Post-fordism: problem or solution?
Fordism concept by Henry Ford led to the creation of holistic socio-economic concepts for development in the transition from the industrial taylorism model to the post-industrial modern post-fordism. His work provides us with a basis for labor organization, industrial production, financial policies and social responsibility of business. The study is relevant because the effective ways of organizing Henry Ford are still not implemented in all factories and MNCs. However, the concept is most fully embodied in the framework of American MNCs and TNCs, and it is a good example for embodiment not only for car, but also for fast food markets: McDonald’s modern labor organization model is still based on the fordism production and warehousing model.
Despite all the advantages of the fordism (principles of relations between managers and employees, bonus programs, using own funds for R&D, equalizing salary opportunities for all social groups), we can observe some deformations in a post-fordist post-industrial society: against the background of a significant decrease in mass production, growth labor productivity; globalization of finance and technology; greater specialization and diversity of markets there is a crisis of identity and the deformation of working and personal time, the transfer of production to poor countries, lack of intangible incentives to motivate employees.
In general, the entire fordism production was recognized as too centralized and immobile, despite the effective methods of organizing labor. This problem of immobility was solved by two Japanese engineers (T. Ono, S. Shingo), who proposed a new concept for production organisation within the framework of toyotism.
However, fordism created a society of general welfare, in which the workers did not differ significantly in living standards from the petty bourgeoisie; the contribution of inventions, innovations, R&D has become appreciated. However, the progress of post-fordism in globalization process has generated powerful social inequality in opportunities, incomes, and social status. Modern system modified methods of the fordism to milder form of human capital management; the system of tight administrative control is replaced by a system of self-regulation (modern network in post-fordism post-industrial society).
Robert Reich describes how companies of national vertical organizations, where power was concentrated in the hands of owners who were at the top of the vertical pyramidal chain (as in the case of the fordism), were transformed under new post-industrial global markets into MNCs and TNCs, where power belongs to those who have technical innovations and unique human resources. New network MNCs rent large offices, huge factories, warehouses, fleets of trucks and corporate aircraft. Their employees work on temporary contracts; their key researchers, developers, and marketers participate in profit. At the same time, modern managers do not concentrate power in the same hands and, as a rule, have little control. Against this background, the “crisis of identity” (a sense of alienation and confusion accompanying the collapse of cultural communities) is becoming relevant.
Thanks to the expansion of the post-fordist model of mobile and dispersed production, the employer did not need permanent contracts with employees: the main focus is on short-term employment contracts that do not provide workers with social guarantees and protection. This tendency turns the classical proletariat into an unstable class and, in the near future, leads to greater socio-economic polarization. In the context of post-fordism and the post-industrial development of Western societies, the number of people whom Alain Turen calls information workers, and Robert Reich — symbolic analysts, those who own and use know-how; they are workers who can identify and solve problems through the manipulation of symbols: data, words, visual representations. The system is being transformed towards openness and information transparency. This pattern is mainly associated with those working in the field of ICT, R&D, genetic engineering or finance. Most people do not fall into any of these categories: they work in the service sector or in the public service. This effect contributes to the growth of unemployment due to growth in labor productivity as a result of globalization, which affects income inequality.
In a post-fordist society, in which a free schedule is widespread, the main place is occupied by project (contract) work. But those people, later gradually, realize that this way of working is fed by their intellectual and physical energy, which ultimately leads to exhaustion. Post-fordist economics leads to a special non-material work — emotional work, which means the commercialization of human feelings and emotions. In the best traditions of post-fordism, the illusion of security came in the place of the illusion of isolation in workplace: the Internet, remote work, independence. However, such a transformation only contributed to the alienation from creativity, turning the whole personal time into working. Thus, we are now experiencing the blurring of the boundaries of personal and working time, alienation from creativity and even greater isolation from public space.
As a result of complete diversification, the production system of post-fordism, in the process of globalization, managers should introduce new technologies not only in all sectors of the economy through the global information revolution, but also cover social, political, cultural and other spheres of life. The principles of the organization of labor and production have had a huge impact on all spheres of urban life. In the framework of the post-fordist concept of urban development, it seems obvious to us that the post-fordist model of the city is modern smart cities, centers of attraction for foreign investment in gigonomics.
Scientist Saskia Sassen shows that the predominance of the “creative” class in the structure of labor, even in large cities, is a myth: about 50% of workers in the main sectors of the economy, today and still, are poorly paid, despite the globalist trends. In our opinion, this is the most striking consequence of the application of the principles of fordism and post-fordism requires versatile social responsibility from modern MNCs and TNCs. The main priorities of international organizations should also be the task of reducing the poverty of the population caused by the formed regularities of the fordism and post-fordism.