Flashcards in Fordism, Taylorism & Americanism Deck (23):
What is Fordism?
Fordism refers to a from of industrial commodity production established after WW1.
What are some definitions of Fordism by historians?
o Victoria De Grazia in 'Irresistibile Empire: America's Advance Through 20th-Century Europe' describes Fordism as:
- 'The eponymous manufacturing system designed to spew out standardised, low-cost goods and afford its workers decent enough wages to buy them'.
o Steven Holliday and Jonathan Zeitlin in 'The Automobile Industry and its Workers: Between Fordism and Flexibility' described Fordism as:
- 'A model of economic expansion and technological progress based on mass production: the manufacture of standardised products in huge volumes using special purpose machinery and unskilled labour.'
Why is Fordism named as such?
Fordism is named after American industrialist, Henry Ford, whose organisation of labour and capital is considered typical of the entire epoch.
What did Henry Ford create?
- Designed the Model T, first produced in 1908 - people didn't realise they even needed an automobile, interests remained in getting best horses and carts, mind-sets had not yet changed.
- Ford aspired to create an affordable vehicle to take you there and back, 'it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one'
When did the Model T gain popularity?
- Wasn't mass produced until just before WW1, popularising the production method. (David Hounshell, From the American System to Mass Production, 1800-1932)
- By 1920s, many families owned the Model T so became more accessible through mass production, spurring demand and thus later improvements.
What are the main characteristics of Fordism?
oHighly standardised mass production
- Nothing is handmade, everything is made through machines and by unskilled workers
- Standardisation a way of lowering cost, promoting versatility across products.
o Assembly line production
- Using highly specialised machinery
o Relatively high wages, boosting demand (social dimension)
- Workers can afford products they were making, creating better consumers, contributed to growing consumer culture in US.
- E.g. Early in 1914, Henry Ford introduced the 'five-dollar day' to deal with labour shortage (a significant amount of money back then), assured that company would always have its workers.
- Deskilling of jobs
- Simplifying tasks
What is Taylorism?
o Minimise skill requirements and job learning time
- Achieved by breaking every action, job, or task into small and simply segments which can be easily analysed and taught
- to find the ideal process and then duplicate it over and over
o Desire to divide 'head' (management) and 'hands' (workers) more cleanly
o Initially considered leap forward but led to worker unrest and social conflict.
Who was Taylorism named after?
- US industrial engineer, Frederick Taylor
- Roots of Taylorism in his book, ''Principles of Scientific Management' (1911)
In what ways was Taylorism criticised?
- Caused considerable resistance from trade unions and ordinary workers, esp. those who were skilled.
- Sense of deskilling, elimination of craft and skilled work, society as one big factory.
- Battles between management and employees intensified as workers became more alienated because of the factory setting.
What is Rationalism?
- The action of making a company, process, or industry more efficient, especially by dispensing with superfluous (unnecessary) personnel or equipment.
- So, intertwined with Fordism and Taylorism.
What did rationalism mean for different countries?
o US - associated with efficiency
o UK - associated with national efficiency
o France/Germany - more visionary and open, associated with redesigning society
Why are Fordism and Taylorism often correlated with America?
o US first to experience real success generated by these new production methods and techniques.
o Increased US output and led to new consumption and cultural behaviours in the US which would eventually influence Europe and rest of world.
Why was the US first to successfully utilise Fordism?
o Success of Fordism in America was attributed by many as a result of the Ford Motor Company (strengthened by fact the concept is named after such).
- 'Ford had given the world the first system, in the fullest sense of the expression, of mass production.' (David Hounshell, From the American System to Mass Production, 1800-1932)
- Ford first to incorporate single-purpose manufacture, assembly lines, large-volume production, high wages and low prices.
- Considered a 'technological turning point'.
o Although concepts of mass production can be traced back to 18th century, Ford was first to refine and successfully employ mass production methods.
o In 'Democracy in America' (1835), French historian, Alexis de Tocqueville, contemplated idea that US's homogenous consumer base would be one of the main reasons why US would mass produce earlier than other countries.
