Sylvia Federici's "Caliban and the Witch: Women the Body and Primitive Accumulation"

Caliban and the Witch is one of the most exciting books i have read all year. In many ways similar to Maria Mies' Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale, Caliban and the Witch focuses much more on Europe, while bringing Federici's own autonomous Marxist perspective to bear on the subject at hand. This book is very much a history of the making of the European working class, a re-telling of the birth of capitalism, with women at the center of the story. While there is some repetition from chapter to chapter (one suspects that some of them could stand on their own), the picture painted is moving and accessible, and Federici draws on an abundance of scholarly sources. Unfortunately, while the story tends to progress chronologically, there is a lot of going back and forth by hundreds of years at a time and jumping from one country to another, which sometimes makes it difficult to grasp in what actual order and fashion certain things occurred. However, this is a minor matter, and does not detract from the story as it is told.

Read alongside Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale and Butch Lee's The Military Struggle of Women and Children, i believe that Caliban and the Witch can be a useful tool in laying the foundations of a movement that is at the same time anti-capitalist, anti-patriahcl and anti-colonialist. Not to say that the book does not have its weaknesses, but there is far more good than bad here.

I have written an in-depth review of Caliban and the Witch, a shortened version of shich is being published in the revlutionary journal Upping the Anti in December 2005. You can read a longer version of my review on my site here: Caliban and the Witch; a Book Review.

Caliban and the Witch has been reviewed in: