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Fordism: a review essay

Watson, Daniel


Daniel Watson


Fordism is a central concept in American labour history. This essay, the first survey of the range of historiographical and sociological approaches deployed to understand Fordism, suggests that Fordism and Americanism are inseparably intertwined. Previous scholarship has emphasised that the technological and managerial efficiency of Fordist practice were a hallmark of twentieth century Americanism. Historians of labour have demonstrated that these aspects manifested as a relentless system of control in the workplace that paradoxically helped to unify worker resistance. Historians of capitalism have tended to used Fordism to refer to an ethos underpinning mid-twentieth century capitalist development marked by a balance between mass production and mass consumption. They identify increased social provisions and class compromise between labour and management as features that made Fordism attractive to states rebuilding their economies following the Second World War. New transnational histories of Fordism have begun to bridge the gap between these two main interpretations to show how Fordist practice and ethos were exported together internationally as part of an ideological project to modernise nations in America's image. This essay concludes by assessing the usefulness of Fordism to historians and suggesting avenues for future research.


Watson, D. (2019). Fordism: a review essay. Labor History, 60(2), 144-159.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 6, 2018
Online Publication Date Nov 14, 2018
Publication Date 2019
Deposit Date Oct 24, 2018
Publicly Available Date May 15, 2020
Journal Labor History
Print ISSN 0023-656X
Electronic ISSN 1469-9702
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 60
Issue 2
Pages 144-159
Keywords Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management; History
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Peer Review Statement: The publishing and review policy for this title is described in its Aims & Scope.; Aim & Scope:; Received: 2018-02-12; Accepted: 2018-08-06; Published: 2018-11-14


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