Labor Disorders in Neoliberal Italy: Mobbing, Well-Being, and the Workplace

Labor Disorders in Neoliberal Italy: Mobbing, Well-Being, and the Workplace

Labor Disorders in Neoliberal Italy: Mobbing, Well-Being, and the Workplace

Labor Disorders in Neoliberal Italy: Mobbing, Well-Being, and the Workplace

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

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. “[Any utterance] is but one link in a continuous chain of speech performances” (Vološinov 1973: 72). Words, then, belong in part to everyone along the chain; our own sense of what words mean only approximate these visible and invisible past usages.

My ethnography is about a single word: mobbing. I attend to it as a set of practices, images, discourses, fantasies, mechanisms of control, forms of embodied experiences, nodes of affect. Broadly conceived, my task has been to uncover how individuals came to strongly identify with the word mobbing, and how, given certain historical situations, this word became a crucial way for them to make sense of their experience and the world. This is a big story about a little word.

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