Coresearch and Counter-Research: Romano Alquati’s Itinerary Within and Beyond Italian Radical Political Thought


The personal, political and intellectual itinerary of Romano Alquati1 was inextricably bound up with Italian postwar history, when a generation of militants relegated the importance of their own profession to second place, seeking instead jobs that could support their political commitment. In doing so, they created a new way of “being-political” that would prove to be a watershed for successive generations, up to the present day.2 This was the premise for a new social science in which the scholar and the political “vanguard” assumed the task of discussing and criticizing the constitution of society through both theoretical elaboration and empirical research. They did this together with subjects who were no longer seen as objects of research, but rather as subjectivities playing an active part in envisioning and realizing social change.

The stages in Romano Alquati’s research can be periodized within the Italian workerist thought of the Sixties and Seventies; more generally, they are inscribed in the furrows of the phenomenological approach developed by Enzo Paci and Guido Davide Neri, which questioned the philosophical presuppositions of the Marxist orthodoxy, starting with its more deterministic and philosophical aspects. More specifically, Alquati’s research program was directed towards the radical renewal of the study of industrial sociology and to the development of social coresearch in Italy. In the notes that follow, we will attempt to draw out the key facets of this undertaking.

1. The years of political and intellectual formation

Romano Alquati was born into a middle-upper bourgeois family, as he once recalled in an autobiographical interview.3 His father Carlo Alquati, an army general and friend of Gabriele D’Annunzio, had been banished to Croatia due to his left-wing stance within the fascist party; it was there that Romano was born and spent his earliest years. In 1945, at the age of ten, he lost his father, who was executed by partisans in Vercelli. The “social collapse” in his family’s fortune led to poverty in the very different circumstances of Italy’s postwar period.

Alquati’s formative years were spent in Cremona, a mid-sized Italian city in the middle of the Po valley, then experiencing the profound restructuring of the agricultural sector alongside the progressive diffusion of industrialization in the guise of small and medium enterprises. Cremona in the fifties was also a genuine political laboratory that offered both a breadth of horizons and the development of social and political relationships in Italy and abroad, so it was fortunate indeed for Alquati that he began his political militancy there. In particular, the decisive encounters involved were with Danilo Montaldi, then with Renato Rozzi – who would become his wise and patient “big brother” – as well as with Giovanni Bottaioli, an old internationalist working class political militant.4 On the other hand, according to Gianfranco Fiameni5, it is possible to find in Alquati a kind of “proto-operaismo,” “close to real processes, to the presences that we encountered in the Cremona ‘factory’ period and in many readings and meetings.”

Romano’s political experience stemmed from that minoritarian but important component of “barefoot researchers” of the fifties. While continuing to operate in a critical way within the labour movement (the unions in particular), they broke profoundly with the institutional representatives of that movement, along with all national roads to socialism. At the same time they remained distinct, for generational reasons as much as anything else, from the “historic” anti-Stalinist opposition, anticipating the extraordinary rupture that would mature fully only with 1968. Romano Alquati was nurtured within a cultural setting that sought a Marxism freed of encrustations, able to investigate and engage with the working class for what it was, rather than what it was meant to be according to the canonical representations of the Communist party. As Sergio Bologna has emphasised, the workerists were obliged to come to terms with two cultures within the Italian “Left”: on the one hand, the tendency of the Communist Party to concentrate upon matters of the country’s governance; on the other, the priority assigned within anti-capitalist circles to supporting national liberation struggles in Third World countries.6 Like other workerists, Alquati maintained his distance from such perspectives, preferring to follow Danilo Montaldi in inquiring into the working class, starting from the latter’s subjectivity.7 If such research in part entailed the refinement of old theoretical tools, it was also capable of producing genuine methodological innovations. Positivist inquiry, understood as the mere reproduction of ideological rhetorics, was rejected, in favor of research that aimed to construct a new knowledge together with the subjects under investigation. This was a comprehensive approach, able to learn from intentions, desires, and values – both spoken and unspoken – as they expressed themselves within the class. As Bologna later put it,

In the Sixties – coresearch, to my mind, is functional to what I’m about to say – we were convinced that within the body of the working class there was already, whole, the knowledge of liberation, the awareness of solidarity, of cohesion, of rebellion. We were convinced that conflict as a form of social identity lay within the genetic inheritance of the working class, but that there was also a memory of hard defeats and therefore, you could say, a “prudence” that had to be respected.8

Strongly socialized by the surrounding political and artistic environment from his twenties, Alquati’s early political experiences in the care of Danilo Montaldi led him first to Milan and then to Turin. There he participated actively with Raniero Panzieri in the editorial board of the journal Quaderni Rossi, a crucial moment for the formation of the New Left. Following the split in Quaderni Rossi, in 1963 he founded Classe Operaia together with Mario Tronti and Toni Negri, in what would be the true birthplace of what later came to be known as operaismo.

