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Blue Collars and Highbrows: Assessing the Role of Culture in Italian Operaismo (1956-1967)

Intervento di Fabio Guidali

Abstract: Between the late 1950s and the early 1960s, a political tendency known as operaismo [Workerism] found fertile ground in the Italian Marxist non-orthodox political milieux as a response to the accelerated industrialization and the consequent harsh working conditions in factories. Operaismo considered factory life the focal point of contemporary capitalist society, raising criticism against the Italian Communist Party, which was allegedly detached from blue collars, and supported workers’ councils instead of top-down led unions. Several sociologists and young militants began investigating the lives of laborers at their working place, and urged factory workers to write reports, which were the basis of their same activism. Data and surveys published in Workerist periodicals such as Quaderni Rossi (1961-1966) and classe operaia (1964-1967) are still nowadays significant sources in order to study the industrial environment of the time. However, they are far from being neutral, since all the material that was collected and published has to be read through the lenses of the intellectuals’ self-perception of that time. In fact, researchers were also self-justifying their activism and questioning their role in society by the very shaping of surveys and of periodicals. The paper retraces intellectuals’ self-perception within operaismo and is mainly based on the writings by Raniero Panzieri, initiator of the tendency, and Mario Tronti, according to whom the analysis of class struggle on a theoretical level coincided with the practical organization of class struggle itself, letting theory and militancy merge. Moreover, the paper highlights the relationship with culture expressed by the group around classe operaia, which consisted in denying universal values by taking the one-sided point of view of the working class.

Università di Stoccolma
venerdì 29 maggio 2020
ore 14:00 15:30
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29 maggio 2020
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