This paper introduces an international inquiry into collective organization in call centres. Arguing that it offers an important test for labour recomposition in the twenty-first century, the article begins by situating the global explosion of call centre employment over the last two decades by adopting and extending political theorist Jodi Dean’s concept of ‘communicative capitalism’. Second, it surveys the dominant perspectives on the labour performed by call centre workers and introduces the autonomist concept of immaterial labour, one which encourages us to approach emergent forms of employment from the perspective of the struggles and the collective organization they produce. The paper continues with an overview of the forms of labour resistance emerging from call centres globally and concludes by offering a sketch of three of the research project’s case studies in Italy, Ireland, and Canada.
This article considers the growing convergence between labor and communication in the digital economy. Taking the rapid growth of call center employment as its focus, the article argues that the approach taken by the political and theoretical tradition of post-operaismo, or autonomist Marxism, has produced promising encounters between labor activism and communication inquiry. Through its theory of cognitive capitalism and its focus on labor resistance, the article suggests, post-operaismo offers communication scholars a set of tools through which to move beyond the limits of both liberal-democratic theories of the knowledge worker and Marxist labor process theory.