The previously elitist Italian university system was greatly disrupted during the Sixties and Seventies, allowing many political militants forged in the cycle of struggles raging in the factories and beyond to insert themselves in tertiary education either as students or researchers. It was in these circumstances that the militant researcher Romano Alquati found employment: first as a casual, untenured staff member, then as an associate professor. Like many other comrades of the time, he avoided the pursuit of an academic career like the plague: “I never wanted to apply for a professorial chair, above all because I wanted to avoid the pressures and expectations [certi condizionamenti] imposed by the institutional left.” As Guido Borio has emphasized, “for years he survived as a university professor, his work drawing much attention from students and almost none from his colleagues – indeed, he was frequently isolated within an academy that never recognized nor accepted his intellectual distinctiveness”.

2. Alquati’s innovations

Romano Alquati succeeded in impressing a number of conceptual instruments and categories upon a wider audience. Here we will concentrate on some of these, in particular those relating to subjectivity, coresearch, ambivalence, and processes of hyper-industrialisation.

2.1 Subjectivity

A first theme, clearly connected with Alquati’s whole itinerary, is the “discovery” of processes of subjectification and the “eruption of subjectivity” within political categories. From the end of the fifties, Alquati frequented factory gates like other prominent left intellectuals, commuting between Milan and Cremona before finally transferring to Turin in 1960. Turin was Italy’s leading industrial city in those years, and the home of the country’s largest private firm, FIAT. In that city’s factories during the sixties and seventies, new generations emerged with a range of work and life experiences behind them. Many workers were internal migrants who had come either directly from the country’s South or Northeast, or after spending time in in other European countries.

Within this crucible of collective experiences, Alquati lived in close contact with a new working class figure, those “new forces” of the “mass worker,” potentially antagonistic to neo-capitalism while also distant in both behaviours and mentality from the old labour movement. It was within this collectivity that fundamental categories of analysis such as class composition were elaborated, and an approach of study/intervention was proposed by means of the “method” of coresearch.9 The social construction of personal relations within the soil of a generation of struggle – the generation of the Sixties and Seventies – would be central for grasping the expressions and forms of these subjectivities, which cannot be reduced to single individuals, but rather had transformed into often-contextualized collective subjectivities.

This can be seen clearly in Alquati’s important essays on FIAT workers, published originally in the pages of Quaderni Rossi and Classe Operaia and later collected in the anthology On FIAT (1975). Long a bastion of seeming industrial peace, FIAT had been notable for its continued quiescence during the initial stages in the revival of strike activity that marked the opening years of the sixties. Through the tools of inquiry and coresearch, however, Alquati and his closest comrades were able to offer a different reading, one that highlighted the latent possibilities within the auto giant. One of Alquati’s most important achievements, therefore, was to be amongst the first to discern a turning of the tide, embodied in the up-and-coming “new forces.” While the basis for the latter’s growing antagonism towards the capitalist mode of production was shown to be a direct consequence of their experience of modern factory work, Alquati also began to draw out the distinctive elements that marked these “new forces” as central to an emerging class composition possessing its own cultures and sensibilities. Thus, if the “new forces” were typically wary of a labor movement oblivious to their concerns, this did not mean that the latest generation of workers should simply be dismissed as slaves to consumerism who meekly accepted their lot on the assembly line:

The new workers do not talk abstractly of social revolution, but neither are they disposed towards neo-reformist adventures that leave untouched the fundamental questions of class exploitation as they verify them in the workplace.10

Romano Alquati’s trajectory needs to be read within the transformation of class composition and its expression in political composition: this process is what operaismo represented. As Sergio Bologna has noted, the “workerists” sought to fuse a heterodox interpretation of Marx with the reality of the factory. In this manner, theory assumed an instrumental value, given that it could exist only by starting from this constant encounter with the dynamics of production, conscious of the complexity and pain [durezza] of factory work.

