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Precariousness meets passion – Fields of conflict in editorial and social work

Kristin Carls

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This article deals with everyday work experiences in the two sectors of social and editorial work. It stems from two processes of co-research, involving a group of eleven editorial workers and journalists in Milan in 2011, and another group of 19 social workers in Turin in 2012. In both cases, co-research was understood as a tool by which to learn about conflicts and contradictions in everyday work, analyse one's own coping practices, understand the reasons for the absence of collective conflict capacities, and increase mobilisation. Both social and editorial work are traditionally associated with high workforce involvement, strong levels of identification with one's work, and intrinsic motivations related to personal interaction with the recipients of social services or the creative act of producing texts. This article explores how processes of precarisation affect such cognitive and emotional labour, and vice versa. This is done in two steps. First, current changes in work organisation and labour control are described, and a comparison is drawn between the sectors of editorial and social work. Second, workers’ daily experiences with management’s control strategies are analysed. Emerging areas of conflict and workers’ daily coping practices are identified. The focus is on how professional identities are impacted by experiences of precarisation and by the losses in autonomy and work quality that result from changing patterns of work organisation. Two questions are raised. First, how does the evident destabilisation of professional identities affect workplace consent and workers’ readiness to engage in emotional, creative, and/or social labour? Second, what are the consequences for workers’ involvement in collective action, their conflict capacities, and strategies?

Keywords: precarisation, professional identities, everyday experiences, coping practices, labour struggles