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Indeed, for Bologna, ‘purely pessimistic’ accounts of post-Fordism romanticise stable employment and an impossible return to Fordism, obscuring two important processes affecting the desirability of such a return. Firstly, the shift from the ‘entrepreneurial mentality’ typical of Fordism (aiming to foster and preserve know-how and skills) to the ‘financial mentality’ typical of post-Fordism (prioritising short-term flexible objectives) has negatively affected human resource management, favouring the degradation of work within complex organisations (pp.166-167). This has exerted effects both in ‘absolute’ (length of working time) and ‘relative’ (workload per worker) terms, ‘especially for “white collar” tasks requiring specific competences’ (Bologna, Banfi, 2011, p.24 and, in greater detail, ch.3). Secondly, the introduction and rapid diffusion of ICTs has allowed the birth of new professional figures and a more direct access to the market for individuals,122 encouraging and supporting the ‘autonomous’ or ‘semi-autonomous work of those offering external services to firms’ (Bologna, 2007, p.159) and the ‘domestication’ of work (p.126).
the dot-com bubble, where the crisis and decomposition of the middle class have taken the form of the ‘deterioration and marginalisation of human capital’ (p.48).
Thus, to reconceptualise and renew coalition-building practices and processes within postFordism, Bologna proposes ‘second generation autonomous workers’ as ‘best candidates for’ re-founding ‘society on new and more humane bases’ (Bologna, 2007, p.70). In outlining the characteristics of this social figure in 1997 (Bologna, Fumagalli, 1997), Bologna’s ‘intent’ was the same inspiring him to elaborate the concept of the mass worker: that of creating ‘a symbolical universe around a way of organising productive labour having characteristics of “typicality” for a specific historical epoch’, with both social figures encompassing ‘the coercive character of a specific organisation of capital’ and the emancipatory potential ‘intrinsic to certain values of which’ they ‘are bearers’, respectively egalitarianism and self-determination (Bologna, 2007, p.35).123 However, according to Bologna, for second generation autonomous work to be an appropriate unit for analysis, active labour market policies and coalition-building practices, two important misconceptions require rectification. Firstly, the assumption that second generation autonomous work can be conceptualised as an ordinary business is incorrect and misses a fundamental analytical distinction characterising the firm: ownership, management and waged labour are distinct social roles and, while the first two can overlap, the separation of ownership and labour is fundamental for an organisation to qualify analytically as a firm. Second generation autonomous work, on the other hand, draws its specificity from the conflation of these roles into a single social figure, a condition which is constitutive of both the risks and the opportunities of independent work (pp.63-64). Thus, for Bologna, the assimilation of second generation autonomous work to a “business” as opposed to “independent work” amounts to a mystifying ideological operation, forcibly incorporating ‘the activity of autonomous work in the symbolic and cultural sphere of the capitalist firm instead of that of work’ (p.65). Consequently, active labour market policies aiming to promote and assist second generation autonomous work following the methodologies and prescriptions of business schools are seen by Bologna as failing to address the motivations and needs of own-account workers. Secondly, Bologna deplores that new forms of work within postFordism are generally understood as atypical employment, a ‘mental scheme’ which, in his opinion, frames contemporary forms of labour as deviations from the ‘archetype’ of the indefinite duration contract of employment, and consequently leads researchers to ‘neglect’ Bologna clearly and cautiously states that, in doing so, he never thought the mass worker and second generation autonomous work as exhaustive of, respectively, the entire working class and post-Fordist labour force (Bologna, 2007, p.35). Furthermore, he sees the second generation autonomous worker as ‘a compromise figure’ which ‘will never overturn the system’ (p.36). Regardless of Bologna’s intentions, though, these figures have acquired a paradigmatic character of their own within operaismo and postoperaismo. The reasons for this will be explained and discussed in section 3.4.
the theme of coalition-building (Bologna, Banfi, 2011, p.20). However, according to Bologna, this reading of post-Fordism is fallacious, as post-Fordist work is not distinguished by the ‘form of the contract’ but, rather, by the changing ‘legal nature’ of the employment relation (Bologna, 2007, p.161). For Bologna, post-Fordist employment relations, also due to the misconception of independent work as firm, are thought of as commercial relations between equal parties, both identified as enterprises, with the worker as external supplier receiving a service fee upon completion, as opposed to a wage at the end of the month (p.161). The reproduction of their labour force rests entirely on workers, as the nature of the contractual relation excludes them from both the wage relation and citizenship rights such as benefits, pension treatment, etc. (p.162). These conditions, coupled with the ideology of ‘total commitment to work’ characterising the middle class in the boom of the new economy (p.70) and the pervasiveness of ICTs allowing forms of ‘digital piecework’ (Bologna, Banfi, 2011, pp.181-184), have led to ‘the most significant phenomenon of post-Fordism, namely the lengthening of the social working day’ (Bologna, 2007, p.92). However, for Bologna this has received ‘scant or no attention’ from the ‘theorists of “immaterial labour”’, because of their characterisation of labour with respect to the features of the goods produced (immaterial as opposed to material) and simultaneous neglect of the ‘transformations of the salary form’ and ‘compensation of independent work’ (p.92).
