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From atypical to paradigmatic? Artistic work in contemporary capitalist societies

Posted: April 26th, 2019 | Filed under: Calls for Papers | No Comments »

Call for papers for Special Issue 2/2020

Edited by: Pierre Bataille (University of Lausanne), Sonia Bertolini (University of Turin), Clementina Casula (University of Cagliari), Marc Perrenoud (University of Lausanne)

1. Aims and fields of inquiry

The main aim of this Special Issue is to shed light on the restructuring of artistic work in the context of the wider global transformations affecting the socio-economic regulation of capitalist societies, with their national or subnational variations. If occupational conditions defining artistic labour market were considered as atypical in modern industrial societies, in contemporary postindustrial ones they become seen as paradigmatic of work in the socalled “gig economy” or “platform capitalism” (Cloonan and Williamson 2017, Srnicek 2016). High levels of unemployment, diffused precarious and undeclared work, strong seasonality, non-routine activities, emotional involvement and self-exploitation, job diversification, entrepreneurial skills and portfolio careers: those features, typically defining artistic work (Becker 1982, Menger 1999, Paradeise 1998), seem to apply to an increasing number of workers (Bertolini, Rizza 2004), especially those in the knowledge sector (Murgia et al. 2016), comprised with artists within what some authors call the new “creative class” (Florida 2002, Howkins 2001). The recent centrality recognised to creative workers in enhancing productivity within contemporary capitalist economies, however, hides the strong inequalities existing among them – especially with reference to their different situations regarding production means property and inherited cultural and economic capital (Martin-Brelot et al. 2010, O’Brien et al. 2016, Bellini et al. 2018). Seen from this perspective, the “creative class” concept seems more apt to define an economic sector, than a “class” in the sociological sense, if not even to hide class oppositions within creative industries (Banks 2017). In the case of artistic work, the concept refers to a sector seen as mainly ruled by individual “talents”, thereby representing de facto the organization of artistic workplaces as a prototype of the neoliberal socio-economical order (Banks, Hesmondhalgh 2009). Changes in the various fields of artistic work, however, do not only relate to the diffusion of a neoliberal approach in the regulation of the economy, but also to ongoing processes of cultural de/reclassification (DiMaggio 1987, 2009) or technological innovation (Williamson, Cloonan 2007, Leyshon 2009), whose influence in the different fields and contexts is a matter of empirical investigation.

A secondary aim of the Special Issue is to relaunch the study of artistic work within the Italian debate on sociology of work. This was also the objective of another monographic issue of Sociologia del Lavoro, edited over 30 years ago by Luise and Minardi (1986), matching articles of Italian authors and of some the most internationally well-known scholars in the field. However, differently from other topics covered by the journal in the same period, despite interesting individual contributions (La Rosa, Virdis 2005, Luciano, Bertolini 2011, Chicchi et al. 2013, Casula 2018.a, among others), the study of artistic work has not developed into a specific field of knowledge within Italian sociology. The present call aims to fill this gap, reviving the original scope of the journal in confronting recent research on artistic work of Italian authors with that of their international colleagues.

Fields of inquiry may embrace various professional activities included within visual and performing arts worlds, studied with reference to different theoretical approaches (from Bourdieu to Becker), levels of analysis (macro, meso or micro), methodologies (quantitative or qualitative), type of actors (individual or collective, free-lance or full-time, “ordinary artist” or “star”), all considered as complementary resources for the development of a sociology of artistic work attentive to global changes and the socio-institutional structures within which it takes place (Perrenoud, Bois 2017).

2. Contributions

The material and symbolic shift artistic work from atypical to paradigmatic raises new queries on the changes it experiences within contemporary societies (Perrenoud, Bataille 2017, Bertolini, Maggiora 2017, Casula 2018.b). In this context, this Special Issue looks for contributions articulating theoretically informed sound empirical research, oriented by (but not limited to) the following issues and questions:

– labour market flexibilization and the regulation of artistic work (In what ways artistic labour markets can be considered as a model for other labour markets? What are the main threats and opportunities offered by the “creative economy” to artistic work?);

– the building of artistic careers (How do new paradigms of recruitment, competence certification, career differentiation, entrepreneurial strategies, affect the different fields of artistic work? What is the role of gender, race, class, age, or generation in defining those processes? What are the ongoing trends in processes of de/professionalization of artistic occupations?);

– formal and informal conditions of artistic work (Which are the prevailing forms of contracts, pensions and other forms of occupational schemes regulating artistic work in different national and organizational context? What is today the role of artists’ unions? Which is the equilibrium between the state and the market in the regulation of artistic work at the global, national or local level? What is the social recognition of artistic labour within those contexts?);

– technological innovation and artistic production (How are changes in technologies affecting informal rules and conventions traditionally defining symbols and canons of production, competence and the very identity of artists in the different fields and contexts?).
Papers will be selected according to the following criteria: coherence with the call, theoretical and methodological soundness, coverage of different artistic sectors and geographical areas.

