Kanban Capitalism

Digital Fordism reworks the familiar "set-in-place" workaday world into a brave new "just-in-time" world of robotic production, global products, and transnational producers. These kanban capitalist methods of management are a bundle of universalized logistical abstractions, but their concrete effects provide a new interpretive framework for understanding the global marketplace under informational conditions of production. On the one hand, digital Fordism could as easily be labelled "Toyota-ism," because just-in-time management, as Plenert notes, "is the Toyota production philosophy that focuses on materials efficiency and waste elimination in the production to every component it uses to track company manufactures in digital telemetries.1 Peters, on the other hand, sees kanban methods as the core of "thriving on chaos" in today's informationalzied management revolutions inasmuch as kanban capitalists go beyond what "manufacturers do to their suppliers, achieving linkups 'backward' toward their vendor" by seeking out "opportunities to assist customers, using some variant of voluntary just-in-time inventory management as a marketing strategy, linked forward to the customer"2. This philosophy for building much more flexible, or even chaotic, open workplaces, however, is not a neutral management tool. Its techniques are reordering firms, factories and their surrounding marketplaces as well as disrupting the lives of those cities, nations and working populations that depend upon them. Moreover, in many ways Toyota-ism is merely a transitional stage or further refinement of a Fordism with analogue roots.

By focusing upon FoMoCo, one can revisit the telematic spaces, sites, and structures of kanban capitalism to examine how its performative uses of cyberspace are developing as well as to reconsider the possible downside of this digital transformation. This study critically re-reads various overall fragments in digital Fordism to assess the significance of their application in the American economy and society. First, the imbrication of information and industrialization in cyberspace must be reviewed to highlight the transformation of data-accumulation, information-processing, and knowledge-production as new valorizing forces. Second, the nature of enterprise reintegration packages must be discussed to indicate how just-in-time methods generate value from the management of labor and material in time. Third, the impact of kanban capital and its workings in digital Fordism upon most existing set-in-place economic, political, and social institutions must be reviewed as a decentering/deterritorializing/denationalizing process.

Space can be regarded as all places taken together, the intervals between points fixed by time in position, or the object produced by determinations of location. It is what is between everything set-in-place and where placed-in-settings are. These more traditional constructions of space circulate with some credibility in a variety of intellectual venues, and each of them is defensible in many social contexts. Yet, space also can be re-read, especially given the advent and effects of cyberspaces in networks, as a medium. Space here constitutes the substances and sites through which forces act or effects are transmitted. Like other media, spaces also can be communicative. Analogue Fordism presumed one mode of space, while digital Fordism subsumes that older spatial formation in the remediation of its places and flows in a new informationalized sense of space. Within its active structures or transmission sites, space will carry some forces, but not others; transmit these effects, but not those; favor a few operators, but not any others.


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