Caliban And The Witch Essay

Those familiar with it will perhaps not encounter anything too earth-shattering in her new essay collection, Witches, Witch Hunting and Women, but is an extremely timely and useful distillation of her most important texts, with great significance for working-class feminist movements today.During the late Middle Ages, the development of market-oriented agriculture required a continually replenished, easily exploitable labor pool (a need compounded by the depopulation caused by the Black Death).

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Her landmark work, Caliban and the Witch, argued that witch hunts were an organized campaign of mass murder of women who defied the increasing implementation of a patriarchal, authoritarian order under a rapidly developing capitalist state.It also became a term for women friends, with no necessary derogatory connotations.”This was reflected in the ways women conducted their daily lives": “...neither in rural nor urban areas were women dependent on men for their survival; they had their own activities and shared much of their lives and work with other women.Women cooperated with each other in every aspect of their life.This was one of the least brutal measures by far, women charged with witchcraft were often imprisoned, tortured, raped, and hung or beheaded or drowned.Subservience to the patriarchal order went hand in hand with subservience to the new capitalist state, and a transgression against one was tantamount to a transgression against to the other.The ensuing poverty and precarity was dealt in double measure upon women, who were increasingly excluded from the guilds and most professions, their ability to survive independently of men being severely curtailed by the privatization of the commons (In Caliban, Federici terms this the “patriarchy of the wage.”).This, along with rising prices of food and other necessities, led to the appearance of a largely female underclass.Older women who were either unmarried or widowed, without children willing or able to support them, bore the brunt of this deprivation.In turn, begging, itinerancy, and vagrancy were criminalized, giving rise to a forerunner of the modern prison, the poorhouse or debtor’s prison.The figure of the Witch, and the barbarity of the witch-hunts, emerged as a way to police women and their potentially subversive activities, from the refusal to pay rents and taxes, to exercising reproductive control, to simple theft.The Witches’ Sabbath, figuring prominently in art and literature from the period, held a particular horror.


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