chapter  18
12 Pages

Re-examining ‘fl exibility’

WithAli Mir and Raza Mir

Organizational scholars, though a little late to the party, did eventually focus on the fallout of the crisis, and the Academy of Management even held the 2013 edition of its annual meeting – ironically in the fl ourishing Disney World theme park – under the theme ‘Capitalism in Question?’ The discussions among management academics have, however, tended to focus on the proximate causes of the fi nancial meltdown, and with some exceptions, haven’t paid much attention to the role of their own discipline in creating the conditions for the disaster. In this chapter, we seek to bring a historical perspective to the analysis of the fi nancial crisis by revisiting the arguments of Fordism-Keynesianism and post-Fordism that emerged in the 1970s, in order to question the role of managerial practices in the period that led towards the crisis. Based on these arguments, we examine the contention that the fi nancial crisis can be read as a particular variant of the crisis of overaccumulation, and place it in the historical context of the post-Fordist debate in organizational theory and industrial geography. Specifi cally, we intend to scrutinize the link between the crisis and the management practices enacted in the 1980s and the 1990s in search of ‘fl exibility’ – exemplifi ed by the idealization of concepts such as the lean corporation, core competencies, outsourcing, subcontracting, off shoring, just-in-time – and as a response to the crisis of ‘rigidity’ that characterized the end of the age of Fordism. By doing so, we hope to persuade scholars of management and organizing history to – in the words of the Management History division of the Academy of Management – conduct a “historical assessment of the social consequences of management.”