Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2021-01-05

Empowerment As a Trojan Horse: New Systems of Work Organization in the North American Automobile Industry

Document type Article
Author Yates, Charlotte
Author Stewart, Paul
Author Lewchuk, Wayne
Journal Economic and Industrial Democracy
Volume 22
Date 2001 November
ISSN 0143-831X, 1461-7099
Pages 517-541


While new models of work organization (lean production) in the automobile industry have been portrayed as a 'democratic' break with Fordism, we find considerable parallels with those traditional patterns of labour control they were intended to supplant. Far from understanding these as exemplars of 'democratic Taylorism', the article identifies specific company responses to problems associated with declining productivity and competitiveness. Moreover, the article argues that new models of work organization associated with lean production, far from heralding empowerment, are more conerned with asserting management control in varying ways in different companies.