Academic journal article New Formations

Post-Post-Fordism in the Era of Platforms

Academic journal article New Formations

Post-Post-Fordism in the Era of Platforms

Article excerpt

Robin Murray talks to Jeremy Gilbert and Andrew Goffey


This issue of New Formations is concerned with a complex of issues around the politics of networks, 'control' and 'security' societies as defined by Deleuze and Foucault respectively, and post-Fordism. In fact Maurizio Lazzarato, for one, has explicitly linked the latter two phenomena, understanding postFordism as more-or-less the direct consequence of new techniques of power and governance as described by Foucault being deployed in the context of processes of capitalist production.

Today the 'post-Fordist' hypothesis seems more or less irrefutable. While some of the key features of 'Fordist' capitalism - such as assemblyline production - remain central to global manufacturing (above all in China), they are no longer bundled with the other key features of 'Fordism', such as a strict gendered division of labour and a macro-economic policy committed to maintaining high aggregate demand within the same nation state in which production is concentrated. Industrial automation, market differentiation, corporate disaggregation, labour market specialisation, justin-time production and the expansion of the retail, IT and service sectors have transformed economies beyond recognition, not just in the old industrial heartlands of northern Europe and north America, but in differentiated ways on a global scale. What's more, these changes have been bound up with profound cultural, social and political changes, as commentators such as David Harvey were already discerning at the end of the 1980s. It is worth bearing in mind, then, that when the hypothesis was first advanced at the end of the 1970s, the idea that such changes would have any significant results at all was widely regarded as controversial, and was much resisted.

Robin Murray has been one of the UK's leading radical economists for many years. An expert on co-operatives, social enterprise and institutional and technological innovation, he was Director of Industry for the Greater London Council during the 1980s. This was the period during which the GLC was led by Ken Livingstone, enacting one of the most radical progressive programmes of any major governmental body in British history. Directly influenced by this experience, Murray wrote two celebrated articles for the British monthly Marxism Today on the subject of emergent 'post-Fordism' in the second half of the 1980s. These two essays 'After Henry' and 'Benetton Britain' were key in introducing the concept of post-Fordism to the wider left in the UK.1 new Labour would later take up the idea of post-Fordism as dictating a narrowly individualist culture and an approach to economic management and publicservice reform which was wholly informed by neoliberal ideology. But this was never Murray's conclusion. Instead he has argued consistently that the new technological and organisational forms of contemporary production are adaptable to classic democratic socialist objectives, and facilitate collaborative creativity, democratic self-management and co-operative production.

In this interview Andrew Goffey and Jeremy Gilbert discuss a wide range of these issues with Murray, for whose time and co-operation we remain extremely grateful.


Jeremy I was hoping that initially you could say a bit about the idea of postFordism, and its reception history in this country, because you were one of the first people writing about it robin, at least in a context that was widely read.

Robin Well, for me, it originated in our experience at the GLC, not from any writing. Throughout the 1970s, and right up until the drafting of Labour's London Manifesto for the 1981 municipal elections, the predominant economic paradigm was Fordism: left economic industrial strategy was based on the idea of scale and rationalisation. The critique of industrial Britain across the political spectrum was that it was backward. It had too many old family firms, who underinvested and weren't good at managing. …

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