Exactly 101 years ago today, the first Ford Model T car came off the production line in Detroit, Michigan. Not only was this the birth of an iconic car, it also marked the beginning of mass motor car production, with implications for personal mobility that revolutionised not just transport but also the nature of modern society. It also caused the development of various social theories that go under the title of ‘Fordism‘, which are generally associated with the social and economic consequences of mass production and consumption.
Notwithstanding technological change, economic developments and social upheavals, the major characteristics of modern society that followed from the development of the Model T remain with us today. Cars themselves are produced rather differently now, but the mass availability of consumer products is still a key feature of life. Governments must on the whole prioritise the flow of production in the interests of consumers in order to maintain social stability, and international trade on a massive scale dominates the substance of international relations on the political level.
So,m it can probably be argued that the arrival of the Model T at the beginning of the 20th century has defined us more than most of the political theories of that century. It will be interesting to see whether this remains true as we move into the new millennium.