Silvia Federici

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Silvia Federici
Photo of Federici being interviewed in 2014
Federici being interviewed in 2014
Born1942 (age 78–79)
Parma, Italy
Partner(s)George Caffentzis
Academic background
Alma materUniversity at Buffalo, NY, USA (PhD)
Academic work
Notable worksCaliban and the Witch (2004)

Silvia Federici (Italian pronunciation: [ˈsilvja fedeˈriːtʃi]; born 1942) is an Italian and American scholar, teacher, and activist from the radical autonomist feminist Marxist and anarchist 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]


Federici was born in Parma, Italy, in 1942.[4] She moved to the US in 1967 to study for a PhD in philosophy at the University at Buffalo[5] with support from a Fulbright scholarship.[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, and an organizer with the wages for housework campaign. In 1973, she helped start Wages for Housework groups in the US. In 1975 she published Wages Against Housework, the book most commonly associated with the wages for housework movement.[6]

She also co-founded the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa (CAFA), and was involved with the Midnight Notes Collective. In 1995, she co-founded the Radical Philosophy Association (RPA) anti-death penalty project.

Federici lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with her partner George Caffentzis.[4]

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 investigating the reasons for the witch hunts[7][8][9][10] of the early modern period, but giving a feminist interpretation. 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.



As editor[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 online access:

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Silvia Frederici biography at Interactivist Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Silvia Frederici biography at Democracy Now Archived 2006-04-20 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ On capitalism, colonialism, women and food politics[permanent dead link], Politics and Culture, 2009 (2) - Special Issue on Food & Sovereignty.
  4. ^ a b c Kisner, Jordan (2021-02-17). "The Lockdown Showed How the Economy Exploits Women. She Already Knew". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-02-21.
  5. ^ "Silvia Federici, On capitalism, colonialism, women and food politics", interview by Max Haiven, Politics and Culture, 2009, Issue 2.
  6. ^ Vishmidt, Marina (March 2013). "Permanent Reproductive Crisis: An Interview with Silvia Federici". Meta Mute. Mute.
  7. ^ "January 2018 (Volume 69, Number 8) | The Editors | Monthly Review". Monthly Review. 2018-01-01. Retrieved 2018-01-28.
  8. ^ Cervantes, Hugo (2018-01-22). ""Out of this World": How Mykki Blanco and i-D highlight Johannesburg's queer life - Highlander". Highlander. Retrieved 2018-01-28.
  9. ^ Duffau, Helene. "Caliban et la sorcière : femmes, corps et accumulation primitive". Club de Mediapart (in French). Retrieved 2018-01-28.
  10. ^ "Le corps, terrain originel de l'exploitation des femmes". Le (in French). Retrieved 2018-01-28.

External links[edit]