Alquati’s other influential study of the early Sixties centred upon Olivetti, then Italy’s leading producer of calculators and other business machines. This too was conducted as an exercise in coresearch, carried out with a team of local Socialist party militants distinguished by their single-minded dedication to workers’ self-organization. Although the Olivetti text is more commonly remembered as the first text within which the workerist discourse on class composition became explicit, it is also memorable for other reasons. As Matteo Pasquinelli has recently argued, “Organic composition of capital and labor-power at Olivetti” contains an intriguing discussion of the place of information within the capital-labour relation. In this relationship, information is presented as intrinsic to capital’s valorization process. Indeed,

Information is the most important thing [l’essenziale] about labor-power: it is what the worker, by means of constant capital, transmits to the means of production upon the basis of evaluations, measures, elaborations, in order to work [operare] upon the object of labor all those changes in form that give it the use-value required. The “disposability” of the worker leads them to be a qualitative index of socially necessary labour time, by which the “product” is valued as the “recipient” of a certain quantity of “information”… “Productive labor” is defined in the quality of the “information” elaborated and transmitted by the worker to the “means of production”, with the mediation of “constant capital,” in a manner that is ever increasingly [tendenzialmente] “indirect,” yet completely “socialized.”11

Like much of Alquati’s work, there is a certain ambiguity in this passage, yet also much that demands further reflection. Are value and information the same thing? The text does not elaborate further. Instead it goes on to differentiate between two modes of information. First, as Pasquinelli also highlights, there is the “control information” that seeks to monitor and regulate production in pursuit of further accumulation.12 Second, there is that information “that constitutes the collective legacy of the working class… productive information tout court,” which capital, through the subsumption of labor, attempts to transmogrify into the “control information” needed for the planning of production.13 Through all this, Alquati sought to draw out the potential for class antagonism lying nascent and latent in even the most seemingly atomized and integrated workforce, always aiming

to surpass the immediate, the empirical, to surpass historically the grave political limit of the partiality of a discourse that remains interdependent with the partial and atomized nature of struggles, in order to attain that generality of discourse that renders struggle global.14

If in the vision of the Italian Communist party, workers’ subjectivity remained within the confines of party directives, Alquati followed E. P. Thompson in emphasising how the working class must “be understood as a continuous development: [it] is seen not as that which must conquer power, but as a great population that must be studied at a level that typifies anthropology, in the continuous development of world cultures.”15 This discourse on subjectivity is the premise and foundation of coresearch.

2.2 Coresearch and class composition

The practice of coresearch is the authentic node around which revolved not only Alquati’s intellectual work, but also the political relationships that he constructed. Coresearch, which emerged in the early Sixties as militant fieldwork with workers at FIAT Mirafiori and other factories in Piedmont (Olivetti, Lancia), is both an activity of inquiry and a knowledge process, entailing a reciprocal transformation in the identity of the researcher and what began to be called workers’ subjectivity. As a practice of intervention it placed the militant researcher on the same level as the subject of the inquiry, annulling the separate figure of the “vanguard” so dear to the logic of the Left. In doing so, it horizontally reformulated the relationship between theory, praxis and organization. It was a practice that could not be formalized in a method, one that made it possible to read, even in periods of passivity, signs of impending conflict, the informal organization and constituent ambivalences that lay in the gap between the class’s technical composition (the objective articulation of labor-power) and its political composition.

Coresearch represents an epistemological “break,” in that it seeks to overcome the divide between objectivity and subjectivity. Alquati was fiercely critical of a social science that sought refuge behind methodological bulkheads as a means of securing respectability: against this, he developed a quite precise relationship between the determination of a scientific object, the line of inquiry, ways of reflecting upon the gathered data, and the presentation of research findings. Still, as Alquati himself admitted, “thanks to the simple fact that I made use of qualitative methods, I was never considered to be a real scientist” – a circumstance all the more farcical given that he had written his thesis on quantitative methods at a time when almost no one in Italy made use of them.16

(Co-)research becomes effective through its collective construction, given that it is a space in which the subjectivity of the coresearchers and the researched can express themselves. Research carried out together with subjects is therefore an open and practical process that facilitates the acquisition of knowledge able to develop a common activity, setting in motion the subjectivity of participants. Coresearch provokes a change in one’s own social practices, since it implies an active knowing that transforms, in their various social roles, all the members of the collective that take part. Coresearch is a form of reciprocal contamination and contagion, even if it is difficult to extend it spontaneously. The cooperation that develops contains levels of reciprocal orchestration between participants who, according to Alquati, need to explicitly overcome the dichotomy between technical organization – competencies – and political organization, where decisions can be made.

