the “signori

signori.jpga woman behind her bar, in her seventies, sipping her tea in a cappuccino cup, telling my friend and me what she things of the fall of Prodi’s government, in an empty bar in an empty village of the Apennines . . .”the issue is work, if there is no work, nothing is good. . .isn’t true? and where one can get work if there are no i signori . . .i signori . . .isn’t true . . .the signori are those who give you work . . .I don’t care who goes to government, berlusconi, prodi or whoever, as long as there is work . . .” and then she went on, with us two sipping a beer at the table, telling us a story that we heard so many times from our parents and grandparents: “after the war, when there was no work, we went to Milan, we gave milk to the infants of i signori, we worked for them, because around here there was nothing, no roads, no water, no food, no work . . .”

for i signori, obviously, the lady had something very concrete in her mind, some concrete signore with money who employed her and her family back then, when she needed a job, someone with a particular life-style, someone who entered particular relations to her and her family, maybe kind, or maybe not, maybe abusive and bossy . . .but I kept thinking, this is not why i signori were important in her story, they were important not for who they actually were, but for their function, for the fact that they had power to command labour . . . because “if there is no work, nothing is good. . . isn’t true?” . . .the power to command labour, that is all there is, the power to command the doing, its aims, its modes, its rationales, and how much of it . . the rational kernel of “i signori” is simply this, their function . . .but there has been, there are and can be so many forms of this function, isn’t it? even the power to “command” labour, the doing, it aims, the shapes of its relational modes . . .the key political question is how can we all be “i signori” and exercise the power to command our own labour, our own doing? And surely an answer relevant for a new world is not an individual strategy, to be your own boss in competition with others. . . the commons for us are the horizons of our own communal command over our own labour . . .

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