Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Jack Jacobs


Frances Fox Piven

Subject Categories

History | Political Science


autonomia, autonomist marxism, operaismo, social factory, workerism


This dissertation examines the "social factory" as it developed conceptually within postwar Italian Autonomist Marxism. This concept is defined historically as an outgrowth of the critique of political economy that accompanied a rethinking of Marxism in postwar Italian working class political thought through the experience of Quaderni Rossi, which culminated in the theoretical and practical work of Potere Operaio, with fragments in the area of Autonomia. Historically, this dissertation locates the "social factory" as derivative of two figures: Raniero Panzieri and Mario Tronti, as well as two subsidiary movements that were articulated, separately, by Antonio Negri and Mariarosa Dalla Costa. Conceptually, the "social factory" is understood in two differing modes: as the result of capitalist accumulation and, the other, as the consequence of the increasing tertiarization of economic life. Both are problematic and unresolved within Italian workerist thought; Negri and Dalla Costa contribute to the discussion of a "social factory" critique of political economy in terms of extending the conceptualization of class and the understanding of social relations within advanced, post-Fordist capitalism. The idea of the "social factory" is understood historically to signify the relationship between capital and class, to understand the role of capital as an element of command within a particular, historical mode of production. In this regard, the development of operaismo is delineated in terms of the critique of political economy and its secondary concept: class composition. The history of a rather rich and varied political orientation constitutes the substantive matter of this work, with the conceptual apparatus forming the definitive characteristics of a distinct political movement: operaismo. In short, the "social factory" is explained historically through its articulation in Quaderni Rossi, Classe Operaio, the student movement, the "hot autumn," Potere Operaio, and Autonomia. Between the early-1960s and the mid 1970s Italy was the country of class conflict. This dissertation tells a story of that historical moment as understood through the development of its main concept, the "social factory," as a critique of political economy.