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

Keywords: Linguistic Work, Praxis, Poiesis, Semiotics, Literature

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