3. Deadlines and guidelines

Abstracts in English, with a clear title and max 800 words, must be sent electronically to the editors of this special issue, [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], as well as to the editorial staff of the journal [email protected] by 1 July 2019.

Editors will notify authors by 15 July 2019 about their proposed contributions; authors of accepted abstracts must register online as “authors” on the webpage of the journal Sociologia del Lavoro: http://ojs.francoangeli.it/_ojs/index.php/sl/index and follow the instructions to upload their completed articles by 30 October 2019 through the online platform Open Journal Systems.

Articles must not exceed 8.000 words and must follow the journal guidelines: http://www.francoangeli.it/riviste/NR/Sl-norme.pdf. Articles exceeding the word limit or not abiding to the journal guidelines will not be included. Once uploaded, articles that are correctly formatted will go through a process of double blind peer review.


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Banks, M. (2017), Creative justice: Cultural industries, work and inequality, London: Pickering & Chatto Publishers.
Becker H.S. (1982), Art Worlds, Berkeley, University of California Press.
Bellini A., Burroni L., Dorigatti L. (2018), Industrial Relations and Creative Workers – Country Report: Italy, IR-CREA Project, Research Report.
Bertolini S., Maggiora A. (2018) “Le figure professionali in ambito musicale in Italia: tra precarietà e nuovi percorsi di imprenditorialità”, Quaderni Rassegna Sindacale, XVII(4): 81-101.
Bertolini S., Rizza R. (eds.) (2005) “Atipici?”, Sociologia del lavoro, 97, Franco Angeli, Milano.
Casula C. (2018.a), Diventare musicista. Indagine sociologica sui Conservatori di musica in Italia, Mantova: Universitas Studiorum.
Casula C. (2018.b) “Torn Between Neoliberal and Postmodern Trends, Corporatist Defence and Creative Age Prospects: The Ongoing Reshaping of the Classical Music Profession in Italy”, Cambio, 8(16).
Chicchi F., Savioli M., Turrini M. (2014) “Soggettività intermittenti. Un’inchiesta sulla scomposizione del lavoro nell’ambito delle industrie creative”, 133: 42-57.
Cloonan M., Williamson J. (2017), “Introduction”, Popular Music and Society, 40(5): 493-498.
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Florida R. (2002), The Rise of the Creative Class: And how it’s transforming work, leisure, community and everyday life, New York: Basic Books.
Howkins J. (2001), The Creative Economy: How People Make Money from Ideas, London: Allen Lane.
La Rosa M., Virdis M. (2005) “Musica, musica colta, professioni musicali. Una prima mappa conoscitiva”, G. Mazzoli (ed.) Lavoro & musica, Milano: FrancoAngeli.
Leyshon, A. (2009), “The Software Slump?: Digital Music, the Democratisation of Technology, and the Decline of the Recording Studio Sector within the Musical Economy”, Environment and Planning A, 41(6): 1309–1331.
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Menger P.-M. (1999), “Artistic labor markets and careers”, Annual Review of Sociology, 25: 541-574.
Murgia A., Maestripieri L., Armano E. (2016), The Precariousness of Knowledge Workers: Hybridisation, Self-employment and Subjectification, in “Work Organization, Labour & Globalisation”, 10(2): 1-8.
O’Brien D., Laurison D., Miles A., Friedman S. (2016), “Are the creative industries meritocratic? An analysis of the 2014 British Labour Force Survey”, Cultural Trends, 25(2): 116–131.
Paradeise C. (1998), Les comédiens. Professions et marchés du travail, Paris: Presses universitaires de France.
Perrenoud M. (2007), Les musicos. Enquête sur des musiciens ordinaires, Paris: La Découverte.
Perrenoud M., Bataille P. (2017), “Artist, Craftsman, Teacher: “being a musician” in France and Switzerland”, Popular Music and Society, 40 (5): 592–604.
Perrenoud M., Bois G. (2017), “Ordinary artists: From Paradox to Paradigm?”, Biens symboliques / Symbolic Goods, 1:2-35.
Srnicek N. (2016) Platform Capitalism, New York-London: Polity.
Williamson J., Cloonan M. (2007), “Rethinking the music industry”, Popular Music, 26(2):305–322.

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