JUNIOR SEMINAR: Post-Fordism: Production, and Meaning in Contemporary Capitalism

M 2-4
291 Barrows
Course Description

We frequently read about, discuss and experience the impact of economic changes that are global in nature.  The extant literature on “globalization” focuses on finance and trade and, indeed, these are the most identifiable loci of economic integration. However, both finance and trade are undergirded by production.  “Bring the jobs back home!” and “Buy American!” are slogans that reflect a vital reality: where production takes place, how labor is organized, who gets a job and under what conditions is the very core of economics and politics.  If there was no production, there would be no finance (and vice versa) and there would certainly be no trade or consumption.  Today, it is impossible to ignore the fact that Americans can no longer be a nation of consumers who invent cutting-edge technologies that, ultimately, replace people with machines.  “Efficiency” is so automatically assumed to be a “good” that we forget to ask: “Whose efficiency?” It is abundantly clear that the US can no longer sustain our economy (let alone our debt-financed consumption) on financial arbitrage in an unregulated international financial market. In short: production is key. 

In this seminar we will discuss the way that the technologies, organization and geography of industrial production have changed over time.  Our goal is to understand the world we live in, but to learn how we got here.  We therefore begin with pre-industrial forms of production and their mutation, which resulted in the first Industrial Revolution (England, c. mid-18th century).  We then focus on the transition from Fordism (marked by the invention of the assembly line by Henry Ford) to post-Fordism.  Post-Fordism describes multiple and simultaneous changes in the location and processes of production in a liberalized international regime. Starting with theories, or, more accurately, descriptions of these processes we will focus on case studies that address what post-Fordism has meant for social, cultural and psychological conditions in various parts of the world, particularly after the neo-liberal revolution of the 1980s and 1990s.  In each of these transitions, we will attend to how technologies have affected individuals, communities, ideologies and power.  

The Junior Seminars are intense writing seminars which focus on the research area of the faculty member teaching the course. The seminars provide an opportunity for students to have direct intellectual interactions with faculty members while also giving the students an understanding for faculty research. Junior seminars fulfill upper division requirements for the major.


Course Instructor: Professor Christoph Hermann


Students will be able to directly enroll in this junior seminar in Phase 1 as long as they are declared Political Science majors in their junior or senior year (based on year, NOT units) and haven't taken a junior seminar before.  NOTE:  IF you have taken a junior seminar before, you must wait until Phase 2 to enroll; otherwise, you will be eventually dropped from the seminar.