17.059 a post-Fordist world?

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Thu Jun 05 2003 - 02:55:00 EDT

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                    Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 59.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

             Date: Thu, 05 Jun 2003 07:46:45 +0100
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: post-Fordism

    Simone Turchetti, Mauro Capocci and Elena Gagliasso, in "Production,
    Science and Epistemology", argue that the industrial, economic and social
    organization of developed countries has had a profound effect on how
    science and its epistemology have been conceived and practiced. Although
    few of us here actually do science properly so-called (in English), what
    Turchetti &al. have to say is at least relevant to us indirectly in how we
    conceptualize our nascent practice.

    In the 20th Century, as they tell the story, the development of new
    technologies moved production from linear mechanisms such as the Fordist
    assembly line to complex industrial networks of smaller, interdependent
    units, in which communication plays a major role. Hence the post-Fordist
    world in which we now operate.

    They analyze production under four headings: organization and architecture,
    production policy, the role of the state and production-subjects or
    workers. Under Fordism, then, the organization and architecture of science
    are hierarchical and linear, as in "big science" laboratories exemplified
    in the Manhattan Project; production policy is defined by mass-production
    of knowledge; the state is heavily interventionist, providing the funding
    and therefore controlling research; and the production-subjects are
    subordinate to machinery that embodies job-descriptions, with alienation of
    these subjects as a result -- typically the scientist-as-craftsman becomes
    a machine-tender or manager of machine-tenders. Under post-Fordism
    organization is "fractal", typically embodied in interlinking networks of
    small laboratories, exemplified by the Human Genome project; production
    policy, as in the just-in-time model, depends heavily on communication,
    much less on fixed process; the state backs away from support, so that the
    individual scientist becomes his or her own fund-raiser; and the
    production-subjects are left to their own devices in a free-market economy,
    broadly speaking.

    I am radically simplifying an already simplified argument -- to draw your
    attention to an interesting set of ideas. Again, we need to think carefully
    before we construct for ourselves a model of "knowledge production" (a
    binomial whose two terms both give me trouble and whose conjunction in our
    context DEMANDS an apology) that fails to recognize the post-Fordist



    Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
    Humanities | King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS || +44 (0)20
    7848-2784 fax: -2980 || willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk

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