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Living It on the Skin: Italian States, Working Illness

In: Social Issues

Submitted By noellemole
Words 18731
Pages 75
´ NOELLE J. MOLE PRINCETON UNIVERSITY

Living it on the skin:
Italian states, working illness

A B S T R A C T
In this article, I examine the codification of an Italian work-related illness caused by mobbing, a type of psychological harassment that emerged at the moment neoliberal policies transformed Italy’s historically protectionist labor market. I trace how the medicalization of mobbing has expanded workers’ access to compensation, resources, and discursive tools for criticizing neoliberal labor conditions, even as it has produced new structures of surveillance. I unravel the neoliberal politics of a state that protects workers’ health yet governs worker–citizens through an apparatus of medical experts. I find that workers’ labor problems are experienced and managed as bodily problems in ways important to remaking Italian citizenship. [neoliberalism, state, labor, biopolitics, citizenship, bodies, Italy]

An institution, even an economy, is complete and fully viable only if it is durably objectified . . . in bodies. —Pierre Bourdieu1 It was the spirit of capitalism made flesh. —Upton Sinclair2 n 2003, a new psychophysical disturbance, organizational coercion pathology (disturbi psichici e fisici da costrittivit` organizzativa sul a lavoro), or OCP, became a work-related illness that was insurable by an Italian state public-health institution (Istituto Nazionale per l’Assicurazione contro gli Infortuni sul Lavoro [INAIL] 2003).3 Telltale symptoms, often likened to those of posttraumatic stress disorder (disturbo post traumatico del stress), include anxiety and depression. According to medical experts, its cause is related to a form of harassment recognized widely in much of Europe (e.g., Amato et al. 2002; Ege 2001)— something Italians call “mobbing” (il mobbing; Ege 1996; Leymann 1990).4 In the early 1990s, mobbing referred to the isolation, mistreatment, and...

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