Topics in Political Economy – Fordism: the international perspective

So far one has only looked at the Fordist model from a national (or domestic) perspective, but the Fordist model and its monopolistic mode of regulation also operated in the economic interactions of the OECD countries with each other and with the even wider international arena. The United States of America (USA) industrial hegemony was central to this as they could be seen as world leaders both in a political and military sense. The USA was also responsible for the establishment of Fordist production strategies. From all of this, the USA possessed a great amount of autonomy along with international competition, technical supremacy and large scale production all linked to a wide internal market. Also the Second World War had not really affected the USA and this meant the productivity gap between itself and Europe and Japan remained until the end of the 1960s resulting in a systematic trade surplus for the USA (De Vroey; 1984; p60). The benefits of this new internationalism were provided for by the Marshall and MacArthur Plans and by the USA forcing its generalised mode of development on the rest of the world; this was done by the Bretton Woods Fixed Monetary System being set up, and through the establishment of the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (or GATT), the International Monetary Fund (or IMF) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) (Lipietz; 1987; p38). The international between the USA, Europe and Japan until the late 1960s was one of differentiation, but it allowed for a world configuration that temporarily guaranteed the compatibility of similar regimes of accumulation with different growth rates. This in turn led to European and Japanese productivity levels ‘catching up’ with those of America (Lipietz; 1987; p38). However, many believe that the USA wanted this to occur because of long term interest of greater international trade. So from the early origins of Fordism in the 1920s to its continuing development for the next fifty years, one could see a time of great prosperity and expansion in the capitalist nations, more so during the Golden Age period. However, the collapse of Fordism stemmed from the particular development of the Fordist regime in each particular country (i.e. the internal crisis) and their inter-connection with one another (i.e. the external crisis). This all led to the breakdown of the world configuration, and ultimately the end of the Golden Age.   By Mawdud Choudhury 16 March 1998


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