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Reconciling Automation and Flexibility? Technology and Production in the Postwar British Motor Vehicle Industry

  • Jonathan Zeitlin


This article contests the view that “stages of development” determine a uniquely appropriate set of production and marketing strategies for a given industry in a given period. Looking closely at the British automobile industry after World War II, it instead presents the argument that opportunities for significant choices between more or less flexible technologies and organizational forms constitute a continuous feature of modern economic history. Moreover, piecemeal borrowing and selective adaptation have been more common than wholesale imitation of any particular system, and modification and hybridization of imported technologies represent not resistance to “foreign” elements, but creative attempts to fit those elements to local conditions.

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