The Weight of the Printed Word

Text, Context and Militancy in Operaismo


In The Weight of the Printed Word, Steve Wright explores the creation and use of documents as a key dimension in the activities of the Italian workerists during the 1960s and 1970s. From leaflets and newspapers to books, internal documents and workers’ enquiries; the operaisti deployed a wide variety of printed materials in their efforts to organise amongst new subjectivities of mass rebellion.

As Wright demonstrates, the practice of working with print was a central part of what it meant to be a workerist or autonomist militant during these years: one that throws light both on the meaning of political engagement, as well as the challenges posed by the use of technologies of communication and by emergent social subjects.

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Steve Wright is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Information Technology, Monash University. He has written widely on operaismo, including Storming Heaven: Class Composition and Struggle in Italian Autonomist Marxism (Pluto, second edition, 2017).

Introduction: Print, Document Work, and Class Politics

1 What Are Militants? Ceto politico and ceto operaio

2 Texts Have Bodies Too: Towards a Materialist Approach to Document Work and Genre

3 Genre, Document Work and Militancy amongst the Operaisti: Some Preliminary Reflections

Part 1 The Workers’ Enquiry and Co-research

Introduction to Part 1

4 The Fiat Workers’ Enquiry of 1960–61: Setting the Scene

5 The Fiat Workers’ Enquiry of 1960–61: What Actually Happened?

6 The Meaning of the Workers’ Enquiry and Co-research in the Early 1960s

Part 2 Essays and Their Contexts

Introduction to Part 2

7 Cultural Production in the Italy of the ‘Economic Miracle’

8 The Essay and Its Discontents

9 The Role of the Review in Classical Workerism

10 The Book Trade and Academia

Part 3 Leaflets and Sundries

Introduction to Part 3

11 The Emergence of the Assemblea operai e studenti

12 The Assemblea’s Document Work

13 A Short Addendum on Pamphlets

Part 4 Potere Operaio

Introduction to Part 4

14 Debating Organisation in Print: Potop 1969–71

15 Other Elements of Potere Operaio’s Genre Repertoire

16 Two Brief Interludes: ‘In Praise of Illegal Work’ and ‘Sotto la Mole’

17 A Gamble That Failed: Potere Operaio del lunedì

Part 5 Internal Documents and Perspectives Papers

Introduction to Part 5

18 Internal Communication Concerning Potere Operaio’s Press and Organisation

19 ‘The Measures Taken’

20 Position Papers and Discussion Documents

Part 6 ‘Dites-le avec des pavés!’ Autonomist Newspapers and the Challenge of Radio

Introduction to Part 6

21 The Best Re(a)d Paper in Autonomia?

22 Senza Tregua – A Brief and Unhappy Existence?

23 ‘A Paper That Speaks, a Radio That Writes’: I Volsci and the Impact of Radio on the Printed Word

Part 7 Journals in a Minor Key

Introduction to Part 7

24 ‘The Firebrands of Porto Marghera’

25 ‘There Is No Housework in Marx’

Conclusion: Print, Document Work, and Class Politics

All interested in postwar Italian Marxism and social movements, and anyone concerned with the experience of Autonomia Operaia, Potere Operaio, Lotta Femminista, and operaismo as a political tendency.
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