Post-Fordism, gender and work: restructuring in the Nottinghamshire clothing industry

Wigfield, A., 1997. Post-Fordism, gender and work: restructuring in the Nottinghamshire clothing industry. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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In recent years there has been extensive debate concerning the way in which advanced industrialised nations have encountered economic restructuring, experiencing a shift away from the dominance of Fordism and the emergence of a more flexible mode of production. Two main theoretical perspectives exist, the Institutionalist theory of Flexible Specialisation, and the Regulationist theory of Post-Fordism. Neither adequately incorporate a gender informed analysis into their respective theories. This thesis has attempted to redress these inadequacies by incorporating elements of feminist theory concerned with labour markets into Post-Fordist theory. The principal claim to originality of this thesis is therefore its contribution to theoretical knowledge in this field. It incorporates a gender dimension into the economic restructuring debate, thereby filling gaps in Post-Fordist theory.

A number of theoretical arguments with respect to gender relations have been raised from this theoretical debate, encompassing three main issues: numerical flexibility; functional flexibility: and technological change. From this discussion certain questions were developed which were empirically tested by an examination of the introduction of one form of Post- Fordism - team working, in the Nottinghamshire clothing industry. A sample of thirty three companies were chosen, seventeen utilised the production line and sixteen had implemented team working. Three principal research methods were deployed in each of the companies, questionnaires and group recall sessions for operatives, and informal, semi-structured interviews for managers. The empirical investigation, like the theoretical debate, fills gaps in existing research. It provides a detailed study of a predominantly female manufacturing sector, something which is relatively absent in the existing research in this field. To date there have been very few detailed empirical enquiries referred to in Post-Fordist theory and those which are mentioned in feminist literature tend to concentrate on the service sector.

The thesis makes a number of theoretical and practical contributions to knowledge. Firstly, it reveals that Post-Fordism is a complex and heterogenous concept which encompasses a variety of methods of work organisation. Secondly, it suggests that the production flexibility sought under Post-Fordism cannot only be achieved by technological change as is widely suggested but also by alterations in the method of work organisation. Thirdly, it explains that Post-Fordism does not necessarily lead to an expansion of numerical flexibility in the manufacturing sector. Fourthly, the thesis reveals that functional flexibility leads to job enlargement as well as job enrichment and that the labour force implications of functional flexibility are not as straight forward as Post-Fordist literature suggests, simply having a beneficial effect on the workforce. Both job enrichment and enlargement can benefit the workforce but also have drawbacks. The final contribution that the thesis makes is to explain that the way in which the workforce are affected by the search for flexibility cannot be easily dichotomised into numerical flexibility or functional flexibility. The precise way in which the workforce are affected is determined by: the nature of the system of team working implemented; the presence of technological innovation; and the degree of accompanying cultural change (based on a change in management style and the provision of training). Gender relations at work play a part in this process, determining the model of team working implemented, the way in which technology is utilised, and the extent to which these wider cultural changes are adopted.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Wigfield, A.
Date: 1997
ISBN: 9781369325195
Divisions: Schools > Nottingham Business School
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 24 Jun 2021 11:28
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2023 15:31

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