Abstract: The Recasting of the Factory by Its Networks: Two Transformations of the Peugeot Car Plant at Sochaux (1948-1998)

Nicolas Hatzfeld

Abstract

In the ordinary way, the factory is seen as a building that houses machinery, raw materials, supplies, and finally the people engaged in productive activity. Historians, however, have shown the inadequacy of this approximation. As Michelle Perrot defines it, "The specificity of the factory is its integration by technology." In this paper, the focus will be on the car factory, more particularly on the Peugeot factory at Sochaux. During the second half of the twentieth century, the Sochaux plant experienced a spectacular growth, and then a fall. These two periods correspond to two different dynamics of technological integration. The first corresponds to the construction of a coordinated network of mechanized flows connecting the old shops and integrating the different stages of production. The second was also marked by a reorganization. While production fell in the shops, the development of an information technology network led to the coordination of production extending beyond the physical plant, beyond the enterprise itself. The factory escaped from the factory, in a fundamental change of scale. These changes of definition lead one first to think about an ever-greater socialization of work, and also to reconsider the relationship between the factory and the business.