PS491-004/PS711-007 - The Politics of the North American Auto Industry: The United States and/vs. Canada

IntroductionSyllabusPaper TopicsResources

Dr. Ernest J. Yanarella
OT # 1659

Significant changes in the global political economy and a major restructuring of national, state, and local economies have placed the future of the American automobile industry in jeopardy. This topical seminar will explore the politics of the North American auto industry in comparative and theoretical perspective. That is, the main focus of the course will be on the history, politics, and changes in the Big Three in the United States and Canada. Where appropriate, the issues and themes informing this course will be examined by setting North American developments against the unfolding realities of Germany, Japan, and (less so) Britain.

Special attention will be given to: globalizing trends in the international automobile marketplace, the emergence of Japanese and South Korean transplants in North America, the challenge of flexible production methods to traditional assembly line production, the problem of overcapacity in the international auto market, the role of union labor in the reorganization of the auto workplace in Canada and the United States, the technological advances in automobile construction and fuel efficiency (i.e., the hypercar), and the prospects for renewal of North American auto manufacturing in the face of global competition.

Besides required texts and supplemental readings, the seminar will offer several films and documentaries for class discussion and a tour of the Georgetown/Toyota plant for those enrolled in the onsite course. Students enrolled in the distance learning section are welcome to participate in viewing the films or attending the Georgetown tour.

For those students in the onsite course, the course requirements include a mid-term for undergraduates and a research paper for graduate students (each accounting for 40% of the final grade) and a final examination worth 60% of the overall course grade for both student constituencies. Undergraduates have the option of substituting the research paper option for the mid-term. Detailed instructions regarding the research paper appear on the Web and accompany the printed syllabus. Additional resources on site or accompanying the syllabus are also provided.

For students taking the online section of the course, course requirements include a midterm (accounting for 30% of your grade) and a final examination (worth 50% of your grade), with the remaining 20% of your final grade based on your performance on periodic assignments announced over the course of the semester. The last will be rather generously graded, but note well: you will be penalized if the tasks are submitted late. Failure to submit a mandatory assignment will be awarded with a zero (0). Extra credit assignments throughout the semester are possible.

The required texts are listed below. The Green and Yanarella and Holtz books are available from the UK and Kennedy Bookstores. The other required readings are found in the Young Library electronic reserves or on the course Web page [].

Green, William C., and Ernest J. Yanarella, eds. North American Auto Unions in Crisis: Lean Production as Contested Terrain. Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 1996

Kay, Jane Holtz. Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America, and How We Can Take It Back. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997.