Turin between Fordism and flexible specialization : industrial structure and social change, 1970-85
Turin has long been a town in which almost all economic activities were finalized to the mass production of cars, while the choices of its economic developments depended on those of the car firm, Fiat. In the 1950s and 1960s, both Turinese industry and labour market were tightly organised by Fiat in a pyramid-like structure, at the top of which were the car company and its workers respectively. Fiat's efforts to 'rationalize' and control the local labour and components market were not accompanied by a similar strategy towards social structure. Fiat limited itself to supporting the conservative political parties in office in Turin, which were able to gain a stable consensus by Tuninese petty bourgeoisis, but were not far-sighted enough to try to integrate the immigrant workers through a policy of reforms and services. This turned out in a very conflictual pattern of industrial relations in the late 1960s. Thus, the economic crisis which hit the mass-production firms worldwide in the mid-1970s had particularly negative effects on Fiat, due to bitter industrial relations within the plants. Elsewhere, as the large mass-production firms did not recover from the crisis, the segmentation of product markets and the availability of the new electronically-based technologies, which allow a greater flexibility together with high levels of productivity, fostered the emergence of a new competitive model of industrial organization: flexible specialization. These very market and technological conditions, interacting with the local social dynamics, also helped a wide reorganization of Turinese industry which ceased to depend strictly on Fiat's choices and orders. At the same time, the social structure of Turin became much more differentiated and the strategies of social actors proved to be no longer as linked to Fiat's decisions as in the past. Instead, throughout the 1970s Fiat was unable to respond to the new conditions of competition and to undertake a deep process of restructuring, due to the unpreparedness of its own management and to the strict unions' control over its moves. Only once the unions had been defeated in 1980, Fiat was able to take the lead among European car makers in a few years in terms of sales, technology and market strategy. My dissertation tries, therefore, to answer to the following questions: how did it happen? And how did the mentioned endogenous and exogenous factors influence Fiat's strategy? How is the Turinese model of industrial organization at the present, and what is Fiat's role in it?