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Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

4.50  ·  Rating details ·  2,446 ratings  ·  229 reviews
Literary Nonfiction. CALIBAN AND THE WITCH is a history of the body in the transition to capitalism. Moving from the peasant revolts of the late Middle Ages to the witch-hunts and the rise of mechanical philosophy, Federici investigates the capitalist rationalization of social reproduction. She shows how the battle against the rebel body and the conflict between body and m ...more
Paperback, 285 pages
Published September 15th 2004 by Autonomedia
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4.50  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,446 ratings  ·  229 reviews

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Sep 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
It's pretty hard for me to give a book five stars and I'm tempted to give that to Caliban.

I recently read this with some of my friends in a reading group and not only really enjoyed it, but it made me rethink a number of concepts (primarily feminist ones) that I had earlier written off, as well as introduced me entirely new ones.

I had tried to read this five or six years ago but stopped since the language was too complicated for me. Reading it again now (with a few more years of academic-type re
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is really something else – I can’t recommend it too highly. In Capital, Marx needs to explain how capitalism got started. So, he talks about what he calls the primitive accumulation of capital – this involves the early capitalists effectively stealing wealth from those around them so they have the initial capital they needed to begin the process of capitalist production and therefore further accumulation of wealth that surplus value brings into being. Marx does this to show there is no ...more
Gabriel Gaybraham
1) oops now all i want to talk about is the enclosures of the commons
2) funny how i really like marxist analysis now and again, mostly when applied to factors marxists (in my experience) seriously downplay. such as "slavery, without which capitalism would never have gotten off the ground, but like who cares right, blah blah wage labor blah"
3) it is so useful as history, as making the (western) world make sense. i want every leftist i know to read it for filling in the gaps in How Things Got To W
Jan 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I'm kind of obsessed with this book.
Sara Salem
Apr 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I haven't read a book this fascinating for a while. Federici looks at the hundreds of thousands of women who were murdered in Europe in the 16th century after being accused of being witches and shows how this was because of the transition to capitalism and the need to destroy the solidarity between workers through demonizing women and turning men against them. She also clearly connects this to imperialism. I especially liked how she used both Foucault and Marx and yet makes important criticisms ...more
tom bomp
Fascinating and incredibly important book. Covers the history of the end of feudalism, the rise of capitalism, the rise of current patriarchal forms, colonialism, witch hunts and more. Makes it clear that capitalism was founded on the oppression of women and with massive resistance every step of the way. Shows the importance of reproductive control. Talks about the oppressive elements of philosophy from the time. Covers so much that it skips some historical detail but it doesn't matter. An essen ...more
Si has entrado en contacto con el activismo feminista online, conoces a Silvia Federici en mayor o menor medida. Conoces su nombre, y conoces el contorno de sus teorías: la violencia capitalista contra las mujeres, los conceptos de trabajo emocional y trabajo de cuidados, la construcción de una economía monetaria que excluye a las mujeres de la retribución.

Es un verdadero placer llegar a una fuente de pensamiento original y que sea tan enriquecedora y potente como su impacto sugiere. Calibán y l
Who Were the Witches? – Patriarchal Terror and the Creation of Capitalism
Alex Knight
November 5, 2009

This Halloween season, there is no book I could recommend more highly than Silvia Federici’s brilliant Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation, which tells the dark saga of the Witch Hunt that consumed Europe for more than 200 years. In uncovering this forgotten history, Federici exposes the origins of capitalism in the heightened oppression of workers (represented by Sh
Oct 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Oh my. This book.

I kept wanting to devour the whole thing, but I had to stop every few pages because it overwhelmed me so much. I haven't learned so much from one book in a very long time.

