Saturday, December 17, 2005

A Piece of Pre- and Anti-Capitalist History

There is something magical about that moment when you can feel the model of the world inside your head shift so that a stretch of years previously existing as flat and undifferentiated time becomes nuanced, rich, meaningful -- becomes history. I just read a fascinating review (HTML or PDF) of a book called Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation. It is about the role of exploitation of women in the formation of capitalism from about 1000 AD onwards. Not only does it talk about the ways in which gendered (and violent) divisions were deliberately fostered within the working classes by elites as a stratey of rolling back gains made by those classes in previous centuries, but perhaps an even more basic way in which the review opened my eyes was its talk of amazing radical struggle farther back in history than I've ever learned about before. I knew vaguely that it is not true, but I still had this lingering idea from high school history that the very idea that social change was possible did not exist in European society before the French Revolution in 1789. But apparently there were massive movements, often centred around religion, that not only engaged in class struggle but often were in large part women's struggles and had nontrivial queer components as well.

Anyway, read the review. I intend to read the book too!

(Found via Sketchy Thoughts, whose author wrote the review.)

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