1990’s the ‘the new industrial relations’ associated with the introduction of HRM, also seeks to create an atmosphere and a framework for union-management collaboration (cf. Guest, D., 1989, Storey, J., 1992).

From the above it is possible to deduce some conclusions. First of all, there are changes in the way by which work is done and controlled. The Fordism model is dictatorial, with rigid discipline, technical and specific personnel training, taking man as a simple addition of the machine and separating the intellectual from the manual work. Classical management control is performed by rigid supervision procedures. The number of problem with general post-Fordist ‘paradigm’ has implication for the potential embedding (cf. Kelly, J., 1998) The “post-Fordist” model presents flexible authority and control systems by which conformism and passivity open spaces for dynamism and creativity (according to the management model established earlier).

However, when this analysis is centred on the objects and ideology that guide the productive process, one can conclude that no evolution has occurred. Management, yesterday and today, aims toward maximum rationalization of the production system, greater increase in productivity, profitability and competition, maintaining together the older way of production (cf. Sparrow, P. and Marchington, M., 1998). When that concentration is measured in employment terms, aggregate data for the mid-70s to the mid-80s show that larger firms in all three societies have been shedding labour, even though disproportionately. This fact must be analysed also by the quality of employment, the quality of life and the security of economic recovery, and not just from the point of view of job creation in terms of head-counts.

The de-centralization of decision-making and flattening of managerial hierarchies in post-Fordist has led to a de-centralization of managerial control, or whether Fordist centralized management control is being maintained, even in spatially decentralized units, through the development of new control technologies (cf. Lane, C., 1995). In fact, there is not, in either model, a proposal that guarantee the autonomy of the worker. In both, Taylor and Ford, task obligations are reached through rigid control and supervision concerning the worker. In the “post-Fordism” model, task obligations occur by way of a rigid management scheme. Direct supervisory control is inhibited, assuming either the form of auto-control or control by complex technological procedures; nevertheless, it continues to exist.

Beyond the work strengthening and capital concentration, the post-Fordism model maintains the division of work, although on more ample bases. If in Taylorism-Fordism the tasks were broken down into simple and routine movements, in post-Fordism the division into fractions of work happens with the attribution of responsibility to the groups that fulfil a set of specific tasks (activities). There is widespread agreement in the literature that due to the need for more flexible and speedier reaction to changing market demands, de-centralization of decision-making and flattening of managerial hierarchies has occurred (cf. Lane, C., 1995). However, there is little systematic evidence as to what form that de-centralization has taken and which hierarchical levels have been affected. To the post-Fordism is like Fordism as well as post-modernism is like modernism. Postmodernism is another version of that historical amnesia characteristic of American culture – the tyranny of the new. According to the Green (cf. Green, A., 1997), postmodernism should be seen not as a development beyond modernism but rather as a continuation of a certain idealist current within it. One can make the same statement about Fordism and post-Fordism.

Finally, it seems opportune to repeat the words of Ford from back in the 40’s (cf. Ford, H., 1991): We are not living in a machine age; we are living in the power age. This power age of ours has great possibilities, depending upon how we use it. Of course it can be mistreated. But, it can also be used greatly to benefit mankind’. If this sentence were true during that period of time, today it seems even more adequate.



Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on UKEssays.com then please: