Date of Award

Spring 1994

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Cynthia Duncan


American industry is shifting to a "post-Fordist" approach to production. The post-Fordist approach includes expanding use of advanced manufacturing technologies, decreasing organizational sizes, decreasing bureaucratization of the work place, and the abandonment of Tayloristic managerial practices in favor of increasing worker participation in decision making processes. This study examines the effects of the post-Fordist approach upon power relations in four work places in the machining industry.

Interviews with 44 machinists, employers and community leaders in the case study site "Machinist Valley" show that the shift to post-Fordism is accompanied by declining incomes, fewer employment opportunities, lower benefits, and less job security in comparison to machining work during the Fordist era. While machinists exercise greater skills in the work place, they have less power to determine the pace and pay of their work. Declining worker power primarily results from owners' abilities in Machinist Valley to instill and take advantage of the feeling of individual and collective job insecurity that pervades workers' consciousness.

These findings point to the need for further evaluation of the shift to "flexible specialization." Findings of this study suggest that the optimistic scenario of craft control theory (Piore & Sable 1984), which asserts that increasing craft skills enhance worker power in the work place, is unlikely to be born out of post-Fordism in the current market conditions. The experiences of workers in Machinist Valley are more consistent with the projections of fragmentation theory (Lash & Urry 1987), which projects decreasing worker power due to declines in workers' class capacities.