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Americanization and Its LimitsReworking US Technology and Management in Post-war Europe and Japan$
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Jonathan Zeitlin and Gary Herrigel

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199269044

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199269044.001.0001

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Americanizing British Engineering? Strategic Debate, Selective Adaptation, and Hybrid Innovation in Post-War Reconstruction, 1945–1960

Americanizing British Engineering? Strategic Debate, Selective Adaptation, and Hybrid Innovation in Post-War Reconstruction, 1945–1960

Chapter:
(p.123) Chapter 4 Americanizing British Engineering? Strategic Debate, Selective Adaptation, and Hybrid Innovation in Post-War Reconstruction, 1945–1960
Source:
Americanization and Its Limits
Author(s):

Jonathan Zeitlin (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199269044.003.0004

This chapter seeks to sketch out the contours of British debates about Americanization and reconstruction in a key sector of manufacturing: the engineering or metalworking industries. Its central concerns are threefold. First, contrary to the claims of some recent historians such as Corelli Barnett, it highlights the determined efforts during the immediate post-war years — above all by the Attlee Labour governments — to push British industry towards the adoption of American-style mass-production and management methods. Second, it re-examines contemporary objections to these proposals and reassesses the practical impact of them on the reconstruction of British engineering. It is shown that there were significant practical obstacles in both the short- and long-term to the wholesale adoption of the American model. Often, too, however, British manufacturers selectively adapted elements of US techniques to fit with their existing production strategies; in some cases, moreover, their creative modifications of transatlantic methods generated innovative hybrid forms of flexible manufacturing which anticipated in important respects those later made famous by the Japanese. The chapter calls into question the causal link between the limits of post-war Americanization and the subsequent decline of British manufacturing.

Keywords:   Americanization, Britain, manufacturing, innovation, selective adaptation, hybridization

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