Emergence of new industrial models. Hypotheses and analytical procedure

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Boyer R., Freyssenet M., "Emergence of new industrial models. Hypothesis and analytical procedure”, Actes du GERPISA, n°15, juillet 1995, 169 p. Digital publication, gerpisa.univ-evry.fr, 2001, 1,5 Mo; freyssenet.com, 2006, 1,5 Mo.

Boyer R., Freyssenet M., “Émergence de nouveaux modèles industriels. Problématique et démarche d’analyse”, Actes du GERPISA, n°15, juillet 1995, 169 p. Éditions numériques, gerpisa.univ-evry.fr, 2001, 1,5 Mo; freyssenet.com, 2006, 2,3 Mo.

Boyer R., Freyssenet M., “Emergencia de nuevos modelos industriales. Problematica”, Sociologia del trabajo, 1996, 27, pp 23-54. Shorter version écourtée in spanish de Boyer R., Freyssenet M., “Émergence de nouveaux modèles industriels. Problématique et démarche d’analyse”, Actes du GERPISA, n°15, juillet 1995, 169 p.

The first and second texts are downloadable. Please, go to the end of this page.


Whereas current public interest is focused on the surprising recession of 1993, the escalation of unemployment, the difficulties of building Europe, and tensions surrounding international trade, the transformation of production systems was at first subtly and is now with increasing clarity being brought to the attention of managers, researchers and politicians.With hindsight it would be possible to say that this subject remains closely related to most of the problems just mentioned.

Recall that economic growth during the "thirty glorious years" (post-war boom) was maintained by a well-defined industrial model based upon the diffusion of mass production and consumption. By the 1990s it is clear that previous forms of institutionalization of this growth model have exhausted themselves, either through having been exported to newly industrial countries, keeping the original form, or by progressively being replaced with alternative principles based upon quality, differentiation, speed of reaction to economic events, or even the aptitude with which technological advances can rapidly be transformed into new products or production processes.

With the experience gained from the last two decades, and from a comparison of different national trajectories, it emerges that the capacity for implementing these new principles of industrial competitiveness has played a determining role in numerous national as well as international economic problems. Thus the growth of Japan and the newly industrialized countries of South East Asia in comparison with that of Europe and the United States is not unrelated to the respective configurations of their industrial models and more generally their innovative dynamism (R. Lucas, 1993). Moreover, although unemployment does indeed depend very much upon the characteristics of employment relationships and institutions within the labour market, it is also influenced by the greater or lesser speed with which new industrial principles are adopted (R. Boyer, 1993).

Moreover, the creation of a single European market, perhaps to be complemented by monetary integration, presupposes a readjustment of national specializations and poses the central question: will industrial models develop towards a common configuration or will they instead be differentiated as a function of the dynamic advantages of each country? Mutatis mutandis, the same question might be asked about the free trade treaty in North America, or the trade areas being created in Asia. What is more, commercial conflicts concerning international trade, rights of intellectual property or conditions of access to state aid assume a more pointed character when the new industrial models dictate rules-of-the-game that are different from those of the Fordist era.

A final theme runs through the political and academic debates: does the competitiveness of firms and regions presuppose the importation and adoption of so-called Japanese methods, or could one conceive of a certain diversity in the methods by which new principles of production and
implemented? Are there geographical areas for which no solution can be found, either indigenous or imported, which risk being left behind in
relation to the growth model which one hopes will emerge from the experimental period that continues to mark the 1990s?

Here then are a number of reasons behind the interest, but also the great difficulty, of the project being undertaken by GERPISA. In the light of the research conducted by the GERPISA international network for the past two years, the goal of this paper is to reformulate and to develop the general problem and the program's methods of approaching it, in order to enrich the work that is in progress.

It might be useful to first clarify and comment upon the minimal hypotheses necessary for our scientific cooperation: the fruitfulness of the redefined idea of "model", and the principal components of an industrial model (Section 1). There is an abundant and high-quality literature on the transformations that Fordist firms have undergone, judging by the number of articles and books published. However, the various analyses are rarely compatible with one another because they adopt a partial approach which privileges either technology, market, or organization. Our examination allows us to present six theoretical problems which must be overcome in order to analyze emerging industrial models: continuity or change in the model, the basic principles shared by all models, unity or plurality, universality or context-dependence, of models, criteria for judging a model as new, factors governing change, and what is the core of the model (Section 2). In practice, however, it is not a simple
matter to show at what threshold two industrial models become different types, since the analysis oscillates between two extremes: either there is great continuity in rationalization attempts, which would suggest that a single model is being retained, or there are a multitude of local innovations, which would justify the hypothesis of a continuum of models without clear-cut distinctions. Four different methods are examined, to see what contribution they can make towards a more definite diagnosis (Section 3). Given the current state of our work, we will propose, as a means of resolving or overcoming the six theoretical problems that have been identified, the image of an inter-linking of levels and of principles, with those at the first level related to the economic system and therefore common to all models, with the next level defining families of models, and the final level being the models themselves (Section 4). In the rest of this paper, we develop this approach, by studying the process by which
firms have responded to local and global crises over the last twenty years, focusing upon the variety of responses, the uncertainties, the process of trial and error, and the learning processes which constitute the actual practices of firms but which are too frequently neglected by static
approaches based upon rational and calculated responses to a clearly delineated problem in a stationary environment. We will try to establish
what "overthrows" of production principles the responses to local and global crises entail, and to outline the attempts to render these changes
coherent (Section 5). Finally (Section 6), we present the initial results of our work, to reveal, in conclusion, the three types of response to the
question of new models which emerge from our initial results.


