Silvia Federici

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Federici being interviewed at MACBA museum in Barcelona.

Silvia Federici (born 1942, Parma, Italy) is an American 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]

Background[edit]

Federici grew up in Italy, and came to the US in 1967 to study for a PhD in philosophy at the University at Buffalo.[4] 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.

Scholarly contributions[edit]

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.

In the 1970s, James participated in the Wages for housework movement in New York, initiated firstly by Selma James.

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.

Books[edit]

Edited books[edit]

  • (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[edit]

Talks (audio files)[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

External links[edit]