Coresearch can be thought of as a political method of knowledge and intervention, the enlargement and enrichment of forms of production and reproduction. It is clear therefore that it implies the involvement and the valuing of the competencies of everyone in the collective, through the endowment of a common language of linkage. In this sense it cannot be resolved in a single fixed, given moment, but instead is a continual practice that involves and transforms the members of a collective within forms of cooperation and communication, rather than a cadre organization. As Danilo Montaldi had already made clear in his book Militanti politici di base, the educator must be educated not by a party school, but by daily experience within the class itself.17

Coresearch is therefore a method of acting according to an open and practical process, in which listening and dialogue are indispensable components able to refine theoretical apparatuses in a continual manner, on the basis of what emerges from the field.18 In short, coresearch is the conquest of knowledge from a specific point of view, a direct class perspective. It involves therefore an activity that enables the construction of new possibilities: “Coresearch for its part is nothing other than the collective, common, systematic, rich and potent research into [a subject’s] conditions and modalities of its own actualization [attuazione di cio’]: it is counter-research.”19

The method pursued by Alquati, therefore, entailed rendering matters reciprocally comprehensible, through an open process able to develop the collective capacities of an “acting-together” that values the competencies of all members in a collective. This long-term practice made possible the transformation of the existing – in particular, of social relations tied to political domination – alongside a place of counter-cooperation by researchers possessed of different capacities for research. Against the knowledge that capital uses to govern, coresearch develops a counter-knowledge.

Coresearch is one stage in an experimental path that, according to Alquati – provoking those youths who conceived of changes within the very short term – must be developed within a long-term process. Coresearch must survive individual difficulties, enlarge itself, sustain itself as a practice able to involve and open itself up to multiple, heterogeneous hyper-proletarian subjects, rooting itself in the territory precisely in the moment when the latter is infused by waves of globalization.20

2.3 The processes of the industrialization of human activity and the hyper-proletariat: Alquati’s efforts to construct a new social science

Romano Alquati possessed an extreme capacity to grasp moments of rupture, to the point of overriding all political or organizational sensibilities. This meant that, already by the early Seventies, he was looking beyond that period, marked as it was by the high tide of the mass worker’s struggles. Instead, he sought to identify, in the processes of the industrialisation of human activity as such (evident in incipient tertiarization), the re-dislocation of capitalist subsumption from the factory towards “the social sphere.” His studies of The Middle-Class University and Intellectual Proletariat date from this time, laying the basis for subsequent research concerning education, communication and mass intellectuality, of services as a product of capital, and the general question of the commodified reproduction of living-human-capacity.21

This work addressed the end of one cycle of class composition, and the rise of a phase of capitalism that required a move beyond workerist readings. Alquati’s thought confronted the need to elaborate new instruments – in part through a constant if isolated dialogue with great sociologists such as Alain Touraine and Zygmunt Bauman (in particular, in the latter’s writings on liquid modernity) – at the height of what he would term hyper-industrialisztion: in other words, the unfolding effective subsumption of the whole of human experience to social reproduction.

The key node was that of ambivalence: knowledges and activities can be bent to the autonomy of subjects, or else they may be expropriated within the codification of capital’s formalized technical-scientific language. The question then becomes that of identifying the conditions under which hyper-proletarians, socialized by the flexible techno-machines of capitalist production and reproduction, can open themselves to an emancipatory praxis. The study of human subjectivity, detectable even within what seemed to be an “iron cage”, allowed Alquati to grasp the continual ambivalence of “invention-power,” long able to remain latent, only to emerge and burst out of the confines of society and labor in moments of crisis, ultimately constituting a fundamental means of nourishing change.22 In the Eighties the themes of (hyper-)industrialization and ambivalence were addressed within militant seminars that used the mass university as a possible place for the collective production of critical knowledge – formative years for those who would become his pupils.

