The early twentieth century saw one of the most dramatic shifts of power noted in the studies of international political economy. Preceding and throughout the Great Wars, the United States of America underwent such dramatic and influential changes in its domestic industries that it not only transformed the role it played in the global economy, but modernized global economics as a whole. Furthermore, with help from mass production methods and mass consumption needs, America instilled itself as one of the major hegemonic actors on the globe if not the foremost. Throughout this essay, I will demonstrate that the rise of America's relative economic and military superiority can be linked to its use of, and increase in, mass production methods and creation of mass consumption needs. In order to achieve this, I will firstly define the term: mass production, and how it is understood within the discipline of international relations and its associated schools of thought. Next, I will describe the impact mass production methods had on America socially and how it affected America's economic structures domestically. Lastly, before concluding, I will explain how this in turn led to military dominance during pre-World War II and further economic dominance post-war. In conclusion, I will argue that through the use of mass production, the United States of America, almost inadvertently, gained international economic and military dominance which even today effects the business practices of local and multinational companies across the globe and the international political economy as a whole.
Dertouzos describes mass production as the "process of replacing human tasks by machine functions"(Dertouzos, 1979, p. 38). However, most academics studying the initiatives of Henry Ford and other early American industrialists would argue that the ideas of mass productions transcend aide memoirs of the work place. Mass production in America is better described as the foundation of a new industrial revolution (Beninger, 1986). With its origins lying within American factories, it was instilled using practices of more "rationalized control of industrial production" (Beninger, 1986, p. 234). Namely, the use of highly specialized machinery and simplified processes to diminish reliance on highly skilled workers and the allowance for greater output in much tighter timescales. These new practices of the workplace were illuminated by the initiatives of Henry Ford in his factories and the writings of Fredirick Taylor. In essence, their goal, although not cohesively, was to produce the highest output in the quickest timeframe and at the lowest cost. Throughout the course of the Twentieth Century (and arguably still into the Twenty-first Century), these practices dramatically changed the global political economy, as I will explain in this essay.
[...] The next section of this essay will detail how the United States of America furthered and strengthened the foothold it gained in the global economy, and transformed it into a basis of power both militarily and politically. Prior to World War II, America and the world were gripped in the midst of a global great depression. However, the war would have a different effect on the economy of America then it did on other countries involved. The war offered America a route out of the great depression along with decreased unemployment and the growth of a military industrial complex that still resonates in America today. [...]
[...] But, most remarkably, it is the use of mass production and the capital generated by it prior to, and during, the Second World War that most notably typifies how America grew to become the major player in the Liberal world; and, further increased its status directly after the Second World War through political initiatives such as the Bretton Woods system. In conclusion this essay has offered a linked theoretical and historical argument that mass production in the United States of America played a significant role in its rise to become the Twentieth Century's leading hegemonic power militarily, economically, and politically. Bibliography Spruyt, H. (2000). New Institutionalism and International Relations. In: R. Palan (ed.). (2000). Global Political Economy. Contemporary theories. London: Routledge. Ch Dertouzos, M. L. (1979). [...]
[...] Massachusetts: MIT Press. Ch Beninger, J. R. (1986). The Control Revolution. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. Özcelik,S. (2005). Neo-Realist and Neo-Gramscian Hegemony in International Relations and Conflict Resolution During the 1990's. Journal of Economic and Social Research. [E-Journal]. Fall 2005, 1:88-114. Available through: Bolu Abant Izzet Baysal University Database. (Accessed 27 December 2010). Bieler, A. and Morton, A. M. (2003). Theoretical and Methodological Challenges of neo-Gramscian Perspectives in International Political Economy. International Gramsci Society Online Article [Online]. Available at:
[...] (Accessed 27 December 2010). Gartman, D. (1994). Auto Opium: A Social History of American Automobile Design. London: Routledge. Gramsci, A. (1929-35). Americanism and Fordism. In: Selections from the Prison Notebooks. (1971). Hoare, Q and Smith, G.N. (trans and ed). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Rupert, M. (1995). Producing Hegemony. The Politics of Mass Production and American Global Power. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Horkheimer, M and Adorno, T. W. (2002). Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments. [E-Book]. Noerr, G. S. and [...]
[...] Furthermore, Gartman states that ‘this equilibrium between production and consumption is not established automatically through the autonomous workings of the economic market'. (Gartman p. 2). Gartman is arguing that, unlike Liberal ideology entails, the invisible hand is not so invisible. Rather, it can instead be understood as being created by the manipulation of societal norms in order to create a vacuum of production and accumulation. Ford, through his placement as the head of what was, and still is today, one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world, induced this manipulation of societal norms in order to create the process of cyclical production and accumulation through many different initiatives. [...]
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