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Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation Paperback – September 15, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Autonomedia (September 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570270597
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570270598
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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This book should be read by all those who are interested in Witches + real history.
Gian Maria Turi
It is very academic, which may seem dry to some but I found it fascinating and I am very impressed with how well researched it is.
T. Gillett
Federici's indepth knowledge, uncompromising honesty, and accessible writing style bring this historical narrative to life.
Phoenix Rising

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 51 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Krul on April 24, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Silvia Federici's book "Caliban and the Witch" demonstrates the absolute necessity of women's studies for a thorough and scientific understanding of history. Focusing on the role of women and the body in the process by Marx and Adam Smith described as "original accumulation", i.e. the violent expropriation of the feudal commons in the movement towards a capitalist society, Federici demonstrates that a true war against women was an important part of the ruling class' strategy.

The book assesses various aspects of this development, including witchcraft and the witch-hunts, the "Christianization" (or rather Catholization) of the North and South American native civilizations, the role of philosophical mechanism and the developers of the scientific method (Bacon, Descartes, Newton, Hobbes, etc.), and the early slave trade. In each case Federici masterfully shows how this development came to be, what role it played in the process of 'original accumulation', and why it was favored temporarily by the ruling class. She also gives very strong evidence that things like fear of witchcraft, patriarchy, racism etc., often seen as the inevitable and 'natural' results of ignorance and superstition in those societies, were in reality forced onto the common people as part of a top-down campaign to destroy the backbone of the feudal communities.

What is an additional interesting contribution of this book is Federici's evidence that there was not only widespread peasant resistance against the process of enclosure, capitalization and expropriation, but more particularly that women often played a very major role in these resistance movements, especially after the German Peasant War ended in a massacre.
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Raven Among Crows on November 30, 2004
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Published the same month, April 2004, that Fallujah first turned back the American onslaught and that the photographs of American tortures in Abu Ghraib prison were displayed to the world, Silvia Federici's book, Caliban and the Witch, although describing a time and place remote from the lawless atrocities in Mesopotamia, being as it is a study of the witch-hunt, of medieval heretical movements, and of European mechanical and materialist philosophy from the 'Age of Reason,' nevertheless, it is essential for understanding either. At the same time, the paradox of the hideous pun of the Structural Adjustment Program and the Special Access Program as the SAP, or the grotesque contradiction found between chapter 39 of Magna Carta and order 39 of the Iraq occupation are explicated.

Nothing can so clearly help us understand the torture and the project of neo-liberalism as this, for Federici describes a foundational process creating the structural conditions for the existence of capitalism. This is the fundamental relationship of capitalist accumulation, or (as it is called in decades of technical literature) 'primitive accumulation.' This mystery perplexed (however coyly) Adam Smith. It was the 'original sin' of the political economists, and for Karl Marx it was written in "letters of blood and fire."

The birth of the proletariat required war against women. This was the witch-hunt when tens of thousands of women in Europe were tortured and burnt at the stake, in massive state-sponsored terror against the European peasantry destroying communal relations and communal property. It was coeval with the enclosures of the land, the destruction of popular culture, the genocide in the New World, and the start of the African slave trade.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Phoenix Rising on June 20, 2010
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In Caliban and the Witch, Silvia Federici, long time feminist activist and teacher, opens once darkened windows of forbidden knowledge--windows many readers have never dared to look through. Through these windows, the reader can finally view the often terrible truth of the universal war against women. From the birth of the proletariat, to the witch trials, and through colonization and the slave trade, Federici documents the unspeakable terrors that women have had to endure at the hands of patriarchy.

Federici's indepth knowledge, uncompromising honesty, and accessible writing style bring this historical narrative to life. This is not a dry reading of endless historical facts. Federici makes these facts sing out from the page.

This is an excellent read. One you're not going to want to miss.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Angela M Anderson on October 8, 2013
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Hint: it has to do with the rise of capitalism. This book picks up where Marx left off, examining the impact of the transition to capitalism on women. This is when women in Western society lost a lot of their power, and most of its effects continue today, six to seven CENTURIES later. This book is alarming, infuriating, and, most of all, informative. You'll be doing yourself a favor by reading it.
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This book served as a counter-balance to Eric R. Wolf's Europe and the People without History in my entry level political economy class. It is in some ways more focused and in some ways more illuminating than Wolf's magnum opus. Federici's work is more limited because of the set scope that it takes in geography and time period. This book however focuses on the people who struggled and fought for a world without feudalism and details their near success. Wolf's work was on the ever-changing economic relations between polities and how this influenced the development of global capitalism. Without Caliban and the Witch I would only now possess a half understanding of how capitalism came to be and continues in it's dominance of other modes of production. I also would be painfully ignorant of the prices paid by peasant men and women who fought for a better life for future generations. One that was based on mutual aid and harmony with the rhythms of nature. This book as well as the amazing faculty I had have changed my outlook on the struggles around me and where i used to see futility I see hope.
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