Parts of this were quite emotional for me. It's not often that non-fiction gets me choked up. Looking back at the history of peasant subjugation, land privatization, witch-hunting, and the creation of capitalism from a historical perpsective made our human errors seem so brazen and clear. I just can't believe
Gabriela Ventura
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminismo, historia
Silvia Federici relê o conceito de acumulação primitiva agregando dois vieses importantes da historiografia contemporânea: o feminismo e o pós-colonialismo. O quebra-cabeça fica mais completo quando usamos fontes que não eram correntes no século XIX. A ideia de que o mercantilismo (e, posteriormente, o capitalismo propriamente dito) foram desdobramentos às revoltas servis do final da Idade Média já é familiar aos leitores de teoria marxista, mas é interessante ver como, ao longo dos séculos, os ...more
Hazel Hill
Jun 20, 2016 rated it did not like it
Look, I'm a communist and a feminist but I cannot in good conscience give this wildly... "imaginative" history more than one star. The history contained in this book from its inaccurate portrayals of Medieval views on contraception, to its spurious claims about the persecution of Midwives, to its belief that Ius Primae Noctis was actually a thing... this book is intellectually lazy poorly sourced garbage by someone whose grasp of history is tenuous at best. Also the claim that the Catholic Churc ...more
Sep 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Federici is a feminist philosopher working within the Italian post-autonomist marxist tradition. In Caliban and the Witch she addresses primitive accumulation, or a marxist analysis of the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Capitalism's beginnings, she argues, were not only about coercing bodies into becoming self-disciplining workers but also dividing the proletariat along identitarian lines in order to discipline and displace resistance to capitalism itself. So, women were constituted as ...more
Adriana Scarpin
Logo na introdução a autora nos faz cientes de quais foram os erros nos estudos de Marx e Foucault por não terem colocado um recorte de gênero em suas teorias, no caso de Marx a questão fundamental da opressão feminina no surgimento do capitalismo e no caso de Foucault a relevância da confissão das mulheres aos inquisidores na História da sexualidade e a manutenção dos corpos dóceis como tática do patriarcado capitalista.
No primeiro capítulo Federici nos dá os parâmetros de como se construiu a m
Feb 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Interesting, but overall unconvincing in its central conceit. The portion of the book reviewing the history of capitalism and witch hunts was fascinating (pun unintended), but its link of the two was more correlation without showing the causation. In a number of places, the author makes claims that the reader is supposed to agree with at face value with only a limited amount of reasoning to back the claims up, probably with the assumption that the evil of capitalism in of itself is self-evident. ...more
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Este livro é uma pesquisa sobre a condiçao das mulheres na "transiçao" do feudalismo para o capitalismo. Repensa a analise da acumulaçao primitiva de "O Capital", vol.1, de Karl Marx e também "A Teoria do Corpo", de Michel Foucault, sob o ponto de vista feminino.
O titulo vem de dois personagens da peça shakesperiana "A Tempestade": O Calibã representa o rebelde anticolonial, simbolo do proletariado, especificamente o corpo do proletariado como terreno e instrumento de resistência da logica capit
Nadxieli Mannello
Feb 29, 2008 rated it it was ok
Some good ideas but ignores alternate readings and cherry-picks examples that fit her thesis, to the detriment of her overall project.
mis fit
Aug 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
i took a reeeally long time with this book, and then just went back and re-read all of my highlights and notes. it's been a while since i've read something that i loved this much. this book is an excellent example of history attuned to power relations, which is so important, because this type of work is necessary to understand what's going on right now. and federici emphasizes this-- looking at historical processes of primitive accumulation help to shed light on the same (or similar) processes t ...more
May 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
First off, this book is incredible, and probably not only the most significant Marxist feminist work I've read in a while, but the most significant feminist work I've read in ages. As Marx noted, capital "comes into the world dripping from head to toe, from every pore, with blood and dirt." Silvia Federici's contribution is not only detailing how much blood the birth of capitalism involved, and the continued blood-letting (new rounds of primitive accumulation, as we're seeing in Africa, for inst ...more
Ele de Lis
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ensayo, feminismo
Es un libro con un mensaje sencillo: el capitalismo es el enemigo, nos ha jodido la vida y las que más lo han sufrido son las mujeres. A partir de ahí, el libro se dedica a desgranar la premisa con mucho detalle y abundantes ejemplos.

Si os leéis este libro aprenderéis que en la Edad Media, contra todo lo que se cree (el medievo no ese ese periodo de tiempo oscuro y terrible en el que no sabíamos hacer la O con un canuto después de los fuckin’ glorious romanos), las mujeres eran mucho más libres
Marisol García
Grandísima investigación, se entiende por qué es un clásico. No puede explicarse la expansión y arraigo del capitalismo sin atender a su carácter patriarcal y la doblegación que exigió de parte de millones de mujeres en Europa y las colonias. Tampoco puede estudiarse la explotación de los trabajadores como un abuso por así decirlo unisex, pues es evidente que hombres y mujeres lo hemos vivido de un modo diferente (ahí está la gran deuda en el análisis de Marx, estima la autora). Es una investiga ...more
Allegra Byron
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Una explicación feminista y anticapitalista muy bien argumentada sobre la guerra contra las mujeres que fue la caza de brujas. Si quieres entender mejor la Historia, o simplemente tener y entender otro punto de vista al que nos han impuesto, no debes dejar de leerlo. Una autora feminista muy, pero que muy recomendable.
Dec 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
I bumped this up from three to four stars on this read.

