Manufacturing Possibilities

Gary Herrigel

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199557738
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191720871 | DOI:
Manufacturing Possibilities

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Manufacturing Possibilities examines adjustment dynamics in the steel, automobile and machinery industries in Germany, the U.S., and Japan since World War II. Using detailed historical and interview based contemporary analysis, the book shows that as national industrial actors in each sector try to compete in global markets, they recompose firm and industry boundaries, producer strategies, stakeholder interests and governance mechanisms at all levels of their political economies. Theoretically, the book marks a departure from both neoliberal economic and historical institutionalist perspectives on change in advanced political economies. It characterizes industrial change as a creative, bottom up, process driven by reflective social actors. The alternative view consists of two distinctive claims. The first is that action is social, reflective and ultimately creative. When their interactive habits are disrupted, industrial actors seek to repair their relations by reconceiving them. Such imaginative interaction redefines interest and causes unforeseen possibilities for action to emerge, enabling actors to trump existing rules and constraints. Second, industrial change driven by creative action is recompositional. In the social process of reflection, actors rearrange, modify, reconceive and reposition inherited organizational forms and governance mechanisms as they experiment with solutions to the challenges that they face. Continuity in relations is interwoven with continuous reform and change. Most remarkably, creativity in the recomposition process makes the introduction of entirely new practices and relations possible. Ultimately, the message of Manufacturing Possibilities is that social study of change in advanced political economies should devote itself to the discovery of possibility. Preoccupation with constraint and failure to appreciate the capaciousness of reflective social action has led much of contemporary debate to misrecognize the dynamics of change. As a result, discussion of the range of adjustment possibilities has been unnecessarily limited.

Keywords: manufacturing; pragmatism; institutionalism; neoliberalism; creative action; steel industry; automobile industry; machinery industry; supply chains; globalization; vertical disintegration; United States; Germany; Japan

Book.  296 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Political Economy

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