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what we are interested in as sociologists • What are the consequences of economic, political and cultural change for modes of human connection: for interaction, communication, community-formation, identity and so on? • What kinds of human being are being shaped by these changes?
The emergence of modern industry • Agriculture and industry: the defining characteristic of modern economies is the transition from agricultural food production towards industrial commodity production. • Growth of towns: there was a gradual but pronounced shift in population away from rural areas and towards urban centres, reflected in the spread of towns and cities. Urban centres became sites of great poverty,overcrowding & periodic unemployment: the social effects overproduction crises were all too visible. • Improvements in infrastructure: The development of more efficient means of communication and transport – e.g. canal, rail and road – facilitates the productive process itself and the sale of goods on the market.
Changes in working practices and conditions ‘Owing to the extensive use of machinery and to the division of labour, the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and, consequently, all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him’ (Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, p.43).
ambiguous relationship between industrialisation and capitalism • Some twentieth century sociologists, such as Raymond Aron, controversially argued that a concept of ‘industrial society’ (i.e. a society regulated around large scale industry and mass production of goods) is conceptually and historically distinct from both capitalism and communism as systems for regulating social relations. He argued that industrial society is the fundamental form of society in modernity, and that it could either be regulated along capitalist lines (i.e. through bourgeoisie ownership of the means of production) or communist lines (i.e. through worker/state ownership of the means of production). Also Clark Kerr and associates in the late 50s.
Fordism as work (the labour process) • Routinization and de-skilling • Mass production and mechanisation (cars, steel, chemicals) • Rationalization (moving assembly line) • ‘High’ wages for core sector workers • Alienation • The ‘effort bargain’ (Baldamus)
Rationalisation of workplace hierarchies • ’A cupboard-like centrepiece studded with coloured light-bulbs forms the principal ornament of the real office. In general, the sole purpose today of red, yellow and green tints is to organize an enterprise more rationally. From the flashing and dimming of the tiny bulbs, the manager can at all times deduce the state of work in the individual departments’ (Siegfried Kracauer, 1929. The Salaried Masses, p.41)).
Fordism as civilization? • mass consumption with low level of consumer choice for affordable products (you can have any car as long as it’s black) • Highways and suburbanization • State-led growth; regulation, planning and legislation • Functionality in design, architecture • Work/family separation • Anomie and ‘negative communities’ (Rieff)
Fordism: the creation of a new type of human being • ‘the biggest collective effort to date to create, with unprecedented speed, and with a consciousness of purpose unmatched in history, a new type of worker and a new type of man’ (Gramsci) • a new workforce which meets the requirements of Fordist production must be socially engineered; cf. Ford’s attempt to police the private lives of his workers • see also E.P. Thompson’s famous essay ‘Time, Work-Discipline and Industrial Capitalism’ dealing with a much earlier phase.
Gramsci on Americanism culturally America has nothing to add to Europe; what it does have to add is the transforming power of a new economic system. But that in itself is enough – it might not produce any innovation in the arts or literature, or architecture (so Gramsci implies), but it provides the new conditions in which such innovation might arise.
The potential of Americanism • ‘it is not from the social groups “condemned” by the new order that reconstruction is to be expected, but from those on whom is imposed the burden of creating with their own suffering the material bases of the new order. It is they who “must” find for themselves an “original”, and not Americanised, system of living, to turn into “freedom” what today is “necessity”.’
Americanism or cosmopolitanism? • The spread of Fordism involved the acceptance of Fordism as a mode of regulation throughout most of the capitalist world: • ‘opening up of foreign investment (chiefly in Europe) and trade permitted surplus productive capacity in the United States to be absorbed elsewhere, while the progress of Fordism internationally meant the formation of global mass markets and the absorption of the mass of the world’s population, outside the communist world, into the global dynamics of a new kind of capitalism’ (Harvey, 137).
Fordism breeds its own opposition • ‘One can walk without having to think about all the movements needed in order to move, in perfect synchronisation, all the parts of the body, in the specific way that is necessary for walking. The same thing happens and will go on happening in industry with the basic gestures of the trade. One walks automatically, and at the same time thinks about whatever one chooses. American industrialists have understood all too well this dialectic inherent in the new industrial methods. They have understood that “trained gorilla” is just a phrase, that “unfortunately” the worker remains a man and even that during his work he thinks more, or at least has greater opportunities for thinking, once he has overcome the crisis of adaptation without being eliminated: and not only does the worker think, but the fact that he gets no immediate satisfaction from his work and realises that they are trying to reduce him to a trained gorilla, can lead him into a train of thought that is far from conformist’
But what about suburbanization?Compare Marx on the peasantry • ‘A small holding, the peasant and his family; beside it another small holding, another peasant and another family. A few score of these constitute a village, and a few score villages constitute a department. Thus the great mass of the French nation is formed by the simple addition of homologous magnitudes, much as potatoes in a sack form a sack of potatoes. Insofar as millions of families live under conditions of existence that separate their mode of life, their interests, and their culture from those of the other classes, and put them in hostile opposition to the latter, they form a class. Insofar as there is merely a local interconnection among these small-holding peasants, and the identity of their interests forms no community, no national bond, and no political organization among them, they do not constitute a class. They are therefore incapable of asserting their class interest in their own name, whether through a parliament or a convention. They cannot represent themselves, they must be represented’ (Marx, The 18thBrumaire of Louis Bonaparte)
Types of communication and types of solidarity • The suburban employee was not a 19th century French peasant and has access to high speed communication. • Yet the problem of ‘the isolated individual in a mass society’ was a real one.
Post-fordism (Toyotism)as work • More highly-skilled work • Just-in-time production • Complex supply chains (component parts in small workshops) and sub-contracting • Flexible accumulation • Frequent retraining/upgrading
Post-fordism as civilization? • Proliferation of consumer choice • selling of lifestyle not product • Market-led growth • aesthetic self-fashioning and re-fashioning • Work/family reversals? • schizophrenia • Postmodern design and architecture?