Roads to Post-Fordism: Labour Markets and Social Structures in Europe

By Lindstrom, Nicole | Capital & Class, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

Roads to Post-Fordism: Labour Markets and Social Structures in Europe


Lindstrom, Nicole, Capital & Class


Max Koch Roads to Post-Fordism: Labour Markets and Social Structures in Europe Ashgate, 2006, 190 + viiii pp. ISBN: 0-7546-4308-5 (hbk) £50

Reviewed by Nicole Lindstrom

First published as the author's Habilitation (second doctoral degree) in 2002, this Englishlanguage monograph presents a revised and updated version of the original analysis. Koch puts forward a regulation approach, based in particular on the Parisian school, to understand decades-long trends in the labour markets and social structures of five advanced capitalist states: Germany, Sweden, Spain, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Koch argues that the shift from Fordism to post-Fordism has not necessarily led to uniform outcomes in labour organisation and socioeconomic regulation. Instead, we can observe diversity in the national trajectories of advanced capitalist states, with varying patterns of inclusion and exclusion. The book maps these diverse post-Fordist capitalist development paths along a continuum between 'capitaloriented' and 'negotiated' growth strategies. The former type is characterised by a weak state, lack of coordination in wage determination and capital-oriented regulatory reforms; and the latter by an engaged state bringing about and supporting compromises in wages and socioeconomic regulation. Through a statistical analysis of labour and social indicators over time, Koch demonstrates how the United Kingdom has pursued a distinctly capital-oriented strategy, while Sweden and the Netherlands remain most tied to a negotiated-growth strategy.

Koch's description of the shift from the Fordist regime of high growth rates, full employment and industrialisation in the 1960s to the post-Fordist period of lower productivity, higher employment and deindustrialisation will be familiar to readers of Capital & Class. What is more novel about this account is Koch's attempt to relate this shift in regimes of accumulation and modes of regulation to changes in domestic labour and social structures across five states and over time. Koch advances four hypotheses related to the composition, decomposition and finally re-composition of Fordist social structures, and tests these through an evaluation of international labour statistics supported by qualitative data. Concerning the composition and decomposition of Fordist social structures, the data tells a familiar story. The concrete historical manifestations of the Fordist growth model varied significantly across countries, leading us to speak of 'Fordisms' rather than of one uniform model. While Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands came closest to the 'genuine' or ideal type of Fordism characterised by the usa, the õê (with its weak state and fragmented labour markets) exhibited a 'flawed' type of Fordism, while Spain, emerging from Francoism in the late-i970s, was 'delayed'. Yet in the heyday of Fordism between 1961 and 1973, high growth and productivity rates were generally accompanied by full employment and rising real wages across all western European states. As Fordist development strategies came under pressure from both the demand and supply sides in the mid1970s, all states, in turn, witnessed a decomposition of labour markets and social structures, resulting in a subsequent rise in income inequality and social stratification.

In analysing the concrete impact of the decomposition of Fordism on wages and social structures, Koch provides a useful addition to the regulation literature, which has devoted relatively little attention to social structures in its debate on the transition from Fordist to postFordist growth strategies. By framing his analysis within a regulation approach, Koch also makes a contribution to the broad international literature on social stratification and inequality, where regulation theory has made few inroads. Yet perhaps where Koch makes his most important theoretical and analytical contribution is in his analysis of the re-composition of labour markets and social structures under post-Fordism, arguing that the concrete processes involved in recomposing these structures are dependent on the kind of road to post-Fordism that a country pursues. …

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