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knowable domain. Social reality has an interior,

subjective, dimension, and sociology itself is a

social phenomenon, so that, for sociology, the

subject of knowledge is part of its object. For classical

sociology, which grappled with these issues,

a science of society was not impossible, but it had

special features, and could not be modeled on

other sciences without reductionism. Karl Marx

thought that the capitalist economic base could

be analyzed with the precision of natural sciences,

but not the superstructure where “social antagonisms

become conscious and are fought out.” In

Germany, sociology came to be classified among

the Geisteswissenschaften, implying an interpretative

and non-quantitative approach which Max

Weber sought to imbue with a “value-neutral”

spirit through an emphasis on formal structures,

chains of cause and effect, and comparative civilizational

analysis. In France, E´mile Durkheim criticized

Comte’s sociology as itself metaphysics, and

adopted a neo-Kantian conception of knowledge,

but still affirmed that social facts could be studied

“according to the methods of the natural sciences”

so as to establish “laws of concomitance and succession.”

However, the Post-Durkheim Annales

school shifted from laws to structures and abandoned

developmentalism, while philosophical

issues about positivism in the social sciences

were raised anew by phenomenology and critical

theory. These resurfaced in the 1960s with a new

round of the late nineteenth-century “positivism

debate” (Positivismusstreit) between Ju¨rgen Habermas

and Karl Popper, as well as in the controversies

surrounding Louis Althusser’s intervention

“for Marx,” which resurrected Comtean themes

in a Marxist form. ANDREW WERNICK


This is an ambiguous term that describes a relatively

durable form of economic organization that

happens to follow Fordism and/or resolves the

crisis tendencies of Fordism. A basic problem is

that this concept lacks any positive content – its

chronological prefix indicates only that it comes

after Fordism. This is why some theorists propose

positional goods post-Fordism


substantive alternatives such as Toyotism, Fujitsuism,

Sonyism, and Gatesism or, again, informational

capitalism, the knowledge-based economy,

and the network economy. However, to understand

the rationale behind such terms, we must

first consider Fordism and its crisis tendencies.

Fordism is widely used to describe the system of

mass production pioneered in the early twentieth

century by the Ford Motor Company and/or the

typical postwar mode of growth in North America

and western Europe. In the latter respect, Fordism

has been analyzed, often without adequate distinction,

in terms of four dimensions. First, the

Fordist industrial paradigm involves mass production

of standardized goods on a moving assembly

line using dedicated machinery and semi-skilled

labor. Second, as a national accumulation regime,

it involves a virtuous cycle of mass production and

mass consumption. Third, in line with regulation

theory, it has been analyzed as a mode of regulation

with five dimensions: (a) an institutionalized

compromise between organized labor and big

business such that workers accept capital’s right

to manage in return for wages indexed to productivity

and inflation; (b) monopolistic competition

between large firms based on cost-plus pricing

and advertising; (c) centralized financial capital,

deficit finance, and credit-based mass consumption;

(d) state intervention to secure full employment

and enable all citizens to share in mass

consumption; and (e) the embedding of national

economies in a liberal international economic

order. Fourth, as a form of social life, it involves

a mass society with mass consumption, mass

media, mass transport, mass politics, and so on.

Despite (or perhaps because of) its wide use, the

notion of “Fordism” is contested. Key disputes

concern: (1) the extent and significance of mass

production for postwar advanced capitalist economies;

(2) whether economies as varied as the

United States, Germany, Denmark, Italy, or Britain

can all be usefully described as Fordist; (3) the

extent to which the social and political contexts in

which mass production and mass consumption

developed were similar, and, in turn, how far the

growth of mass production and mass consumption

was shaped by these contexts; and (4) whether

social phenomena such as McDonaldization derive

from the Fordism industrial paradigm or from

broader social processes.

The Fordist accumulation regime and mode of

regulation allegedly became dominant in advanced

capitalism during postwar reconstruction

and then facilitated the long postwar boom.

During the 1970s, however, crisis tendencies

started to show in each of its four dimensions.

This is seen in the gradual exhaustion of the

growth potential of mass production and an intensified

working-class resistance to its alienating

working conditions; an emerging market saturation

for mass consumer durables; a declining

profit rate combined with stagflation; a growing

fiscal crisis and a declining state capacity for economic

management due to internationalization;

a popular rejection of standardized, bureaucratic

treatment in the welfare state; and a weakened

international order due to declining American

economic dominance and political hegemony.

