Raines & the witches

Raines, maid, from Minneapolis recommends „Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation“ by Silvia Federici.

1. To you, what is the book about?
This book is about the murder of so-called witches as a fundamental aspect to the development of capitalism. The exploitation of women played a central role in the accumulation of value, which moved women from respected roles in communities to unpaid domestic laborers, making possible the reproduction of capitalism’s most important commodity: labor power. The book is not just about witches though. It also follows heretics, healers, mid-wives, unruly women, „savages“ and slaves, all of whom posed a danger to the development of capitalism and had to be domesticated, controlled, or destroyed.

2. Why do you recommend the book?
I think this book is important because it illuminates a crucial and understudied element in the transition to capitalism that can still be seen and felt today. Tracing the connection between racism, patriarchy, capitalism and colonialism, Federici shows how these systems developed together and bolstered one another and therefore a struggle against one must be a struggle against them all.

3. You read the last sentence and finish the book. What sticks?
That the European witch hunts were far more than medieval religious fanaticism and had lasting influence on systems of oppression worldwide. Also that no system or ideology can be seen as neutral or separate from its historical context.

4. What did you not like about the book?
One aspect of the book that I found lacking was the treatment of colonialism and slavery. Federici sets up the paradigm of the witch hunts as the model of exploitation that was then exported to the colonies and for slavery, but this seems overly simplistic. While the ideology and techniques that guided the witch hunts certainly played a part in these other systems of oppression, it seems unnecessary and potentially problematic to conflate these things as it seems to flatten and decontextualize forms of mass murder. I think the book is still amazing though.

Silvia Federici. Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation. 2004