The question of learning and education [formazione] remained crucial for Alquati, who devoted considerable energy to the topic within the Industrial Sociology course that he taught until 2003 at the University of Turin. According to Alquati, formazione by its violence shapes, produces, and transforms subjectivity. In the face of Powerpoint-size bites of information, Alquati’s lessons were charged with a continual tension that followed a conceptual design that was both precise yet never completely defined: “a kind of machine for thinking the present, in order to give form to the ‘not yet’ and in order to attempt to imagine the ‘new.’”23 This entailed consciously activating processes of interaction and the collective construction of knowledge. Rather than remaining confined within the narrow parameters of industrial sociology, this was something he projected “into the heart of the modern factory, gradually touching upon questions of reproduction, consumption, formation, and communication.”24 His knowledge, spanning as it did a range of fields, was constantly stimulating. At the same time he frequently treated students as nascent researchers in their own right, capable of demonstrating command over their capacities and “invention-power.” As Alquati himself once asserted in an interview critical of the university’s conventions regarding formazione, “Education [didattica] is a place where knowledge produced elsewhere is distributed. It’s like commerce, it distributes pre-made procedural knowledges. And students like this! They don’t understand how impoverished it is.”25

Romano Alquati’s final, unpublished writings concern the processes of the industrialization of human activity.26 These comprise his richest, most dense and complex legacy, in which one can note how Alquati seeks “to relaunch the study of industrial society against a general sociology that today ‘removes the industriality of activity,’ precisely [when] almost a fifth of humanity finds itself immersed in industrial production.”27 One characteristic of the present is the pervasiveness of industrial production, which imposes itself thanks to extended disciplinary processes through which it is able to shape human capacities themselves. This hyper-industriality has not even spared knowledges and educational processes within universities over the past thirty years.

In his text addressing Today’s Industrial Society, Alquati also subjects Marx’s concept of society to critique, presenting his own definition of the current phase of hyper-industrialization: “‘a weft of activity/labors in which (many) actors/workers are employed.’ Regulated by a mix of market and hierarchy (therefore this is – amongst other things – not a weft of relations between persons).” The characteristic feature of contemporary society is the wage condition of interchangeable individuals that mask themselves “as individuals and as persons, to the point even of stimulating little false autonomies and external originalities (at the surface level).” In effect, Alquati stresses how the transformation of an individual into a “presumed individual” is a characteristic typical of an age that expels conflict and the collective from its daily activity: “individuation is stronger (and freer) the more it finds a place within a strong and free collective, at least one with truly autonomous moments… The weaker and emptier and more equal so-called individuals find themselves, the more individualistic ideology grows… There are more individuals when proletarian struggles smash the constricting roles through which the system functions in an immediate sense [la chiusura bassa nei ruoli e gusci bassi di funzionalità sistemica immediate], than in today’s obsessively ‘individualistic’ times.”28

Romano Alquati’s insistence on the analysis of forms of valorization, and his attention to what he defined as “capital-means” – namely, the processes of incorporation and subsumption – offer important interpretative keys through which to read the recent developments of capital and the network economy as a meta-machine.29 As Alquati argued in his extended treatise upon contemporary industrial society, the “heart” of ambivalence lies in the very source of capital’s valorization, within the dual character not only of labour, but of the laborer herself. Marx had believed that the identification of the dual nature of labor under capital’s reign was one of his most significant insights; later, at the beginning of the workerist adventure, Mario Tronti had seized upon this point to develop his heretical assertion that “Labor must see labor-power, as commodity, as its own enemy… [so as] to decompose capital’s intimate nature into the potentially antagonistic parts which organically compose it.”30 It is fitting that in his final written reflections upon capitalist society, Alquati should return directly to these arguments of Marx and Tronti; not to remain beholden to them, but instead to review, to revise, and to build upon them:

Workers on the one hand are the working actors who activate their roles by making large pieces – and therefore more or less all – of the system’s interconnections function. In doing so, they become aware [rileva] of the question of the fetishism of capital, its intangible thing-ness etc. … But on the other hand, I hypothesise that they can also refuse to do so and negate themselves in this, moving against themselves – and doing all this with a certain autonomy.31


