THE SECOND INDUSTRIAL DIVIDE: Possibilities for Prosperity by Michael J. & Charles F. Sabel Piore
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THE SECOND INDUSTRIAL DIVIDE: Possibilities for Prosperity

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We can, if we will, restructure our economy to achieve flexible production on a communitarian basis, argue MIT labor economist Piore and political scientist Sabel. The argument integrates today's scholarly challenge to technology-as-destiny (viz. David Noble's Forces of Production, p. 442), with prescriptions for specialized batch-production, corporate de-concentration, and managerial de-stratification. Piore and Sabel go considerably further: they dispute the common idea that political intervention in the economy has slowed growth and deterred investment: empirically, neither welfare spending nor regulation, nor even economic shocks, can be shown to account for the slowdown in growth; theoretically, ""the logjam of politics might be the effect of conflicts touched off by the deteriorating mass economies--not the cause."" They then set themselves to trace how mass production triumphed over craft production, in ""the first industrial divide"" of the early 19th-century, and how the pattern differed according to different national conditions. ""Progress is best described. . . as a branching tree--yet the limbs of this tree thrive or wither according to the outcomes of social struggles, not some natural law of growth."" Thus, American corporate management stabilized wages and employment (the Ford model), ""to insulate the cost of a major element of production from the flux of a market economy,"" bolstered by a reserve of trained low-skilled workers. American industry also eschewed government assistance in obtaining capital or fostering exports. In the postwar era, Piore and Sabel examine two other anomalies--the US role in international trade and the US distribution of shop-floor authority--which, when both systems unexpectedly crumbled, brought on the crisis of the late 1970s. Abroad, however, different traditions--and especially different labor-control systems--have brought such examples of aggregated flexible production as the textile district of Prato in Central Italy, the machine-tool revivals of West Germany and Japan. And there are US approximations, antecedents. Piore and Sabel do not find ""yeoman democracy"" inevitable--they posit an alternative restructuring (via macroeconomic organs) too; but they do project such a development as feasible, historically and conceptually.

Pub Date: Nov. 16th, 1984
Publisher: Basic Books