May 27th, 2011 at 11:48 am - by Lindsay Amantea
“There is but one rule for the Industrialist and that is: Make the highest quality goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.” – Henry Ford.
Prior to the 19th century almost all production was done on a piecemeal basis, in small shops and houses of workers. As trade increased globally there was greater demand for goods, especially manufactured ones. There was also a rise in the number of people who worked for wages rather than to produce goods for their families and themselves. While somewhat slow at first, the urbanization and industrialization of many industries snowballed and became known as the Industrial Revolution. Those who had first industrialized enjoyed economic advantages and larger shares of the marketplace, but soon they were again in competition with others who had copied their expansion.
Factory work had its advantages and disadvantages. Having all the parts of a process close together meant that production could increase just through proximity. However, each worker had to be proficient in many different tasks, and some were better at certain things than others. This led to inconsistent quality in the goods produced. This was corrected by the assembly line, where each worker was responsible for one repetitive task that they could become very good at. This ensured that high quality goods were being produced and helped workers to become more productive.
This phenomenon was taken globally after WWII. The biggest issue after the war became the unions that formed in America. When union members felt they were not receiving the right amount of wages from their employer, they tended to strike. In many instances, few people would cross the picket lines as a strikebreaker. However, many companies would simply move their factories to places like Mexico and Southeast Asia, where the workers would work for even less, and would not complain at all, even if they were part of a union. Some companies even separated the fabrication of components of the same product into different countries, so production would never totally cease if any one country were to go on strike.
For centuries, North America was light-years ahead of much of the world in terms of economy and the workplace. They held the monopoly on production; having the biggest companies and factories, and the most skilled workers. However, after World War II when all the men came back from fighting, the ante was upped when more companies formed to create work for the men. These companies were constantly undercutting each other, with their employees forming unions and frequently wanting raises and more benefits. The higher wages meant that the price of the products would go up. Finally, companies started building factories in other countries, where the average income was much lower. Because they could pay the workers less, there was a greater profit margin or they could lower the prices of the products.
Global Fordism is the brainchild of corporate America. Not only does it ensure that things stick to the Industrialist’s Rule, but it takes it a step further. It also has helped in creating the “Global Village” we hear so much about.