Romano Alquati identified some of the fundamental and counterintuitive aspects of current forms of capitalist valorization. Above all, his method of coresearch continues to be indispensable. The example he has bequeathed is of a person who certainly did not succumb to the attractions of their professional role, but rather continued to undertake ways of researching “with-others.” His refusal to be part of, or to help form, “leaders” for the working class allowed him to maintain a proper distance from official communist culture and tradition. As Sergio Bologna has emphasized, he “was well aware that there are those able to express themselves, those who have clearer ideas than others, those who see further and those who do not.”32


Writings of Romano Alquati

  • ‘La festa contadina. Pescarolo: transizione di una situazione agraria’, Presenza October-November 1958.
  • ‘Recensione di Comunismo e Cattolicesimo in una parrocchia di Campagna’ (di Liliano Faenza), Milano, Feltrinelli’, Presenza 4/3, January-March 1960.
  • ‘Relazione sulle “forze nuove”. Convegno del Psi sulla Fiat (gennaio 1961)’, Quaderni Rossi 1, September 1961.
  • ‘Documenti sulla lotta di classe alla Fiat’, Quaderni Rossi 1, September 1961.
  • ‘Tradizione e rinnovamento alla FiatFerriere’, Democrazia Diretta, September-October 1961.
  • ‘Composizione organica del capitale e forza lavoro alla Olivetti’, Quaderni Rossi 2, June 1962 and Quaderni Rossi 3, June 1963.
  • ‘Note sulle condizioni e lo svolgimento dello sciopero alla Fiat’, Cronache dei Quaderni Rossi 1, September 1962.
  • ‘Lotta alla Fiat’, Classe Operaia 1, January 1964.
  • ‘Lotte operaie in Italia negli ultimi 20 anni’, Classe Operaia 4-5, May 1964.
  • ‘Ricerca sulla struttura interna della classe operaia’, Classe Operaia 2/1, January-February 1965.
  • ‘Torino il partito nella città fabbrica’, Classe Operaia 2/3, May 1965.
  • ‘II partito nella “fabbrica verde”: note sulle lotte operaie nella Padana Irrigua’, Classe Operaia 2/4-5 October 1965.
  • ‘I militanti comunisti tra fabbrica e il partito’, Classe Operaia 3/1, May 1966.
  • ‘Schema di opuscolo sulla Fiat’, Classe Operaia 3/3, March 1967.
  • ‘Capitale e classe operaia alla Fiat. Un punto medio nel ciclo internazionale, Relazione al seminario sulla composizione di classe presso il centro Giovanni Francovich a Firenze, 30 aprile 1 maggio 1967’.
  • Sindacato e potere. Seminario di studi sul movimento sindacale. Academic year 1971/72, Università degli studi di Torino, Facoltà di Scienze politiche, Indirizzo Sociologico Gruppo di ricerca composed of R. Alquati, F. Barbano, S. Chiamparino, M. Ferrerò, M. Guglietti, N. Negri, M. Ossola.
  • Seminario di studi sul movimento sindacale. Copisteria Tarricone, Torino 1972.
  • Un processo di trasformazione sociale, con particolare riferimento al terziario in rapporto con il sindacato, Tesi di Laurea. Supervisor Filippo Barbano, Torino Facoltà di Scienze politiche, 1973, unpublished.
  • Sindacato e Partito Antologia di interventi di sindacalisti sul rapporto fra sindacato e sistema politico in Italia. Edizioni Stampatori, Torino 1974.
  • Sulla FIAT e altri scritti. Feltrinelli, Milano 1975.
  • ‘Terziario terziarizzazione sindacato’, Fogli di zona 1-2, May-June 1975.
  • ‘Note su ricomposizione di classe e crisi del mercato del lavoro’, Quaderni del territorio. La fabbrica nella società, 3 Celuc Libri, Milano 1976.