Why was Ford Motor Company so successful and what role did Detroit play in this?
o Henry Ford's determination combined with the people of Detroit can be attributed to the company's success.
- The city's many skilled engineers and designers helped refine Ford's earlier attempts and later helped build large factories to showcase his ideas.
- There was an abundance of talented workers which allowed Ford to recruit talented employees.
- The immigration boom in Michigan also provided Ford's company with the unskilled workers for the assembly lines.
o Detroit then became an industrial centre in America.
- Considered wonder of the world in the 20s.
- Home to River Rouge Complex, a Ford Motor Factory.
- Upon the factory's completion in 1928, it was the largest integrated factory in the world.
- Factory became site of much WW2 production.
What impact dd Fordism, Taylorism and mass production have?
o Increased accessibility of products.
- Model T
- Standard household appliances (40% of households owned refrigerator in 1935 compared with 70% in 1940)
o Changing behaviours of women
- Emergence of 'flapper' (US), 'Garconne' (France) girls.
- Adopted more masculine and provocative behaviours.
- Smoked cigarettes
- Wore more revealing clothes
- Cutting hair short - long hair traditionally viewed as feminine, so shock that women were cutting hair. (can be linked to why it was surprising that Beatles had long hair, making themselves appear more ‘feminine’)
What issue arose as a result of the increased accessibly of products?
o Society and people becoming more alike so challenges how things are differentiated.
- Promoted attention to design and detail in the production of products.
- Design used as a tool to differentiated between similar products.
- Spurred fashion and advertising to become own industries/businesses.
o Faced social criticism by upper classes as mass production perceived as threat to class system - a way of 'levelling'.
- So, becoming more difficult to distinguish between the classes.
How did WW2 benefit Fordism in America and how did it influence US power?
o Mass production led to increased US output which was greatly utilised in the war effort.
- US a key source of goods for the overseas allies including weapons, aircraft, military vehicles etc.
- US supply was key factor in victory of allies.
- Mainland US also not explicitly attacked in war so suffered no physical damage (i.e. to factories) unlike overseas allies.
o Considered key contributor to post WW2 boom experience by US as war generated huge markets post-1945, contributing to US wealth.
- Promoted cycle of mass production and mass consumption
Why was Fordism criticised in Europe?
o Fordism and Taylorism = Americanisation
o Americanisation perceived as threat by many Europeans
What is Americanisation?
The influence of American culture and business on other countries such as their media, cuisine, business practices, popular culture, technology and political techniques.
Give explicit examples of a European who criticised Americanisation.
o Italian playwright and novelist, Luigi Pirandello, quoted in 'Prison Notebooks' by Antonio Gramsci said:
- ‘Americanism is swamping us. I think that a new beacon of civilisation has been lit over there…The money that runs through the world is American, and behind the money runs the way of life and the culture…’
o Oswald Spengler in 'Decline of the West'
- Noted a sense of decline in Europe and the end of the Eurocentric view post WW1.
In general terms, what aspects of Americanisation were criticised by Europeans?
o New commercialism
o Development of mass society, 'machine society'
o New behaviours
o Belief that Americanisation would lower standards of society (fears among upper classes on 'levelling')
However, inevitable that Europe would eventually be influenced by success of US mass production, changing European life dramatically and impacting popular culture.
How did Fordism/Americanisation impact Europe?
- Europe of empires collapsing
- More nation states e.g. Poland
o Shifting class structures
- Urbanisation contributes (e.g. France in 1931 just 35% agricultural)
- New class of white collar workers expanded (mass production and Taylorism granting good jobs to 'unskilled' workers)
o Shifting role of women
- Taking on more active role in workplace
- More administrator jobs being implemented in firms
o Growth of service industry, advertising, accountancy etc.
o Rapid technological change
- Mass motorisation
- Consumer home appliances e.g. fridges, ovens, washing machines, vacuums (new products but did not gain true affluence until 1950s/60s)
- Also experienced in military sectors (e.g. in aircraft (carriers), tanks, radar, radio etc.)