These conditions promoted various economic

and political actors to search for solutions to the

crisis of Fordism, either by restoring its typical

growth dynamics to produce a neo-Fordist regime

and/or by developing a new accumulation regime

and mode of regulation. Social scientists

have adopted three main approaches to giving a

positive content to such a new, hence post-Fordist,

regime: (1) focus on the transformative role of new

technologies and practices in regard to material

and immaterial production – especially new information

and communication technologies and

their facilitation of a new, more flexible, networked

global economy; (2) focus on the leading

economic sectors that enable a transition from

mass industrial production to postindustrial

production; and (3) focus on how major crisis tendencies

of Fordism are overcome through the consolidation

of a new and stable series of economic

and extra-economic regulatory fixes corresponding

discursively and materially to new and profitable

growth potentials. Even thirty years after the

crisis of Fordism became apparent, debate continues

over whether a stable post-Fordist order

has yet been consolidated and, indeed, whether

the stability of Fordism was an exceptional period

in an otherwise typically disorderly and crisisprone

pattern of capitalist development.

Those who are committed to the assumptions of

a stable post-Fordist order regard its key features

as: (1) a flexible production process based on flexible

machines or systems and an appropriately

flexible workforce; (2) a stable mode of growth

based on flexible production, growing productivity

based on economies of scope, rising incomes

for polyvalent skilled workers and the service

class, increased demand for differentiated goods

and services favored by the growing discretionary

element in these incomes, increased profits based

on technological rents and the full utilization of

flexible capacity, reinvestment in more flexible

production equipment and techniques and/or

post-Fordism post-Fordism


new sets of products, and a further boost to economies

of scope; (3) a post-Fordistwage relation based

on polarization between multiskilled workers and

the unskilled and a decline in national or industrial

collective bargaining; (4) the rise of flexible,

lean, and networked firms oriented to their distinctive

core competences and strategic alliances;

(5) the dominance of hypermobile, rootless private

bank credit and forms of cybercash that circulate

internationally, and the subordination of government

finance to international money and

currency markets; (6) a shift from the primacy of

the postwar Keynesian national welfare state to

a political regime concerned with international

competitiveness and innovation, with promoting

a flexible workforce and full employability rather

than jobs for life, with coordinating economic and

social policies on local, regional, national, and

supranational scales, and with developing new

forms of economic and social governance to compensate

for state as well as market failure; and (7)

the shift from international regimes that secured

the conditions for the survival of national economies

and sovereign states to supranational or

even global regimes that address economic and

political problems that transcend national


These supposedly generic features of post-

Fordism are very unevenly developed and, where

they exist, they assume quite different forms –

neoliberal in some contexts, statist or social democratic

in others. There is also continuing debate

over the extent, significance, and durability of

these features in the face of the continuing

contradictions in global capitalism. Nonetheless,

attempts to identify the positive content of post-

Fordism have contributed to the emerging shape

of an after-Fordist economic and political order.


postcolonial theory

This is a field of inquiry and collection of concepts

aimed at illuminating, as well as criticizing, the

cultural, intellectual, literary, and epistemological

dominance of the modern West over countries

previously colonized by western imperial

powers. Postcolonial theory is not a theory in the

tradition of positivism or realism but rather a

range of premises, analytic approaches, and conceptual

tools for understanding the legacies of

colonialism and imperialism in formerly colonized

societies, with a primary focus upon cultural legacies.

Postcolonial theory also carries an explicit

political agenda. It examines the cultural bases

and legacies of imperialism in order to identify

and support resistances to them. Its main contributions

include: advancing colonialism and imperialism

as categories of social analysis on a par

with categories like social class, gender and race

and ethnicity; identifying the cultural processes

involved in colonialism and imperialism; and questioning

the position that European knowledge and

culture has normative supremacy.

