Critique of the Fordism of the Regulation School

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* Article: A Critique of the Fordism of the Regulation School. Ferruccio Gambino. Translated by Ed Emery (in: Common Sense No. 19, June 1996)



From the 2006 reading notes of Michel Bauwens, possibly read in a subsequent discussion by Carlo Vercellone (see: Carlo Vercellone on Cognitive Capitalism:

This school made a link between Fordism on the assembly line, and a new regulation model by the state, based on Keynesianism and the welfare state model. In France, this was done by Aglietta, Boyer, Coriat, Lipietz, associated with Hirsch and Rote in Germany, and Jessop in Britain (the latter focusing on state-capital relations).

Their research looked at:

- 1) development of state economic formations

- 2) international economic dimension of regulation (different models as well as their interplay with the different state models)

- 3) the overall model of social structure at national level

- 4) 'regimes' of international institutions

They tended to look for 'permanent structures' and hence underplayed human subjects: it becomes the study of the laws whereby western capitalism maintains itself, especially the solidity of the U.S.

They have a particular take on post-Fordism as well as seeing an emergent split between the super-skilled and the mere doers, which will undo collective bargaining. This may lead to turbo-capitalism, without opposition. The Fordist compromise is broken and a new underclass emerges. One of the expressions of post-Fordism was 'Toyotism', i.e. the just-in-time, quality-control-based, multi-jobbing, real-time information flow system first practiced at Toyota.

According to F. Gambino, the Regulation School theorists underplay the dark authoritarian side of Toyotism. Fordism was equally harsh in the 20s and 30s, until it was brought down by the industrial unions: it disappeared in 1941, and in fact, was the seed model for concentration camp style thinking.

Gambino is highly critical of the mythology of Fordism, giving a chilling account of its totalitarian methods, which were only broken by the UAW strike in 1941. Asssembly-line Fordism died at this precise point. But of course, the broader 'rationalisation' of work continued on, to this day.

The Regulation School itself sees 2 breaking points to post-Fordism,

- 1) the evolution from 'large series' to 'small-series' production in the 60s

- 2) the new productivity of communication