Part of me still wonders what it is about this book that so many anarchists/feminists (anarcha-feminists?) adore. I don't really find much enjoyment in reading history, so the abundance of historical examples is almost overwhelming (read: boring) to me. The Marxian analysis is somewhat more interesting.

Federici seems to have a heavily implied (though unfortunately never explicitly acknowledged) perspective that we do not need to go through a
Feb 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Part of my response paper:

I found this book fascinating, as until the last chapter it covered what was largely new ground to me. The resistance of the serfs to feudalism and early capitalism was inspiring and the thesis that the witch-hunt was a mechanism to regiment and subordinate women to the requirements of capitalism, in particular primitive accumulation, was compelling.

At the same time, something felt off to me about the book. Perhaps it was because this paradigm-shifting argument fit toge
“Calibã e a Bruxa” foi uma dos livros mais desafiadores do ano, tanto pelo seu tema denso, quanto pela escrita que tende para o lado científico/analítico ao qual não estou muito acostumada.
O livro foi traduzido pelo Coletivo Sycorax e publicado pela @editoraelefante com um projeto editorial e gráfico de deixar qualquer um babando com tamanha beleza e cuidado.
Federici analisa a construção da figura da bruxa acompanhando a história das mulheres durante a transição do feudalismo para o capitalism
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Unbelievably good, fascinating. Provocative history / analysis of the role of the witch-hunts in the transition from feudalism to capitalism. This is just a wondrous piece of work. Federici keeps things just humming along and her prose is clear, tight, engaging.

Best of all, it's one of those books that clicks quite a few things into place. This world, this messed-up and troubling world, well it's still messed-up but you can see a bit more of the path that brought us to this place. And, surely, t
Jessica Maginity
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
I feel like I've been a bit cavalier with 5 stars, but I really liked this book. It gave more of a shape to the very vague idea I had of the dark ages, and filled a gap in my development as a baby leftist by giving a specifically gendered account of the development of modern socioeconomic relationships.
Barbara Leal
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
perfeito, sem defeitos.
Tiarnan O
Some decent ideas marred by consistent empirical and theoretical sloppiness.
Kinsey Favre
An excellent in-depth look at how the transition to capitalism necessarily involved the degradation of the status of women and the stamping out of collective and cooperative ways of life, with particular focus on the practice of witch-hunting, as well as the symbiotic relationship between European witch-hunts and the repressive tactics used against the Native Americans by the colonizers.

My one complaint that's stuck with me is that in the beginning of the book Federici's autonomist politics show
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: no-ficcion
Interesantísima visión de la caza de brujas dentro del contexto de transición del feudalismo al mercantilismo hasta el capitalismo. Puede ser un poco árido en algunos puntos, pero su propia exigencia con las fuentes da confianza para seguir sus conclusiones.

Muy pertinente la explicación de como el uso de la caza de brujas para dividir al proletariado ha perdurado hasta nuestros días...
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Silvia Federici is a scholar, teacher, and activist from the radical autonomist feminist Marxist tradition.[1] She is a professor emerita and Teaching Fellow at Hofstra University, where she was a social science professor.[2] She worked as a teacher in Nigeria for many years, is also the co-founder of the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa, and is a member of the Midnight Notes Collective.[3
“The revival of magical beliefs is possible today because it no longer represents a social threat. The mechanization of the body is so constitutive of the individual that, at least in industrialized countries, giving space to the belief in occult forces does not jeopardize the regularity of social behavior. Astrology too can be allowed to return, with the certainty that even the most devoted consumer of astral charts will automatically consult the watch before going to work.” 6 likes
“Across ideological differences, the femjnists have realized that a hierarchical ranking of human faculties and the identification of women with a degraded conception of corporeal reality has been instrumental, historically, to the consolidation of patriarchal power and the male exploration of female labor. Thus, analyses
of sexuality, procreation, and mothering have been at the center of feminist theory
and women's history. In particular, feminists have uncovered and denounced the strategies and the violence by means of which male-centered systems of exploitation have attempted to discipline and appropriate the female body, demonstrating that women's bodies have been the main targets, the privileged sites, for the deployment of power techniques and power relations.
and power-relations”
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