The origins of postcolonial theory are disputed,

but three sources from the humanities are typically

identified. One lies in Commonwealth literary

studies, a field of study that began in the 1960s in

former British colonies among literary critics seeking

to contribute their voices to an academy seen

as “Anglocentric.” Another source is Edward Said’s

Orientalism (1978), which argued that imperialism

had been facilitated by forms of knowledge and

categorical binaries. A final source is the field of

Subaltern Studies, advanced by historians of

British colonialism in India seeking to uncover

the voices and agency of peasant groups in the

making of colonial history. Further proponents of

postcolonial theory include literary critics: Homi

Bhabha and Gayatri Spivak are among the most

notable. Writers in the field of postcolonial

theory have also sought to expand the base of

its founders by turning to African intellectuals

like Franz Fanon, Aine´ Ce´saire (1913– ), and Albert

Memmi (1920– ).

Given these diverse origins and developments,

postcolonial theory does not offer a unified theory

or a single methodology. There are, however, at

least two key theoretical claims upon which its

key concepts and lines of inquiry are based. The

first is that imperialism did not only involve the

use of coercion or economic domination but also

discourse and associated forms of knowledge and

representation. Said’s Orientalism is seen as the

foremost innovator of this thesis. Said argued

that British imperialism in the Middle East was

enabled by a “style of thought,” field of academic

study, or “discursive formation” called “Orientalism.”

Orientalism constructed a fundamental

“ontological and epistemological distinction . . .

between ‘the Orient’ and ‘the Occident’” or “the

West” and “the East,” akin to the socialpsychological

distinction between self and other.

It likewise portrayed westerners as “rational,

peaceful, liberal, [and] logical” while portraying

Orientals as uncivilized, irrational, inferior, and

lacking and therefore in need of control by the

West (1978: 2). According to Said, Orientalism was

critical for imperialism and colonialism because it

enabled the West “to manage . . . the Orient politically,

sociologically, militarily, ideologically,

postcolonial theory postcolonial theory


scientifically, and imaginatively” (1978: 3). Said

therefore identified a cultural or epistemological

dimension to imperial domination that worked in

conjunction with other dimensions of power. One

of his targets was Marxism, which was seen as

either overlooking the importance of Orientalism

in facilitating imperialism or reducing it to mere

ideology. Said instead drew upon Michel Foucault’s

theory of power and knowledge to argue

that Orientalism did not reflect the economic

bases of imperialism but was productive of imperialism

itself. Orientalism allowed for a “flexible

positional superiority, which puts the westerner

in a whole series of possible relationships with the

Orient without ever losing him the relative upper

hand” (1978: 6–7).

The other key claim of postcolonial theory is

that decolonization did not bring the dissolution

of political, social, and economic inequalities between

former imperial powers and previously colonized

societies. Postcolonial theory insists that

those inequalities have continued through the

postindependence period. World-systems and dependency

theories make a similar argument, but

the contribution of postcolonial theory is to suggest

that persistent inequalities are related to the

epistemological and cultural legacies of colonialism.

The dominating discourses and knowledges

that facilitated imperialism persist into the postindependence

period, contributing to a form of

cultural hegemony and rendering postcolonial

peoples without the cultural tools or critical consciousness

to challenge western dominance. The

persistence of colonialism’s effects is important

for postcolonial theory because it underlies one

of its key suggestions: that the former colonial

status of societies could be seen as a category of

social analysis alongside race, class, and gender.

It also led postcolonial theorists to employ the

term “postcolonial” rather than “post-colonial.”

The latter hyphenated term posits the end of colonialism,

but the unhyphenated term is meant to

signify the continuation of colonialism’s effects

despite formal decolonization.

The main lines of research and thinking in postcolonial

theory have been guided by these two

main insights. The idea that colonialism and imperialism

were facilitated by knowledge and discourse

set the basis for colonial discourse analysis,

which seeks to examine colonial forms of representation

and their relationship to power. Literary

critics, for example, examine novels and other

forms of popular representation for the ways in

which they portray colonized peoples. Historians

working from a postcolonial perspective extend

Said’s analysis by arguing that the idea of “history”

itself, like Orientalism, has served to portray

postcolonial societies and peoples as inferior and

lacking. Western historical knowledge is rooted in

a Hegelian logic that encourages further binary

distinctions between the Occident and the Orient

while privileging the former as the agent of

history. Other postcolonial theorists have stressed

the incoherence of colonial discourse and

representations. These theorists accuse Said of

portraying Oriental discourse as uniform and

monolithic and argue that colonial discourse was

fractured and incomplete. H. Bhabha drew from

poststructuralism and deconstruction to argue

that colonial stereotypes were contradictory and

“ambivalent” or “undecided”: they offered images

of the colonized that were presumably fixed and

natural but the images themselves were shifting

and at times contradictory. The colonial subject is

portrayed as “savage (cannibal) and yet the most

obedient and signified of servants (the bearer of

food); he is the embodiment of rampant sexuality

and yet innocent as a child; he is mystical, primitive,

simple-minded and yet the most worldly and

accomplished liar” (Location of Culture, 1994: 82).

