DOI: 10.30443/POI2019-0017

Work as Language: Bianciardi vs Rossi-Landi

Angelo Nizza


There is an Italian philosophy of work that sees in language the element of novelty of contemporary capitalism. With this article I would like to show how the concept of linguistic work is the main topic of a research that mixes philosophical knowledge with other fields such as literature and semiotics. My purpose is to outline two pioneering models about the description of new forms of work that have increasingly become very important since the 1960s. The first model concerns the homological scheme of production by the Marxist philosopher and semiotician Ferruccio Rossi-Landi. On the basis of this scheme, the union between language and work is explained by the thesis language as work: communicative action can be described in terms of poiesis, the word is like a product, it has a use-value and an exchange-value such as any other commodity. The second model is by the anarchist writer Luciano Bianciardi. He focuses aspects that distinguish cultural industry from agriculture and Taylorfordist factory in Milan, in the age of economic boom. He links language to work and includes in production numerous features of communicative action, traditionally the prerogative of praxis as the identity between action and product. It is not language that becomes productive (language as work), but the exact opposite: what it matters is the linguistic becoming of work (work as language). The Bian-ciardi’s model, contained in the novel La vita agra (1962), offers a double advantage. First, it does not conceive language as instrumental action, preserving the virtuosic and performative nature of the word; second, it proposes a critique of the metamorphosis of work by identifying in language the foreign element that now becomes familiar to poiesis.

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