Silvia Federici (born 1942, Parma, Italy) is an American scholar, teacher, and activist from the radical autonomist feminist Marxist tradition. She is a professor emerita and Teaching Fellow at Hofstra University, where she was a social science professor. 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.
Federici grew up in Italy, and came to the US in 1967 to study for a PhD in philosophy at the University at Buffalo. She taught at the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria, and was Associate Professor and later Professor of Political Philosophy and International Studies at New College of Hofstra University.
She was co-founder of the International Feminist Collective, an organizer with the Wages for Housework campaign, and was involved with the Midnight Notes Collective. She co-founded the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa (CAFA). In 1995, she co-founded the Radical Philosophy Association (RPA) anti-death penalty project.
Federici's best known work, Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation, expands on the work of Leopoldina Fortunati. In it, she argues against Karl Marx's claim that primitive accumulation is a necessary precursor for capitalism. Instead, she posits that primitive accumulation is a fundamental characteristic of capitalism itself—that capitalism, in order to perpetuate itself, requires a constant infusion of expropriated capital.
Federici connects this expropriation to women's unpaid labour, both connected to reproduction and otherwise, which she frames as a historical precondition to the rise of a capitalist economy predicated upon wage labor. Related to this, she outlines the historical struggle for the commons and the struggle for communalism. Instead of seeing capitalism as a liberatory defeat of feudalism, Federici interprets the ascent of capitalism as a reactionary move to subvert the rising tide of communalism and to retain the basic social contract.
She situates the institutionalization of rape and prostitution, as well as the heretic and witch-hunt trials, burnings, and torture at the center of a methodical subjugation of women and appropriation of their labor. This is tied into colonial expropriation and provides a framework for understanding the work of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and other proxy institutions as engaging in a renewed cycle of primitive accumulation, by which everything held in common—from water, to seeds, to our genetic code—becomes privatized in what amounts to a new round of enclosures.
- (2004) "Il Femminismo e il Movimento contro la guerra USA", in DeriveApprodi #24
- (2004) Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation. Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia.
- (2012) Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle, Brooklyn/Oakland: Common Notions/PM Press
- (1995) (ed.) Enduring Western Civilization: The Construction of the Concept of Western Civilization and Its "Others". Westport, CT, and London: Praeger.
- (2000) (ed.) A Thousand Flowers: Structural Adjustment and the Struggle for Education in Africa. Africa World Press.
- (2000) (eds.) African Visions: Literary Images, Political Change, and Social Struggle in Contemporary Africa. Westport, CT, and London: Praeger.
Free access online articles
- Feminism and the Politics of the CommonsThe Commoner, 2011
- On capitalism, colonialism, women and food politics, Politics and Culture 2009 (2) - Special Issue on Food (&) Sovereignty
- Witch-Hunting, Globalization, and Feminist Solidarity in Africa Today, The Commoner, 2008
- Precarious Labour: A Feminist Viewpoint, 2008
- Notes on the edu–factory and Cognitive Capitalism, 2007 (with George Caffentzis)
- Theses on Mass Worker and Social Capital (1972, with Mario Montano)
- War, Globalization and Reproduction
- Mormons in space (with George Caffentzis)
- Why Feminists Should Oppose Capital Punishment
- Donne, Globalizzazione e Movimento Internazionale delle Donne
- Genoa and the antiglobalization movement (with George Caffentzis)
- The great Caliban:The struggle against the rebel body, from Caliban & the Witch
- All the World Needs a Jolt: Social Movements and Political Crisis in Medieval Europe, from Caliban & the Witch
- The Debt Crisis, Africa and the New Enclosures
- The War in Jugoslavia. On Whom the Bombs are Falling? (1999, with Massimo De Angelis)
- "Viet Cong Philosophy: Tran Duc Thao". TELOS 06 (Fall 1970). New York: Telos Press
- Development and Underdevelopment in Nigeria (1985)
Talks (audio files)
- Silvia Federici, recorded live at Fusion Arts, NYC. (11.30.04)
- Audio from a talk entitled The Body, Capitalist Accumulation And The Accumulation Of Labour Power by Silvia Federici for Bristol Radical History Group
Notes and references
- Silvia Frederici biography at Interactivist
- Silvia Frederici biography at Democracy Now
-  On capitalism, colonialism, women and food politics, Politics and Culture 2009 (2) - Special Issue on Food & Sovereignty