The premise that the cultural effects of colonialism

persist through the postindependence

period also guides postcolonial studies. Some postcolonial

theorists turned to the work of Fanon and

Memmi as a new source of inspiration. Fanon and

Memmi argued that colonialism had psychological

effects that were detrimental to colonized

peoples and which continued even after decolonization,

and so postcolonial theorists extend this

theme in various ways. A. Nandy’s The Intimate

Enemy (1983) argued that the superiority of the

West portrayed in Orientalism became deeply

rooted in the psyche of the colonized. While

Fanon argued racial hierarchies were internalized,

Nandy argued that geographical and civilization

hierarchies were also internalized. Nandy

also took up Memmi’s idea that the psychological

effects of colonialism extended to colonizer and

colonized alike.

Postcolonial theory’s key insights have also

guided its explicit political project. If imperialism

was supported by discourse, forms of representation,

and knowledge, and if its cultural legacies

persist through the postcolonial period, postcolonial

theory aims to construct an alternative basis

of knowledge that might challenge or resist those

effects. In Orientalism, Said raised one of the key

questions to which postcolonial theory has tried

to respond: “How can we know and respect the

other?” To meet the challenge, literary critics who

postcolonial theory postcolonial theory


work with postcolonial theory look for ways in

which literary representation might subvert

Eurocentrism. Historians advancing postcolonial

theory aim to write historical narratives that

highlight the experiences, agency, and voice of

colonized subjects so as to question in turn the

authority of European experiences and perceptions.

Here postcolonial theory can be seen as

having an affinity with postmodernism in that it

questions rather than presumes linear narratives

of historical progress and development. Yet its

distinct contribution is to stress that those narratives

have helped to subjugate colonized peoples

in particular.

The key dilemma for postcolonial theory, as G.

Spivak pointed out, is to produce alternative

knowledges without reproducing the forms they

aim to resist. How can one write a history of colonialism

and postcolonialism while “history” itself

is a form of knowledge that facilitates imperialism?

To meet this challenge, some have turned

to deconstruction. Postcolonial theory cannot cast

off western knowledges and so the best it can do is

show that those knowledges are incomplete and

fractured. Bhabha expanded his analysis of colonial

discourse to introduce the idea of hybridity as

a potentially resistant form. As colonial discourse

was fractured and ambivalent, colonized subjects

were able to appropriate it and use it in ways that

challenged its authority. The task of postcolonial

theory is to examine these instances. Others,

employing the genealogical method of analysis

proposed by Foucault, suggest that proper postcolonial

histories should offer narratives that

“provincialize” Europe, that is, treat European

dominance as a contingent or accidental rather

than a necessary or linear outcome, thereby

challenging the West’s representation of itself.

Marxist critics, however, suggest these methods

run into difficulties because they lead to a selfreferential

textualism that ignores the material

bases of domination. These debates with Marxism

constitute one of the main turning points for

postcolonial theory in establishing its research

agenda and orientation. JULIAN GO

postcommunist societies

This concept refers to the countries of eastern

Europe and the republics of the former Soviet

Union which, during the anticommunist revolutions

of 1989–91, gained full sovereignty and autonomy,

and introduced comprehensive regime

change towards western models of political democracy,

market economy, and open, pluralistic

culture. They include two groups of countries.

First, those which fell under the political, economic,

and ideological domination of the USSR

after World War II as the result of the Yalta and

Potsdam agreements among the Allied powers:

Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the German

Democratic Republic (central–eastern Europe), Albania,

Bulgaria, Romania, and Yugoslavia (Balkan

states). Their number has grown in the 1990s

owing to the separation of the Czech Republic

and Slovakia, as well as the breakdown of Yugoslavia

in the wake of Balkan wars into Slovenia,

Croatia, Macedonia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, only

Serbia and Montenegro retaining the label of the

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