  • ‘L’università e la formazione L’incorporamento del sapere sociale nel lavoro vivo materiali e analisi del gruppo di ricerca operante presso la facoltà di Scienze politiche di Torino’, Aut Aut 154, July-August 1976.
  • Università di ceto medio e proletariato intellettuale (with N. Negri, A. Sormano), Stampatori Torino, 1978.
  • In formazione. Seminario sul tema Formazione e qualificazione nell’Università di massa, partecipanti: R. Alquati, L. Balbo, A. Cavalli, G. Chiaretti, A. Martinelli, G.Martinetti, F. Momigliano, G. Massironi, I. Sipos, A. Sormano. Stampatori Torino 1978.
  • Il sindacato nella dimensione regionale. (edited  by P. Buran), Stampatori, Torino 1977.
  • ‘Osservazione su cultura memoria e storia’, Ombre rosse 27/28, 1979.
  • ‘Cani e morti, cani morti, cani sciolti; intellettuali e terrorismo rossi nel Bel Paese’, in R. Alquati, M. Boato, M, Cacciari, S, Rodotà, L. Violante, Terrorismo verso la seconda Repubblica? Stampatori, Torino, 1980.
  • Donna, famiglia, servizi nel territorio della Provincia di Cremona. V. I Disegno della ricerca; V. II Spazio popolazione lavoro; V. III II mutare della riproduzione, (with G. Lodi), Amministrazione Provinciale di Cremona, 1981.
  • ‘Lavoro vivo e lavoro morto oggi’, Politica ed economia 7-8, 1983.
  • Dispense di Sociologia Industriale. Volume 1 Premesse generali Volume 2 Civiltà contadina e fase classica della Civiltà capitalistica, Photocopied, 1985-1988.
  • Dispense di Sociologia industriale. Volume 3, Tomo 1 e 2. Il Segnalibro, Torino, 1989
  • ‘Riforma dell’Università e industrializzazione dei saperi. Intervista del 28 dicembre 1989’, edited by E. Armano in La Lente rivista studentesca 1 Torino 1990.
  • Formazione ed impresa, Transcript of an intervention during the occupation of the Università di Torino, 1990’
  • ‘Storiografia e movimento del 77’. Interview by L. Perrone, Torino, 1991.
  • Introduzione a un modello sulla formazione. Volume IV. Tomo 1. Dispense di Sociologia industriale. Il Segnalibro, Torino, 1992.
  • Sul comunicare. Il Segnalibro, Torino, 1993.
  • Sacre icone. Le classi esistono ancora? Calusca Edizioni, Padova, 1993.
  • Per fare conricerca. Calusca Edizioni, Padova, 1993.
  • ‘Formazione, comunicazione e certe icone sulle classi: tre libri’, Bollettino del nodo ECN di Torino, May 1993.
  • Sul Virtuale (with M. Pentenero, J. Wessberg), Velleità Alternative, Torino, 1994.
  • Cultura formazione e ricerca. Velleità Alternative, Torino, 1994.
  • Camminando per realizzare un sogno comune. Velleità Alternative, Torino, 1994.
  • Lavoro e attività. Per un analisi della schiavitù neomoderna. Manifesto libri, Roma, 1994.
  • ‘Sintesi sul lavoro’, Derive e approdi IV/12-13 1996.
  • ‘Intervista, aprile 1998’ (edited by P. Ribella e G. Trotta), Bailamme June 1999.
  • ‘Intervista, dicembre 2000’ (edited by G. Borio, F. Pozzi, G. Roggero), in Futuro anteriore. Dai ‘Quaderni Rossi’ ai movimenti globali. Ricchezza e limiti dell’operaismo italiano. Derive & Approdi, Roma, 2002.
  • Nella società industriale d’oggi, Working Paper, unpublished, Torino, 2000/2003.
  • ‘Ricordi del “secondo operaismo politico”, Conversazioni con Gigi Roggero’, unpublished, Torino, 2000.
  • Sulla riproduzione della capacità umana vivente oggi. Working Paper, unpublished, Torino, 2001/2003.


