Fordism as a Keyword of the Twentieth Century
Rüdiger Hachtmann (Senior Fellow)
The keyword ‘Fordism’, with all its associated economic and social developments and visions (including a society of mass consumerism), is one of the most significant signatures of the twentieth century. Neither the many different Taylorist and Fordist rationalisation movements nor the discourses they caused have so far been examined in respect of their historical or political implications over the course of different political systems and eras.
The target of this project is a monograph entitled ‘The Fordist Century’. The study will focus on Germany, including perspectives on global and international developments (besides the USA, particularly Japan, the USSR, Italy and Sweden [post-Fordist Volvo system]). The study will be divided into six chapters, each consisting of about fifty pages: (1.) Introduction (relevant terms, concepts and more); (2.) Development up to 1933; (3.) Third Reich; (4.) German Democratic Republic; (5.) Federal Republic of Germany; (6.) ‘crisis’ of Fordism/Post-Fordism.
In the past few years, several studies have been published on related topics. They not only focus on specific eras. Some of them also deal with different historical eras or political systems. These works might be regarded as preliminary studies to the announced monograph, which will be written in 2017/18. Examples are:
- the overview entitled ‘The War of the Cities: Industrial Laboring Forces’, published in Michael Geyer/Adam Tooze (eds.): The Cambridge Handbook of World War II, Vol. 3 (2015). The article compares Germany, Italy, Japan, the USA, Great Britain and the USSR in respect of Fordism as their method of production at a certain time;
- the overview entitled ‘Rationalisierung, Automatisierung, Digitalisierung. Arbeit im Wandel’, published in Frank Bösch (ed.): Geteilte Geschichte (2015). The text focusses on the present era from 1970 onwards. It emphasises the relevance of Post-Fordism/Taylorism for the service sector;
- an essay on the relationship between forced labour and assembly line work entitled ‘Fordism and Unfree Labor—Aspects of the Work Deployment of Concentration Camp Prisoners in German Industry between 1941 and 1944’, published in the International Review of Social History (vol. 55/2010).
Moreover, there are several other overviews. Especially important: Fordismus, Version: 1.0, in: Docupedia-Zeitgeschichte, 27. 10. 2011, URL: http://docupedia.de/zg/fordismus?oldid=84605; (with A. v. Saldern) ‘Das fordistische Jahrhundert’ and ‘“Gesellschaft am Fließband”. Fordistische Produktion und Herrschaftspraxis in Deutschland’, both published in: Studies in Contemporary History/Zeithistorische Forschungen, 6/2009.