Avis, James (2013) Post-fordist illusions - the knowledge economy and workplace learning? In: The Journal of Vocational Education and Training Tenth International Conference, 5th – 7th July 2013, Worcester College, Oxford. (Unpublished)

Theorisations of workplace learning often assume an optimistic hue. This
arises from the recognition of informal learning and its salience not only
for workplace practices but also its implications for social justice. Many
social theorists argue the shift towards knowledge based economies
(Kbe's) and the working practices of 'leading edge' employers veer
towards social production. Terms such as co-construction, coconfiguration,
networks and 'co-opetition' describe these putatively
progressive practices. It is important to interrogate these arguments that
address the development of Kbe's and in which the pursuit of
competitiveness and social cohesion is 'writ large'. There is an
articulation of post-fordism to social production. In the 1990's it was
suggested that post-fordism would overcome the exploitation embedded in
Fordist work relations, an argument critiqued for its failure to recognise
capitalist antagonisms and the coexistence of different 'modes of
production'. Despite this critique there are particular currents in
contemporary thought that assert that Kbe's have not only progressive but
also transformative possibilities. These flow from developments in the
forces of production and changes in the way in which surplus value is
generated. Such arguments are allied to notions of expansive learning
and the salience of the creative industries in Kbe's. This paper
interrogates such arguments for their policy, educational and social
justice implications, suggesting that, as with earlier discussions of postfordism,
these arguments are amenable to capitalist appropriation.