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A Post-fordist Revolution in the Contemporary Organisation of Work and Consumption

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Critically assess the extent to which we can speak of a Post-Fordist revolution when exploring the contemporary organization of work and consumption. To a certain extent, we can speak of a post-Fordist revolution when exploring the contemporary organization of work and consumption. However, themes of original Fordism still exist in modern day society. The concept of Fordism revolves around consumption, production and working conditions. It tends to be used as a management theory. Modernity can offer a contribution and explanation of the transition of Fordism to Post Fordism. Which can be described in terms of the ensemble of urbanization, rationalization, industrialization, enlightenment and scientific proof, along with many other contributing factors.

The industrial revolution and creation of the 20th century is a prime example of this. The transition from Fordism to Post Fordism doesn’t only influence the way in which we think about consumers and consumption but also demonstrates the alteration in how work is organized in contemporary society. Post Fordism assists the movement away from complex consumption to individualism, along with the involvement of changing the class structure and how it is vanishing. Neo-Liberalism validates how society is in a new stage of capitalism and the biggest voice is corporations as they are in power and control work production All which shall be discussed to evaluate conclusions on whether we can speak of a post-Fordist revolution when exploring the contemporary organization of work and consumption.

Firstly, Fordism initially was a scheme of production which illustrates and defines industrial society. Fordism introduced mass consumption, mass employment, and mass production. All being assistant to a revolution in how society functioned, especially in the work sphere. Also, development of a factory system enabled us as a society to mass produce, using new technology to systematize the labor process. To elaborate, significant principles of this progression involved product standardization which aimed to include minimal parts in a product, making it more competitive to produce. Tasks were also fragmented down into fundamental parts to make the labor process quicker, along with the use of a conveyor belt as an assembly line, permitting a continuous flow.

More importantly, Rationalisation can be used to explore the uprising in which companies are becoming more efficient, as a result, this makes society more effectual. Julien Freund speaks of rationalization as the “organization of life through a division and coordination of activities on the basis of an exact study of men’s relations with each other, with their tools and environment for achieving greater efficiency and productivity” (Kumar, 1977). In addition, Taylor Frederick established ‘Taylorism’ which explained uses of fragmentation to make work simpler and aimed to reduce skill requirements. Standardisation was used to remove idle periods. The outset and finishing, as well as the strategy and control, is the responsibility of administration, workers do not need to think and are lazy. Every involvement of Taylorism is standardized, including lifestyles and employment contracts.

To continue, Fordism meant mass production led to higher profits as products were now affordable, made quicker and in demand. Therefore, plenty of money was left over for higher wages. The introduction of mass production resulted in an economic boom. (Gramsci, 1971) identified mass production as the ‘new way of life’ and the ‘American way’. He believed it amplified prosperity for consumption and mass production. Subsequently, mass production did not require skilled workers for the assembly line, so in a sense deskilled them. As technology became our new intelligence and can be said to have replaced capitalism. As a result, mass production leads to factory workers becoming alienated in several forms, one being from the product itself, as the product is being manufactured for someone else. Isolation can be associated with factory work as you are isolated from other workers and are not allowed to deliver work in your own unique individual way. This disputes the positivities of mass production.

Likewise, this relates to the Fordism crisis in the 1970’s, which could justify the support needed to shift to a post-Fordist revolution in terms of consumption and the way work is organized. (Braverman, H. 1974) asserts how wages cannot recompense for the nature in which capitalism has deskilled workers, it does not benefit efficiency or output, only resulting in strikes which degrades industries. Similarly, the Regulation Theory (Aglietta, 1976) maintained the belief that Fordism was responsible for regulation between consumption and production. The supply-side emphasis being an example of this which meant cutting taxes in the hopes of a boost in industry Whilst linking a consensus, a trio relationship amongst corporations, workers and the state which regulates conflict. As the state controls laws around work, for instance, pay employment contracts i.e. Working hours. In the same way, the introduction of ‘Flexible Specialisation’ contributed to the Fordism crisis and the unavoidable need for new revolutions. To expand, the problem was mass markets saturating when it comes to basic products of everyday life. Therefore, there is a demand for new products and ideas. It will be unlikely for the basic brands to stretch much further as they have reached their peak.

A company may also mass produce too much of a product which cannot be sold and may lose money. Innovation also explains saturated markets as a replacement is key in a post-Fordist society. As new smartphones constantly bring out new models and everyone wants to have the latest iPhone. A ‘niche’ invention may reach a ‘high penetration rate’ (Spacey, 2018). The welfare state is a safety net in society. Some people feel like they don’t have to work and will rely on ‘handouts’ i.e. Benefit money. This can encourage people to be lazy. This disadvantages the workforce as people have the option not to work. However, I guess its debatable whether an underclass will always need to remain in society to be able to function resourcefully. On the other hand, as a contrast and growth to Fordism, Post Fordism gave us an understanding of how we can speak of contemporary consumption and organization of work as a post-Fordist revolution.

