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New Left Review I/175, May-June 1989

Michael Rustin

The Politics of Post-Fordism: Or, The Trouble with ‘New Times’

The ‘post-Fordist’ hypothesis concerning the development of a new ‘mode of regulation’ of modern capitalism is a fertile and important one. It was developed, following Gramsci’s [1] Antonio Gramsci, ‘Americanism and Fordism’, in Selections from the Prison Notebooks, London 1971, pp. 279–316. key early understanding of the significance of mass production and consumption, by Michel Aglietta [2] Michel Aglietta, A Theory of Capitalist Regulation: The U.S. Experience, Verso, London 1979; ‘World Capitalism in the Eighties’, New Left Review 136, November–December 1982. and other members of the ‘regulation school’ in France in the 1970s. [3] See Alain Lipietz, The Enchanted World, Verso, London 1985; Miracles and Mirages: the Crises of Global Fordism, Verso, London 1987. It has been further developed by Michael Piore and Charles Sabel in the United States, as the formulation of a choice of ‘post-Fordist’ options for American society. [4] M.J. Piore & C.F. Sabel, The Second Industrial Divide, New York 1984. Also C.F. Sabel, Work and Politics: the Division of Labour in Industry, Cambridge 1982. The essential theoretical breakthrough of this school was its repudiation of a simple economism, and its recognition, following the wider influence of structuralist and sociological perspectives on Marxist debate especially in France, of the complexity and multidimensionality of modern capitalism. The post-war stabilization of this system, on both economic and political levels, required that a new attention be given to the enhanced role of the state, to mass consumption, to processes of socialization, and to the ideological role of the information industries in the ‘consumer societies’. The reproduction of the social relations of capitalism (not least the relations of gender) became as important to Marxist theory as the system of production itself. The ‘regulation school’ sought to formulate these issues as a theory of political economy, as the concomitants and conditions of possibility of different forms of production.

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Michael Rustin, ‘The Politics of Post-Fordism: Or, The Trouble with 'New Times'’, NLR I/175: £3

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