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Discontinuity and the Emergence of Flexible Production: Garment Production in Toronto, 1901-1931

Daniel Hiebert
Economic Geography
Vol. 66, No. 3 (Jul., 1990), pp. 229-253
Published by: Clark University
DOI: 10.2307/143399
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/143399
Page Count: 25
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Discontinuity and the Emergence of Flexible Production: Garment Production in Toronto, 1901-1931
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Abstract

The economic and spatial evolution of Toronto's garment industry during the early 20th century is examined. Two stages of development are outlined. The 1901-1915 period was marked by the rapid growth of large, vertically integrated clothing factories. This trend was reversed after 1915, however, when small, vertically disintegrated clothing firms began to recapture the market for ready-made apparel. These economic changes were accompanied by equally profound shifts in the geography of clothing production. An explanation for the discontinuous evolution of clothing production must include a careful investigation of the relationship between labor and capital, the nature of subcontracting, and the ethnic composition of the garment work force. In focusing on the clothing industry, this study highlights some of the limitations of the concept of Fordism as it is currently used in economic geography. Fordist forms of production and labor organization were introduced by garment manufacturers during the early 20th century but, after a period of initial success, these experiments proved to be failures. Standardized and flexible forms of production ultimately came to coexist in an uneasy symbiosis.

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