Labor Disorders in Neoliberal Italy
Mobbing, Well-Being, and the Workplace
Publication Year: 2011
Psychological harassment at work, or "mobbing," has become a significant public policy issue in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. Mobbing has given rise to specialized counseling clinics, a new field of professional expertise, and new labor laws. For Noelle J. Molé, mobbing is a manifestation of Italy's rapid transition from a highly protectionist to a market-oriented labor regime and a neoliberal state. She analyzes the classification of mobbing as a work-related illness, the deployment of preventive public health programs, the relation of mobbing to gendered work practices, and workers' use of the concept of mobbing to make legal and medical claims, with implications for state policy, labor contracts, and political movements. For many Italian workers, mobbing embodies the social and psychological effects of an economy and a state in transition.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Series: New Anthropologies of Europe
For Russian linguist and literary philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin, the word "lies on the borderline between oneself and the other. The word in language is half someone else's" (Bakhtin 1981: 293). Eloquently, he asks us to imagine a single word connected on a great invisible chain to every time it has been spoken before, with its precise inflection and saturated with its historical context.
Mirroring its object of study, this book is the product of multiple kinds of labor. My mentor, Laura Ahearn, tirelessly listened, read, suggested, clarified, motivated, encouraged, and cheered for me beginning with the first funding proposal for this book. I thank Angelique Haugerud for her energy, enthusiasm, and clever suggestions in our many chats, and Louisa Schein for helping me to push the envelope and for encouraging my thinking to be ...
"She said, 'Everyone has a cross to bear,' " Cinzia uttered in a quivering voice. Her remarkably large brown eyes met mine briefly before she resettled her gaze downward, twisting her thumb across her palm. Three of us sat in close proximity around a glossy wooden desk positioned near a window, which offset the cold institutional illumination with sunlight. The view was less than comforting: a large parking lot. ...
1. Toward Neoliberalism
While mobbing is a term recognized throughout the European Union, it has come to have a particular urgency and salience in Italy. Mapping the field of Italy's dynamic political, social, and economic orders uncovers the historical conditions and tensions from which mobbing emerges. The discourse about mobbing reflects cultural apprehensions about the worst of global capitalism, reiterating its risks, effects, and human costs. ...
2. The Politics of Precariousness
In the world of Italian blogs about work, one proclaims: "Mobbing is a monster which appears at the tip of your toes, delicately, it intensifies with its little criticisms, then grows into professional and human isolation . . . and ends up with public verbal aggression and culminates in the end of employment" (di Tacco 2008). The blog's author positions mobbing, not the mobber, as monstrous. Mobbing enters and ...
3. Existential Damages
Mr. G worked as an engineer for Telecom in Pisa, where he was responsible for the Tuscan maritime area (Tribunal of Pisa, April 10, 2002, in Meucci 2006: 490). He had been instructed to minimize the overtime of his staff and had taken measures to follow those orders. However, his actions provoked a union reaction and, in response, Mr. G filed suit to protect his job position. Following ...
4. Feminizing the Inflexible
Neoliberal work regimes reduce labor costs not only by outsourcing, but also by building and sustaining a growing body of peripheral or semi-permanent labor, often dubbed flexible labor (Harvey 1989; Sennett 1998; Collins 2006). Within the semantic architecture of flexibility is the figure of a pliable, adaptable, docile worker. However, for working-class and middle-class workers in Italy, the idea ...
5. Living It on the Skin
Mobbing's endangerment to health has been foundationally part of its national and transnational circulation, as in Italy's minister of health's proclamation that cigarette smoking and mobbing were among Italy's top national health problems in 2000 (La Repubblica 2000b); and the 2001 European Parliament resolution which called attention to the effect of mobbing on workers' health (Mobbing in the Workplace, A5-0283, 2001). ...
6. The Sex of Mobbing
On the top floor of an old university building on a December day in 2004, the typical northeastern Italian fog hung so low that the windows were obscured by clouds. Inside, unlike the seemingly apathetic fog, I found the mood to be slightly tense. Eight women working in various professional capacities, from student to professor to technical assistant to attorney, were training to become ...
7. Project Well-Being
"Protecting the health of the worker must be understood as their well-being [benessere] and not just as an absence of pathology" (Lavoro Oggi 2005). In 2005, two years after the official recognition of a mobbing-caused work-related illness, Italy's Workers Compensation Authority (INAIL) publicized a message to health institutions to focus on well-being, not pathology. A concentration ...