Beyond the Regulation Approach
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Beyond the Regulation Approach

Putting Capitalist Economies in their Place

Bob Jessop and Ngai-Ling Sum

This book presents a detailed and critical account of the regulation approach in institutional and evolutionary economics. Offering both a theoretical commentary and a range of empirical examples, it identifies the successes and failures of the regulation approach as an explanatory theory, and proposes new guidelines for its further development.
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Chapter 11: Rethinking Periodization After Fordism

Bob Jessop and Ngai-Ling Sum


This chapter explores three issues regarding what follows Fordism: periodization in general, appropriate criteria for periodizing capitalism and the contradictions of Atlantic Fordism and after-Fordist economies. We emphasize the interplay of structure and strategy and suggest that, within broad limits, capitalist development is open. This openness invalidates attempts to periodize capitalism’s past development or predict its destiny as if these were connected by some unilinear (or multilinear convergent) logic. Transitions between modes of production or between stages or phases in a mode of production are always mediated through the actions of specific social forces in specific conjunctures. Moreover, without a deterministic logic that ensures such transitions occur in a predictable sequence,1 it is better to talk of successive capitalist ‘regimes’ than successive ‘stages’. This is especially important when studying specific social formations or comparative–historical questions and the ‘contingently necessary’ nature of transitions in capitalism and/or the balance of forces. The RA, for example, has identified major turning points in capitalist development linked to new technological paradigms, dominant or hegemonic labour processes, accumulation regimes, modes of regulation or modes of societalization; and it tends to explain them as the result of crisis-induced, path-dependent search processes to find new institutional fixes for problems inherent in capital accumulation. Other periodizations give more weight to the impact of shifts in the balance of class forces, although these offer more powerful explanations when related to broader strategic contexts. We build on such insights but attempt to ground them in...

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