Flexible specialization being a prime example of this, not only being the initiator for change but a vital focus around contemporary consumption. In more detail, flexible specialization allows you to change a product at the last minute to fit consumer demand. We can involve the use of how the pattern in consumption has changed, it is no longer just complex products but more about individualism, products being tailored to individual desires. Which also interestingly reflects a change in societies attitudes, people want to be different and stand out from the crowd. People want to use products to reinforce their social class and social standing in society. Buyers are more sophisticated and request advanced quality products with a personal twist.

For example, JD sports personalizes trainers, meaning you can design them yourself and even engrave names (Anon, 2018). It is now more about quality over quantity, more care, and provision. (Piore and Sabel, 1984: 183-93) support this as they point out ‘new ideas can be turned in to new products’ and the machinery and technology barely need to change to enable this. Both believe flexible specialization changes for a shift in workers, more skilled and flexible workers are needed. (Bell, D., 1976) can support this statement as he described a ‘knowledge society’ which realizes higher skilled careers require more skills which results in a more educated society and workforce. Bell believes rather than the production of goods, it is a production of service. And feels fresh ideas are the efficient way to nurture the economy, which ensures even more so that we are living in a post-Fordist revolution. As workers are given different recognition and new meanings. Moreover, (Sabel 1984: 250-80; Sabel 1989: 32-3) believes flexible specialization benefits small firms along with larger firms as larger firms can also provide for several small in-demand markets. It is alleged ‘the most successful economies tend to be those in which large and small firms do not see each other as rivals but partners’ (Piore and Sabel 1984: 217-20). For many, flexible specialization has been the main feature of post-Fordism, fully defining what it stands for and the demand for ‘unique’. Features of an ‘Information society’ and ‘Occupational Structure’ assist the conversation of contemporary consumption and work organization being a post-Fordist revolution as employment is a most radical shift and service sector labor and employment. The fact work is now carried out face to face rather than just purely technological, demonstrates the birth of a Post Fordist society. There has been an increase in health services and producer facilities along with a rise in technical and managerial jobs.

Agricultural employment is becoming a thing of the past. Manuel Castells (1996) speaks of a ‘Network society’ suggesting we are witnessing a ‘new kind of economy’. A networked society can link to political, social, cultural and economic changes. Due to the complex networks, communication technologies and digital information. Nevertheless, Simon Clarke (1990:75) disagrees with the statement that contemporary consumption and organisation of work is a post Fordist revolution as he quotes ‘Post Fordism is not a reality, not even a coherent vision of the future, but mainly an expression of hope that future capitalist development will be the salvation of social democracy’ suggesting Post Fordism is just a hope and vision that will boost social justice. Besides ‘Information technology’ is likewise a key impact in the development of post-Fordism. Allowing, globally networked organizations, prevailing and elastic financial power systems, progressively decentralized production along with new kinds of organizational learning and service delivery (Nonaka 1983; Boynton and Victor 1992).

However, it is questionable if the way work is organized and contemporary consumption is a post-Fordist revolution as aspects of Fordism still exist and are creeping their way into Post Fordism. Taylorism and Specialisation still exist but are now classed as service work. Craftwork is also making its return in our ‘post-Fordist society’ as workers now need to be skilled and with craft work, comes the ability to create individualism, which is very fitting for flexible specialization. Craft workers can also add more sentimental value to the product, which would attract consumption. In this potential post fordist revolution, it has been established that there are two different types of worker. But how much is this an example of a post fordist revolution? As Fordism alone always had hierarchy i.e. Differentiation between managers and factory workers.

Supposedly, workers are more flexible now, as to our understanding we now have a worker known as the ‘Peripheral’ worker. Which can range from a zero-hour contract to part-time, casual employment or fixed term contracts? Basically, ‘temporary’ employment which makes them a ‘risk’ worker without stability and security. They are offered little support and training opportunities and are viewed as an expense. Trade unions are required to protect workers, especially this type as there are many attacks on workers and peripheral are usually taken advantage of. On the other hand, you have ‘Core’ workers which are viewed as an ‘investment’ in a company. Such employees engage in secure fixed full-time contracts and live up to corporate ideology. An explanation of how these workers fit into categories could be down to class. As our social class influences our life chances and effects the kind of work we do. You have your objective class which is your ‘ascribed status’ where your social standing in society is based on the background you come from.

Conflicting with your subjective class, the class you feel you belong in i.e. What you identify as, you could be born into a working-class background, but via the education system, you may work your way into a middle-class position. Although, your routes will remain working class. It is a consensus that class still matters objectively as that is your direct, readymade chance into a career.

Compromising this opinion, the subjective class is believed to be the complex aspect of class as there are many ways to define a class, as there is no precise measurement. Include Bauman In conclusion, to a certain extent, we can speak of a post-Fordist revolution when exploring the contemporary organization of work and consumption. As the world is changing, globalization allows post-Fordism to keep developing. New methods of production and consumption are being practiced all over the world. Globalisation allows for this to be advertised universally. It could be argued, themes of original Fordism still exist as responsiveness and flexibility are crucial for our employees and the way work is carried out this modern day. The extensive utilization of new technologies demonstrates the shift from a Fordist to a post-Fordist revolution as now

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