The aim of this empirical research is to outline a qualitative analysis on subjectivity in knowledge workers, placing it within the broader debate on the subject. The analysis takes as its main methodological references Bourdieu’s “Practical Reason” (1985) and the Italian tradition of social enquiry and co-research (Alasia and Montaldi, 1960; Alquati, 1976; 1993; Fiameni, 2006; Beccalli, 2009; Pugliese, 2009). The objective of the research and its methodology have favoured the qualitative dimension of the in-depth examination of the cases selected. The thirty-nine semi-structured interviews contain narratives of life and work experience. The substantive categories of the narratives revolve, in the first instance, around the informal nature of relations what has proved crucial for an understanding of the individual life-stories. The condition of the knowledge worker has been examined on the basis of an initial guiding hypothesis in which risk affects individuals in diverse ways. The results of interview analysis show that workers’ perception of risk does not focus exclusively, or even principally, on the lack of formal protection provided by a contract of work, but rather on the risk of a breakdown of the informal protection on which this socio-professional world relies heavily. In today’s knowledge-firm individuals, even those with high skills levels, portray their working experience as risk transferred from the system to the capabilities of the individual who must take on the responsibility of building a career, switching between different situations and forms of contract. Given that work today demands a greater baggage of know-how and the putting into play of knowledge, emotions, informal relations, communication skills, subjectivity, individual intentionality, relationality, the capacity to draw up one’s own path become important if not crucial (Regalia and Sartor, 1992; Touraine, 2006; Butera, 2008). Informality in its various aspects (organisational, of working relations or of training) appears permanently ambivalent. It is not possible to read informality solely as a resource or, on the contrary, solely as a trap of precariousness. It is not possible to limit our interpretation of those generically atypical and flexible jobs by assuming the informality to be basically in one direction (precariousness and weakness of protection). 216 By clustering cases we have been able to delineate a prevalent type of knowledge worker profile in which the elements of strength in informality are presented jointly with critical elements. The typical ambivalent profile includes those persons for whom informality has had both positive and negative impacts on their professional career in varying shades of resource and limitation. Temporary contracts, sense of temporariness, “playing it by ear” are found side by side with an identification with and passion for the job, learning, flexibility and spontaneous cooperation. Open-ended working hours, an aptitude for working to targets goes together with a great investment of time and energy (Sennett, 2008). One might say: elevated informality, self-exploitation, but not alienation. It is therefore important to manage to stay within the socio-professional network. The jobs are insecure but with substantial motivational and emotional rewards, and lower pay is accepted even when great commitment is demanded; in other cases earnings may be high but discontinuous. It is a type of working condition which, with its characteristics, would appear as typical in an upper level of work, that of knowledge working, (albeit with its plurality and differences), as were long-term relationships, high salaries, proceduralisation, repetitiveness of tasks and alienation in the type of work prevalent in the large enterprise in the Fordist phase. There is a sort of compulsive, lively and coactive sociality, in which the norm is to be in the network (Sproull and Kiesler, 1991). Knowledge work often informally connects people and objectives in a porosity of fluid roles interchangeable among various projects. This means that informal learning through participation in work is the way favoured for the possibility of developing skills. Being in the network, an informal area of temporary roles with temporary rights and duties, seems be the sole condition for not being excluded from everything: access to contracts-projects, income, identity. In a field in which digital technologies and the workers’ aspirations of self-realisation appear to be one, knowledge becomes obsolete and is updated in an extraordinarily rapid way, new standards proliferate, individuals feel the need and the pressure to keep up with the standards of knowledge, the desire to stay on the edge simultaneously crushes energies dedicated to the company and towards self-realisation at work. More than a specific salary or particular professional and contractual role, it is the wish to maintain one’s own activity in the field of the knowledge economy which is the hallmark of the socioprofessional condition of the knowledge worker. The participants are proud of being able to choose their activity, of creating something, of being able to manage their work schedules, the type of project and activity, and, more generally, of the very special condition of becoming their “own boss”. In the single working experiences the workers perceive themselves as “creators of sense” (Menger, 2002; Gazier, 2006; Pilger, 2007) – or consider significant, in performing their roles, the aspect of content creation. Autonomy, then, constitutes, an essential feature (Boltanski and Chiappello, 1999; Bologna, 2006) of work in the knowledge economy and is for this very reason fundamentally appealing to those who aspire to enter this world of work. To do this it is necessary to stay within the informal network of relations; it is indispensable to possess up-to-date and saleable skills, learning and a healthy dose of personal motivation and a mind for self-determination. The centre of gravity turns revolves around these elements. The 217 choice for contractual autonomy or, vice versa, the propensity for work as a company employee seem less significant than might have been imagined initially. There is a young segment composed of new professionals or potentially such, unprotected by professional registers and orders and not supported adequately by the statutes for company employees. The subjectivity of these individuals, in the gaps in representation, escapes laws and professional bodies’ declarations. The propensity for self-fulfilment, however, does not result in entrepreneurship. These are people with a project, horizons, ethics and a no collar mentality (Ross, 2003), and values out of line with those typical of an employee and with those of professional or entrepreneurial work. What emerge are social ties, a professional and existential dream to fulfil, with the conditions, constraints, resources and opportunities offered. The actors express an orientation which, in our view, cannot be assimilated to the desire to “set up in business”. The dimensions which are more frequently outlined are, rather, the propensity for self-fulfilment, self-determination and autonomy.
|Titolo:||Precarietà e innovazione nel posfordismo : una ricerca qualitativa sui lavoratori della conoscenza a Torino|
ARMANO, EMILIANA (Primo)
|Data di pubblicazione:||gen-2010|
|Parole Chiave:||informational capitalism ; postfordism ; risk society ; knowledge work ; network-centric organization ; subjectivity ; social enquiry ; co-research ; sociology of work|
|Citazione:||Precarietà e innovazione nel posfordismo : una ricerca qualitativa sui lavoratori della conoscenza a Torino / E. Armano. - Bologna : Odoya, 2010 Jan. - ISBN 978-88-96026-26-7.|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||05 - Volume|