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November 21, 2011
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v2.1 Reference

Labor Disorders in Neoliberal Italy

Mobbing, Well-Being, and the Workplace

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.

About the Author

Noelle J. Molé is a political and medical anthropologist. She teaches in the Expository Writing Program at New York University.


"Personal conflicts in the workplace can lead to absenteeism, poor productivity, and organizational dysfunction. Despite various state regulations that prohibit different kinds of discrimination, the problem of individual harassment is not easily identified or eliminated. Molé (anthropology, Princeton Univ.) examines 'mobbing' in Italy and explores its roots in neoliberal employment policies implemented by the government. A similar phenomenon occurs in the US, usually defined as "workplace bullying, emotional abuse, generalized workplace harassment, and status-blind harassment." The example of Italy focuses on the movement from a paternalistic welfare state to an economy based on entrepreneurialism, markets, property rights, and insecurity. From this perspective, mobbing is a tactic that induces employees to leave the firm and achieves downsizing without violating employment contracts. This study analyzes mobbing from a psychological and sociological perspective, examining its health effects on workers. Qualitative case studies document the behaviors associated with the somewhat ill-defined concept of mobbing as it occurs in Italian workplaces. While Italian law attempts to protect individual rights of safety and health, other legislation aimed to provide flexibility in labor markets undermines the effectiveness of civil safeguards. The consequence is an 'increasingly precarious and discontented workforce.' Summing Up: Recommended. Labor studies collections at graduate and research levels. —Choice"— R. L. Hogler, Colorado State University, July 2012

"Molé's exploration of mobbing in Italy is both informative and insightful. She offers readers in the United States insight into an entirely different way of interpreting many of the detrimental workplace changes that they, too, have experienced."—American Journal of Sociology

"This detailed and critical ethnography of neoliberalizing processes . . . will be of deep interest to scholars of labor and gender, the state, neoliberalism, and medical anthropology."—Anthropology of Work

"Recommended. Labor studies collections at graduate and research levels."—Choice

"Molé's book is an ethnographically sound and theoretically sophisticated contribution to the understanding of how neoliberal policies are experienced and embodied in Southern Europe, and also of how such policies are conceptualized in medical and legal terms. As such, it is recommended for those interested in the anthropology of Italy, for medical and legal anthropologists, and for students of labor relations."—American Ethnologist

"What does neoliberalism feel like? . . . Anyone interested in the social life of the precariat . . . should read Noelle Molé's Labor Disorders. This superb ethnography astonishes on many fronts and is a unique contribution to our understanding of what it means to live and breathe under a hyper-flexibilized labor regime."—Council for European Studies

"Labor Disorders is essential research for anyone interested in what happens to worker subjectivities under the neoliberal hegemony."—Work, Employment, and Society

"[A] rich case study of the articulation between the state, global capitalism, and the medicalized body. . . .The study is topically relevant, theoretically sophisticated, and methodologically sound.Sept. 2014"—MEDICAL ANTHROPOLOGICAL Quarterly

"In an admirably rigorous and thoughtful ethnography, Noelle J. Molé unpacks the crisis and contradictions of workplace mobbing in Italy. . . . Molé has not only impressively detailed a phenomenon of the Italian workplace, she has also elucidated many fascinating aspects of Italian society without resorting to stereotypes or misrepresentations, which has been noted as a problem in Mediterranean studies of the past."—Contemporary Sociology

"An important and path-breaking work . . . provocative and nuanced, theoretically sophisticated and ethnographically rich."—David G. Horn, Ohio State University

9780253223197 : labor-disorders-in-neoliberal-italy-mole
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228 Pages
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