Technology and Flexibility (Byte Size)
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Technology and Flexibility (Byte Size)

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Technology as a means to facilitate the production of goods and services has always been with us. Technology describes systems of production on which all human beings depend, to a greater or lesser extent. These systems range on a continuum from the very primitive basic tools to the very sophisticated micro-electronics.

Our focus in this course is on technology and technological change during the twentieth century within industrialised societies. We look at the dominant production systems and their effects upon people who work with them. In particular, we examine some of the debates concerning the major twentieth century technological development within the workplace. This is the system of mass production, or extreme specialisation, and its implications for workforce and management. We look at the technological developments which may supersede mass production and the controversies concerning these developments.

We start with the problem of definition and then move on to a consideration of Fordism. We look at the concept of alienation in relation to technology and the important contribution of the American researcher, Blauner. We then go on to deal with post-Fordism and flexible specialisation. Finally, we examine new technology and its impact upon manufacturing and the office.

After participating in this course, you should be able to:

  • define technology and identify different types of mechanisation.
  • identify some of reasons for technological change.
  • describe what Durkheim identified as the fundamental differences in technological and social organisation between a pre-industrial and an industrial society.
  • describe the impact of division of labour upon an industrial society.
  • define Fordism and outline its production system.
  • identify the advantages, drawbacks and limitations of Fordism.
  • relate Marx's concept of alienation to work in modern technological settings.
  • describe the work and conclusions of Blauner on alienation, along with some assumptions and limitations of technological determinism.
  • explain the relationship between control, de-skilling and technological change in labour process theory, and identify some of the theory's limitations.
  • identify in a contemporary industrial example the characteristics of post- Fordism.
  • describe how work and technology are developing in the view of flexibility theorists, the reasons they see for this, and the likely effects for employees and organisational management.
  • describe some criticisms of flexibility theory and outline some of the drawbacks and limits to flexibility.
  • describe the characteristic features of new technology.
  • explain how new technology can increase skill requirements and improve the quality of working life.
  • describe convergence theory and its implications in basic terms.