Capitalism – Born in Flames / Women – Burned in Chains ~

Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation by Silvia Federici;

 

Caliban and the Witch challenges the widely-held belief that capitalism was at one time a progressive or necessary development. Reinstalling the excluded history of the Witch Hunt that consumed Europe with terror for more than 200 years, Federici demonstrates that capitalism has always relied on spectacular violence, particularly against women, people of color, workers, and those cultivating a more egalitarian future, to create its landless working class and to destroy communities and loyalties that existed outside of itself.

”A return of the most violent aspects of primitive accumulation has accompanied every phase of capitalist globalisation including the present one, demonstrating that the continuous expulsion of farmers from land, war and plunder on a world scale, and the degradation of women are necessary condition for the existence of capitalism in all times.”.

”Capitalism was the response of the feudal lords, the patrician merchants, the bishops and popes, to a centuries long social conflict…Capitalism was the counter-revolution that destroyed the possibilities that had emerged from the anti-feudal struggle -”

”The “shock therapy” of the Witch Hunt was used to terrorize rebels and visionaries, impose new discipline on the body, on female sexuality in particular, and usher in a new social system based on a landless working class and the devaluation of women’s labor.”

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The main focus of Caliban is the Witch Hunt of the 15th–17th centuries in Europe, through which “hundreds of thousands of women were tried, tortured, burned alive or hanged, accused of having sold body and soul to the devil.”

Federici argues that this repression was primarily “a war against women,” which constructed a new sexual hierarchy based on the division between male wage labor and female unpaid reproductive labor such as raising children, caring for the elderly and sick, nurturing their husbands or partners, and maintaining the home. Those accused of witchcraft were often women who lived outside this binary – as rebels, healers, midwives, sexual/gender non-conformists, or those providing forbidden knowledge of contraception or abortion.

Federici posits this systematic violence against women as one mode in the formation of capitalism when she instructs that “the witch-hunt occurred simultaneously with the colonization and extermination of the populations of the New World, the English enclosures, and the beginning of the slave trade.” Contrary to “laissez-faire” orthodoxy which holds that capitalism functions best without state intervention, Federici expands upon Marx’s proposition that it was precisely the state violence of this “primitive accumulation” that laid the foundation for capitalist economics.

Principally, capitalism could not have been formed without the creation of a landless working class. People do not readily submit themselves to wage labor unless they no longer have an autonomous ability to provide for themselves or their communities. In Marx’s oft-quoted section from Capital, “these new freedmen became sellers of themselves only after they had been robbed of all their own means of production… And the history of this, their expropriation, is written in the annals of mankind in letters of blood and fire…The witch burning was medieval “Shock and Awe.” ”

But unlike Marx, who saw the separation of humans from their traditional land-bases as a necessary evil for the expansion of “the productive forces,” Federici emphasizes the loss of the freedom we once enjoyed through connection to the land. She points out that before the Enclosures, even the lowliest of serfs had their own plot of Earth with which they could use for just about any purpose. Federici writes, “With the use of land also came the use of the ‘commons’ – meadows, forests, lakes, wild pastures – that provided crucial resources for the peasant economy (wood for fuel, timber for building, fishponds, grazing grounds for animals) and fostered community cohesion and cooperation.” [alex knight] ( ( more details look here ) )

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”This is also what is happening today, as a new global expansion of the labour market is attempting to set back the clock with respect to the anti-colonial struggle, and the struggles of other rebl subjects – students, feminists, blue collar workers (I add farmers, unemployed, disabled, elderly, single parents, children ) …

It is not surpising then, if large scale violence and enslavement have been on the agenda, as they were in the period of ‘transition’ , with the difference that today the conquistadors are the officers of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, who are still preaching the worth of a penny to the same populations which the dominant world powers have for centuries robbed and pauperized.”

Serious reading for a fuller perspective of our life and times.

Recommended.

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