Manufacturing and interpersonal relationships analysed from an ethnographic perspective
Working and doing business as a human activity, to be observed from a scientific – and not solely economic – perspective. Work is an expression of the various cultures (of production), but also of social structures, interpersonal relationships, and world views that change from organisation to organisation, all of which have their own unique features, which must be understood and respected. This is business, and all that it entails, viewed from a humanities perspective. It is an interesting viewpoint indeed, and one which must be taken into consideration in order to gain an awareness of the aspects that are often overshadowed by the dominant perspective taken by business-centric studies.
This is precisely what “L’etnografia del lavoro e il lavoro dell’etnografia” (“the ethnography of work and the work of ethnography”) written by Andrea Bottalico and Valeria Piro and published recently, helps us to achieve. The two authors discuss the issue from a different point of view from the norm, and their goal is to provide a synopsis of the various studies “on work”, using the ethnographic method as their basis. Particular attention is also given to gaining an understanding of workplaces, in order to provide a general overview the current changes occurring in global value chains, and in work processes seen as a whole. One of the most unique characteristics of this study is the fact that it delves into the toolbox of ethnography, selecting instruments that overlap with the work of the ethnologist, including statistical surveys on certain groups of workers, and journalism and literature on business and employment.
The goal of the article – which was written as an introduction to a special issue of the journal Etnografia e ricerca qualitativa (“ethnography and qualitative research”) – is not to set out new theories with which to interpret the concepts of work and business; rather, it seeks to present everything that has been done so far in this regard in a clear manner. As such, the work touches upon themes such as the organisation of production, technological innovation, life in the workplace and the social relationships that are established in production organisations.
Bottalico and Piro’s analysis reveals all the complexity and depth of work which – even today – is widely viewed as one or the core elements of human activity, composed of both material and immaterial elements that are interwoven with one another, and as such, cannot be separated.
Andrea Bottalico, Valeria Piro
Etnografia e ricerca qualitativa, 1/2020, pp. 5-29