Precarious Workers

History of Debates, Political Mobilization, and Labor Reforms in Italy
$85.00 / €71.00 / £61.00
Publication date: 
268 pages

The recent vast upsurge in social science scholarship on job precarity has generally little to say about earlier forms of this phenomenon. Eloisa Betti’s monograph convincingly demonstrates on the example of Italy that even in the post-war phase of Keynesian stability and welfare state, precarious labor was an underlying feature of economic development. She examines how in this short period exceptional politics of labor stability prevailed. The volume then presents the processes whereby labor precarity regained momentum— under the name of flexibility— in the post-Fordist phase from the early 1980s, taking on new forms in the Craxi and Berlusconi eras.

Multiple actors are addressed in the analysis. The book gives voice to intellectuals, scholars, politicians and trade unionists as they have framed the concept and debates on precarious work from the 1950s onwards. Views of labor law experts, politicians and public servants are investigated in regard to labor regulations. Positions of the very precarians are explored, ranging from rural women, industrial homeworkers and blue-collar workers to physicians, university researchers and trainees, unveiling the emergence of anti-precarity social movements. The continuous role of women’s associations and feminist groups in opposing labor precarity since the 1950s is prominently exposed.  

Acknowledgments and Note to The English Edition
Chapter 1. The Other Face of the Boom: The Discovery of Precarity
1.1. The invention of precarity: Paolo Sylos Labini's contribution
1.1.1 The inquiry into conditions in Sicily
1.1.2 The Fuà–Sylos Labini proposal for economic planning
1.1.3 Reception of Sylos Labini between Rome and Geneva
1.2 Precarity thy name is woman: Genesis of a debate
1.2.1 The CGIL's female trade-unionists
1.2.2 The Union of Italian Women
1.2.3 Communist Women
1.2.4 The National Commission for Women Workers
1.3 Against precarity: The fight for "job stability"
1.3.1 Invisible precarity: Industrial home-based workers
1.3.2 Precarity in the fields: The dream of becoming employees
1.3.3 Against bogus seasonal work: The food industry workers
1.3.4 For a secure annual wage: Construction workers
1.3.5 Precarity on the ward: The hospital doctors' dispute
Chapter 2. The Construction of Stable Work between Parliament and Labor Law
2.1 The parliamentary inquiry into the conditions of workers in Italy
2.1.1 A political alliance for the improvement of the working-class condition
2.1.2 "Precarity" in the documentation of the parliamentary inquiry
2.1.3 The parliamentary inquiry and the new labor law
2.2 Legislation on "particular labor relationships" during the boom years
2.2.1 Home-based industrial work
2.2.2 Sub-contracted work
2.2.3 The fixed-term contract
2.3 New regulations on dismissals in the nineteen-sixties
2.3.1 Dismissal for marriage
2.3.3 Individual dismissals
Chapter 3. Stability or Precarity? The Two Faces of the Long Seventies
3.1 The achievement of stability
3.1.1 The Statute of Workers' Rights and Article 18
3.1.2 The new home-based industrial work law
3.2 In the shadow of the crisis: Industrial restructuring and precarity
3.2.1 Precarious work in the studies of the seventies
3.2.2 Decentralization of production and precarity: The metalworking and textile-clothing industries
3.3 Intellectual precarity and intellectual elaboration on precarity
3.3.1 Precarity and the woman question
3.3.2 Precarity and the 1977 movement
3.3.3 Intellectual precarity between schools and universities
Chapter 4. The Myth of Flexibility during the Roaring Eighties
4.1 The flexibility paradigm in economic-sociological thinking
4.1.1 Flexibility and precarity in the international debate
4.1.2 The flexibility myth and the eclipse of precarity in the Italian debate
4.2 Labor policies and legislative changes in the shade of flexibility
4.2.1 Flexibility in Parliament: The Craxi government's reforms
4.2.2 Labor legislation and the flexibility challenge: Atypical contracts
4.2.3 Bargained flexibility in the trade-union debate and collective agreements of the eighties
4.3 The utopia of flexibility between freedom and liberation from work
4.3.1 Post-Fordism, flexibility, and freedom
4.3.2 The femininization and flexibilization of work
Chapter 5. The New Explosion of Precarious Work between the Nineties and the Aughts
5.1 Legislative changes and labor policy between the old and new millennia
5.1.1 The European Employment Strategy and the flexicurity myth
5.1.2 From the 1992 Protocol to the Treu Reform (1997)
5.1.3 The White Paper and the Biagi Law (2003)
5.1.4 The Inquiry into Precariat (2006) and the missed reform of the Prodi government
5.1.5 The "Statute of works": From the idea to the bill (1997–2006)
5.2 Precarious subjectivity and new forms of self-organization in the "aughts"
5.2.1 A "new" social class? Forms, dimensions, and definitions of precariat
5.2.2 From Mayday to Euro Mayday: A European movement against precarity
5.2.3 Precarity thy name is (also) women: Feminist subjectivities in the new millennium
5.3 Precarity between artistic-cultural portrayals and political-trade union reflections
5.3.1 The culture of precarity
5.3.2 From invisible to social emergency: The precarians in the public debate
5.3.3 Representing the precarians: The birth and development of the atypical workers' trade unions
Chapter 6. The Normalization of Precarity during the Years of the Global Crisis
6.1 Precarity and global crisis: A necessary periodization
6.1.1 New frontiers of precarity amid exploitation, unemployment, and unpaid work
6.1.2 The normalization of precarity: The public debate and the labor market
6.1.3 Italy seen from abroad: Precarity and emigration
6.2 Precarity and legislative reform during the crisis years: An assessment
6.2.1 The Fornero Law (2012)
6.2.2 The Jobs Act (2014)
6.2.3 The debate on the reform of Article 18
6.3 Against Precarity: Mobilization, campaigns, and forms of resistance
6.3.1 Precarity and gender discrimination: Against blank resignations
6.3.2 Precarity and new slavery: Against illegal labor brokerage
6.3.3 Precarity and research: The mobilization of the Universities
6.3.4 Beyond precarity: A charter for universal labor rights?

“Precarious Workers is a very timely study of an increasingly important subject. There is little enough English-language material on Italian labor, and even less that addresses the issue of labor precarity from a feminist-gender perspective. With its focus on Italy, but with an awareness of developments outside of it, this story contributes a historical understanding to the existing international literature on the phenomenon of precarity. In so doing, the book fills a gap in our understanding of the global problem of precarious work, while bringing a fresh perspective to the subject. We need more studies like this.”
“This is a highly original book. In terms of ambition, the scope of the research, and the rich conceptualization, this book is among the most significant works on precarious labour not only in Italy but internationally. It is perhaps in its combination of social and intellectual history that the originality of this book comes through most clearly. Betti achieves a fine balance between highlighting Italian peculiarities and offering a wider, internationally relevant framework. As this Italian case study illuminates wider contradictions, it will be of great interest to not only scholars of modern Italy, but to labor, social, and gender historians of the industrialized world more broadly.”