Introduction: Production Transformations at the Heart of the 1990's

1.1.Two useful ideas: process and model
1.2. A provisional definition: the model as a process of structural stabilization and regulation
1.3. The definition proposed, and the three normally accepted definitions of the idea of "model"
1.4. Of what does an industrial model consist? Its minimal components
1.5. The example of the Fordist model: a particular configuration of production
1.6. Two axes of analysis: the trajectories of automobile producers, their subsidiaries and transplants, and systematic international comparisons

2.1. Continuity or change of model?
2.1.1 The response depends on the criteria and levels chosen
2.1.3 What is/are the determining factors of change?
2.2. Unity or plurality of models?
2.3. How should we treat differences between the models and the real functioning of companies?

3.1. The four methods normally used
3.1.1 Measure the distance from a canonical model
3.1.2 Inductive search for various configurations
3.1.3 Use a theoretical model to formalize coherence
3.1.4 Follow the decomposition of an old industrial model and the innovations that emerge from it
3.2.The methodological problems to be resolved
3.2.1 The meaning of the observed facts
3.2.2 Discourse and practice
2.3 The relevant level of analysis
3.2.4 A dynamic vision of the model

4.1. The inter-linking of objectives, principles and apparatuses
4.2. The dual uncertainty of work and market; a characteristic of the economic system to which industrial models must find a solution
4.3. The paths to reduce the uncertainties of work and market
4.3.1 The two paths theoretically possible to reduce the uncertainty of work
4.3.2 The three paths to reducing market uncertainties
4.4. The historical and localized forms of development of capital and labour
4.5. The characteristics of each period within the economic system which the industrial models belonging to it are said to share
4.6. Do the phases that can be observed within each of these periods transmit some of their traits to the industrial models?
4.7. Strategies for profit
4.8. The plurality of principles and of productive models in a given period and phase: various solutions to the same problem
4.9. Models as conditions for existence and context: the effects of an industrial model modify the conditions which gave birth to it
4.10. A new definition of the model and its components
4.11. Why should industrial models converge?

5.1. Tendencies, constraints and problems shared by all manufacturers
5.2. Constraints and crises specific to certain firms, even a single firm
5.3. Rendering the solutions to problems encountered by firms coherent, and the emergence of new industrial models

6.1. Transformations of the market, work and finance
6.1.1. Variations in the timing of transition between successive stages of the market in the three global poles of automobile production
6.1.2. The vriable timing of crises of work in the three global poles
6.1.3. Financial problems in the three poles of automobile production
6.1.4. The reappraisals and transformations in firms are deeper when problems in the sphere of work, market and finance coincide
6.2. The strategies of the automobile producers
6.3. The criss-crossing of firm trajectories and the hybridization of models

Tentative conclusions: The Terms of the Debate; Convergence of Industrial Models or Temporary Intersection of Different Trajectories

Key words

Automobile, car makers, growth mode, profit strategy, productive models, employment relationships, productive organisation, product policy, business history, theory of firm, labour, market, industrial relations, work organisation, wage system, work crisis. Fordism, fordian model, Taylorism, taylorian model, sloanian model, Toyotism, Japan, Henry Ford, Ford Motor Company, F.W. Taylor, production, commonalization, economies of scale, variety, cost reduction, innovation, flexibility, social relationships, capital-labour relationships, division of work.

Concerned disciplines

Economics, Management, Geography, History, History of Sciences and Technologies, Engineering, Political Science, Sociology.

Writing context

to personal questioning
to scientific reflexion of research laboratory or network
to national and international scientific debate
to diffusion of scientific results
to implementation of scientific results

References, commentaries, critics

Curent relevance

See also

✔ Freyssenet M., Mair A., Shimizu K., Volpato G. (eds), One Best Way? The Trajectories and Industrial Models of World Automobile Producers, Oxford, New York, Oxford University Press, 1998, 476 p.

✔ Boyer R., Freyssenet M., The productive models. The conditions of profitability, Londres, New York, Palgrave, 2002, 126 p. Modified version of Boyer R., Freyssenet M., Les modèles productifs, Paris, Repères, La Découverte, 2000, 128 p.

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2006.05.30, Boyer R., Freyssenet M., "Emergence of new industrial models. Hypothesis and analytical procedure”, Actes du GERPISA, n°15, juillet 1995, 169 p.

2006.05.29, Boyer R., Freyssenet M., “Émergence de nouveaux modèles industriels. Problématique et démarche d’analyse”, Actes du GERPISA, n°15, juillet 1995, 169 p.

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