The principal focus in this paper is a sympathetic critique of the institutional turn in economic geography and its analysis of convergence in contemporary capitalism. While insightful, this perspective does not fully capture the dynamic and contradictions of capitalist development and has tended to neglect the role of labor-capital relations in how systems of work organization develop. Following Jessop (1999; 2001), I argue that macroeconomic competition driven by the law of value disrupts institutions and acts as a 'disembedding' force for convergence within capitalism. In the workplace these tendencies are mediated by labor's ability to resist capital through what Burawoy (1985) terms the production politics of workplace regimes. I then illustrate these general points via an analysis of lean production in the automobile industry. Lean production is associated with strong convergence tendencies, because TNC reorganization facilitates the increased comparability of work quality and intensity across space. However, drawing upon the research of Lewchuck et al. (2001) and others on lean production and workers in Canada, the UK and Germany, I argue that, while national regimes are declining relative to firm-specific ones, workplace regimes continue to be an active force for divergence.
- Lean production
- Workplace regimes
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development