These terms are part of a widespread debate about changing industrial structure and work organization. It is argued that increasing national and international competition is forcing greater flexibility on firms in order to respond more quickly to changes in the product-market. This includes greater flexibility in employment levels (numerical flexibility), job tasks and skills (functional flexibility), and payment systems (financial flexibility). Flexible specialization implies small, decentralized firms oriented towards niche markets, rather than (as in fordism) large, centralized, mass-production firms. Much of the debate has been prompted by studies of Japanese manufacturing and corporations (see R. Dore, Flexible Rigidities, 1986). For a case-study of the international automobile industry see Rebecca Morales, Flexible Production (1994). See also flexible employment; just-in-time system; socio-technical system.
Subjects: Law — Sociology.