Shedding Critical Light on Italy’s Labour Market Reform 2012 – A Historical-Materialist Policy Analysis

  • Abstract:

    This contribution stems from a broader research project dealing with how the crisis in its various developments (economic and financial crisis, sovereign debt crisis, Eurozone crisis) has been discursively construed and politically managed in Italy. Its aim is to investigate the controversial labour market reform passed in 2012 as a concrete political project instrumental to the (re-)production of hegemony in the Italian crisis context. By focusing on the labour market reform, the paper seeks to integrate two main perspectives. On the one hand, at a more theoretical level, it draws on the Cultural Political Economy (CPE) approach developed by Bob Jessop and Ngai-Ling Sum, which endows the study with a ground-breaking interest for the co-evolution of semiotic and extra-semiotic factors in the development of one among the most debated crisis-related reforms in Italy. On the other hand, at a more particular level, the paper performs a Historical-Materialist Policy Analysis (HMPA) to investigate such interplay of discursive and material aspects determining the political and economic objects of interventions at the core of the reform. The controversial labour market reform of 2012, in fact, offers the chance to analyse a highly actual conflict among societal forces in the context of Italy’s crisis management. A HMPA focused on the concurring political projects concerning a reform of the Italian labour market can thus be used as a first attempt to reconstruct the hegemony-projects competing in crisis-ridden Italy. This is achieved in three steps by means of a) a context analysis focusing on the Italian labour market; b) an actors’ analysis encompassing the international and national groups of actors concerned with the reform (among others: IMF, OECD, EU Commission, Italian government, trade unions, employer associations); c) a process analysis reconstructing the dynamics of the observed political conflict throughout its chronological development.