"Post-Fordism and the end of work"
by Bowring, Finn (2002)
Post-Fordism is a term which has largely been rejected by the Left, mainly on the grounds that it dignifies aspects of capitalist society that should be challenged. In this article I aim to redeem the political value of the concept by showing how it can contribute to a positive critique of wage-based society. Radicalising the theory of post-Fordism requires a deepening of the principles of autonomy and responsibility which are central to the post-Fordist work paradigm. These principles should be extended, I argue, to apply to the wider social repercussions of post-Fordist labour, including destructive environmental consequences, the manipulation of consumer needs and above all the production of non-work or unemployment which flexible production methods entail. I argue that workers’ recognition of their wider social responsibilities therefore requires theoretical mediations capable of loosening the reductive equation of ‘autonomy’ with ‘work’. I also argue that the trend towards knowledge-based societies, because of the difficulties it creates in the definition and measurement of individual labour time, is making the abolition of waged work an increasingly rational ideal. I conclude by highlighting the alternative scenario towards which post-Fordist capitalism is otherwise heading. This is a society where every social activity — including consumption — is recognised, formalised and remunerated as work, as people are paid to produce themselves in accordance with the needs of social reproduction.
ThemesEnd of Work, Post-Fordism
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