By contrast with the theorists of immaterial labour, rather than characterising work and its changing status within contemporary capitalism after the “dematerialisation” of production, Bologna understands labour (together with its status and condition) with respect to its location within the productive cycle, and the objective and subjective elements shaping its material and mental universe. This endeavour has framed Bologna’s interest in the issues surrounding intellectual and ‘high professional content’ work since his involvement with the journal Classe Operaia (Bologna, 2007, p.108), combining his roots in operaismo with his deep knowledge of the Weimarian sociological debates on the middle class, intellectuals, self-employment, and knowledge workers (Bologna, 2007, I “lavoratori della conoscenza” dentro e fuori l’impresa, pp.108-136; Bologna, 1997b). Characterising the Kopfarbeiter (‘worker of the mind’, as opposed to Handarbeiter, ‘worker of the arm’, Bologna, 2007, p.111) as waged employee integrated within a corporate structure and, as such, ‘subject to the same discipline as the manual worker’ (p.111), the Weimarian sociological debates on knowledge workers provide Bologna with an antidote to contemporary discourses praising the latter for their independence, autonomy and greater participation to decision-making within decentralised organisational structures.124 Indeed, as Bologna points out, knowledge workers within corporations are not necessarily creative and have very limited scope for innovation, as corporations foster creativity and innovation only within the limits of their organisational structure, culture, language, habits, etc. (p.101). Moreover, the concept of second generation autonomous work owes its greatest debt to the Weimar sociologist Emil Lederer (1882-1939).
In his footsteps, Bologna deems ‘essential’, when analysing ‘new forms of work’ and ‘cognitive work’ in particular, to outline their socio-psychological habitus (sozial-psychischen Habitus, the constellation of ‘strongly subjective elements’ defining constraints, potentialities, mentality and anthropological status of distinct social figures, p.127; similarly, see Bologna, 1997b).
Deploying Lederer’s method and conceptual apparatus allows Bologna to debunk ‘the common opinion’ about ‘“cognitive” labour’, namely that ‘its incidence on the overall labour force increases when applied research and technological innovation’ have greater bearing on the production process, or when ‘new tertiary functions’ (such as marketing and public relations) increase their weight within corporate organisations (Bologna, 2007, p.95). For Lederer, ‘“cognitive” work’ and ‘knowledge workers’ increase when firms do not limit themselves to offering goods on the market but offer also ‘organisational procedures, formalised systems of relations, protocols’ (p.95), processes that Bologna recognises, for example, in the current expansion and centrality of supply chain management (pp.82-91, 95) and large-scale use of computers (p.95). Thus, according to Bologna, ‘second generation autonomous work is the true “cognitive” class’, because it sells to its customers ‘not only a specific competence’, but also ‘an organisation of work’ requiring ‘to associate knowledge of formalised procedures’ to inventiveness and ‘relational talents’ (pp.105-106). However, with computers being both a ‘product saleable on the market’ and an ‘organisational system’, for Bologna the ‘knowledge worker’s “enslavement”’ becomes traceable to ‘the ubiquity of the work station’ (p.97), with significant consequences for the processes and practices of coalition-building.
Indeed, as the mass worker is ‘inextricably linked’ to mass production technology and the conveyor belt, Bologna considers knowledge workers ‘inextricably linked to the laptop computer in its double function of instrument of elaboration-communication of thought and/or data’ and ‘organ of a specific organisation of labour … characterised by the ubiquity of Ironically, as argued in section 3.4, this antidote comes equipped with a “poisonous” Schumpeterian influence of its own. It is worthwhile noting here, albeit in passing, that the purposeful dialogue and debate with authors and traditions alien (if not opposed) to Marxism is a distinguishing feature of operaismo. While in the case under discussion this is exemplified by Bologna’s engagement with Weimarian sociology and the Schumpeterian echoes within it, another example is readily provided by Tronti’s engagement with the work and thought of Weber (see Farris, 2011 for an account). On a similar note, and not without a hint of malice, it can be suggested that Negri’s faith in the autonomy of the social, the commons, and their capacity for self-organisation (discussed in the second chapter of this thesis), resonates with Hayek’s catallaxy (for a discussion of which, for example, see Fleetwood, 1995).
the workplace’ and the ‘domestication of work’ (Bologna, 2007, pp.96-97). This inseparability (of the locus) of ‘modern work’ from the ‘personal computer’ (Bologna, Banfi, 2011, p.12) allows for virtual (as opposed, and in addition, to traditional) migration for intellectual (as opposed to manual) work, facilitates professional mobility in the form of transition from waged to own-account work (pp.10-11), and, ultimately, reshapes the ‘confines of mobility’ (p.11). This is important because, in Bologna’s opinion, besides working time and the organisation of work (especially with respect to the articulation of the working day and pace of work), the locus of work also influences the presence or absence of ‘dynamics of sociality’ (p.12), constituting and providing the material conditions for ‘the spontaneous creation of cohesion between people subject to the same disciplinary order’ (p.19). Indeed, as Bologna points out, in the tradition of the twentieth century workers’ movement solidarity and coalition-building arose from ‘within the workplace, among people carrying out the same tasks’, sharing ‘the same working hours’ and ‘salaries’ (Bologna, 2007, p.14). Similarly, coalitions were built and pursued through public meetings tied to a physical place (p.20).
However, with the transformations of work described above, Bologna believes that, while the ‘immediate sense of recognition’ between workers fades, it is also possible that workers develop a ‘mental and psychological attitude’ leading them to believe they acquire greater margins of freedom the more individual their path and individualistic their behaviour (Bologna, Banfi, 2011, p.19). Thus, for Bologna (and his co-author Banfi), If ‘loc[i] of work’ and ‘model[s] of civilisation’ are linked by ‘a genetic chain’ inevitably passing ‘through the stage of coalition’, the disappearance or radical change of a specific way of organising work calls for different processes and practices of coalition-building (p.20). Therefore, ‘a coalition of’ own-account ‘knowledge workers’ must avoid the pitfalls and inadequacies of understanding second generation autonomous work as atypical work (p.20). However, for Bologna, the appeal of
professionalism, the ‘ideology which created the bourgeois identity’ (p.21), is equally insidious: