The arguments about flexible specialization
that Piore and Sabel developed in The Second Industrial Divide present a vision of smallholder democracy that is tailored to contemporary times.
In broad terms, the conceptual point of departure for the analysis is provided by interpretations of industrialization processes as a contest between alternative forms of industrial organization, the polar extremes of which are represented by the standardized mass production model organized by giant firms and a differentiated flexible specialization
model organized by networks of small firms (Piore and Sabel 1984).
The papers have been organized into sections examining Fordism, modes of production originating in the Japanese automobile industry, flexible specialization
, and lean production, with a final paper examining the emerging debate over "McDonaldization" of production systems.
The talents of women, the skills of men: Flexible specialization
allowed them to meet consumer's desires for new styles, in contrast with mass producers who had to generate demand.
privatization, deregulation, cuts in direct taxation, etc.), with no reference made to the supra-national economic and industrial structural changes which presaged and paralleled these Former changes (shifts from manufacturing to services, Fordism to flexible specialization
, mass to batch production, deskilling to knowledge production, and so on).
Building on the legacies of Polanyi, Shonfeld, Chandler, and Williamson, this volume engages these questions via an array of approaches ranging from comparative political institutionalism and flexible specialization
to institutional economics and the regulation school.
In contrast, under flexible specialization
or "postfordism", a combination of universal equipment and versatile workers can produce a wide and changing range of semi-customized goods while reducing the cost of differentiated products through economies of scope.
In Part II ("The Battle of the Systems"), Alain Dewerpe examines the competition between mass production and flexible specialization
during the first few decades of the twentieth century through an in-depth study of Ansaldo, a Genoese engineering and shipbuilding company with a number of factories throughout Italy.
The Hirst and Zeitlan chapter, "Flexible Specialization
: Theory and Evidence in the Analysis of Industrial Cha nge," examines the hypothesis that the world is experiencing a change in basic manufacturing organization from the mass production or Fordist model that had been the norm to a new model labeled "flexible specialization
." The chapter by Coriat offers a description of the flexible specialization
form of manufacturing organization.
After a review of the debate about the Third Italy, Kumar discusses the important connection between flexible specialization