  1. We would like to thank Ferruccio Gambino for his helpful comments. A daylong conference was held on the fifteenth of June 2011, organised by comrades, friends and colleagues, together with the “Cantiere per l’autoformazione,” a body composed of undergraduate and doctoral students at the University of Turin. 

  2. Interview with Romano Alquati in G. Borio, F. Pozzi, G. Roggero, Futuro Anteriore (Roma: Derive & Approdi, 2002). 

  3. Ibid. 

  4. Ibid. Giovanni Bottaioli (1900-1959) was a left communist working class militant, exiled in France during the fascist period. After a long sojourn in Paris, he returned to Italy after the war and was a central figure for many younger people who grew up in the Cremona area. 

  5. Intervention at the Romano Alquati conference, 2011. 

  6. Sergio, Bologna, “L’operaismo italiano” in Pier Paolo Poggio, ed., L’altronovecento. Comunismo eretico e pensiero critico vol. 2, Il sistema e i movimenti. Europa 1945-1989 (Milano: Jaca Book, 2011), 211. 

  7. As Renato Rozzi has recalled, despite an initiation into Leninism thanks to his experience with Montaldi, Alquati never joined a party. Rather, as he affirmed in an interview: “It’s worth knowing also that like many others of us, I never suffered a major crisis at the beginning of the eighties, much less with the fall of the wall. But I experienced a more profound crisis towards the middle of the fifties, at the time of my first encounter with the Marxist and Social-Communist religion, which happened while seeking a way out of certain traps and labyrinth. The question of fetishism seemed to me as more neo-Communist (for example in 1960) than as workerist: therefore, a critical and experimental workerism,” in Borio, Pozzi and Roggero, Futuro Anteriore.  

  8. Interview with Sergio Bologna in G. Borio, F. Pozzi, G. Roggero, Futuro Anteriore (Roma: Derive & Approdi, 2002). 

  9. This and other workerist conceptual tools are discussed in Steve Wright, Storming Heaven: Class Composition and Struggle in Italian Autonomist Marxism (London: Pluto Press, 2002). 

  10. Romano Alquati, Sulla FIAT e altri scritti (Feltrinelli, Milano 1975), 51. 

  11. Ibid., 113. 

  12. Matteo Pasquinelli, “Capitalismo macchinico e plusvalore di rete: note sull’economia politica della macchina di Turing,” November 17, 2011, 5. 

  13. Romano Alquati, Sulla FIAT e altri scritti, 114. 

  14. Ibid. 114, 83. 

  15. A little-known and hard-to-find text that demonstrates this decisive trait of Alquati’s formation in an extraordinarily efficacious way is “La Festa Contadina. Pescarolo: transizione di una situazione agraria,” Presenza October-November, 1958. 

  16. Interview with Romano Alquati in Borio, Pozzi and Roggero, Futuro Anteriore

  17. R. Alquati Camminando per realizzare un sogno comune (Torino: Velleità Alternative, 1994), 127. 

  18. R. Alquati, Per fare conricerca (Padova: Calusca Edizioni, 1993). 

  19. R. Alquati, Cultura formazione e ricerca (Torino: Velleità Alternative, 1994), 37. 

  20. A new and interesting, if still little-known example, is the work of the Foxconn Research Group, Jenny Chan and Ngai Pun, “Global Capital, the State, and Chinese Workers: The Foxconn Experience,” Modern China 38, 4 (2012): 383-410. See also G. Roggero and A. Zanini, eds., Genealogie del futuro. Sette Lezioni per sovvertire il presente (Bologna: Ombre Corte, 2012). 

  21. Alquati, Cultura formazione e ricerca. 

  22. Ferruccio Gambino, “Forza-invenzione e forza-lavoro. Ipotesi,” altreragioni 8, 1999, 147-151. 

  23. Intervention of Maurizio Pentenero at the Romano Alquati Conference, 2011. 

  24. Ibid. 

  25. Interview with Romano Alquati in the student journal La Lente, Turin, January 1990. 

  26. In particular, see Romano Alquati, “Nella società industriale d’oggi,” unpublished Working Paper, 2000/2003. 

  27. Intervention of Ferruccio Gambino at the Romano Alquati Conference, 2011. 

  28. Romano Alquati, “Nella società industriale d’oggi,” unpublished Working Paper, 2000/2003. 

  29. Matteo Pasquinelli, “Capitalismo macchinico e plusvalore di rete,” 5. 

  30. Mario Tronti, Operai e capitale, (Turin: Einaudi, 1971), 56, 55. 

  31. Romano Alquati, Nella società industriale d’oggi, unpublished Working Paper, 2000/2003. 

  32. Sergio Bologna, “Hommage a Romano Alquati,” 2010. 

Authors of the article

teaches Sociology of Labor at Padua University. His current research concerns a comparative study of Foxconn ICT factories in Europe and China.

has a PhD in Labour Studies from the Department of Social and Political Sciences at the State University of Milan. She collaborates in research into informational capitalism, knowledge work, flexibility and precariousness, with a social inquiry and coresearch methodological approach.

teaches information management at Monash University. His current research concerns the creation and use of the printed word by Italian workerists during the sixties and seventies.