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Occupations and The Struggle Over Reproduction: An Interview with Silvia Federici

Max Haiven

Silvia Federici is a veteran activist and writer who lives in Brooklyn, New York.  Born and raised in Italy, Federici has taught in Italy, Nigeria, and the United States and has been involved in many movements, including feminist, education, and anti-death penalty struggles. Her influential 2004 book Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation, built on decades of research and activism, offers an account of the relationship between the European witch trials of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the rise of capitalism.

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Occupy Education: An Interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

Sunday, January 8, 2012, at Elliot Bay Bookstore, Seattle, WA

Interviewed by Rahul K. Gairola, Seattle University and University of Washington

 

In January 2012, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak visited Seattle for a number of reasons: to deliver the keynote address of the annual conference of the South Asian Literary Association (SALA), participate on a distinguished panel on the future of postcolonial studies at the annual convention of the Modern Language Association of America (MLA), and, among many other things, meet with local scholars, teacher, and students for an informal coffee date at Elliot Bay Bookstore.  Spivak’s many engagements prefaced the recent publication of An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization (Harvard UP, 2012), a collection of meditations that together explore the many instances of what she has called “the double bind,” which can be read as the elliptical shuttling between two subject positions where at least one, but more often both, are sites of the other. A double bind, in other words, involves a binary in which two subject positions can simultaneously oppose yet construct one another.  Spivak also describes the double bind as “learning to live with contradictory instructions.”[1]  We can think of this important concept as a function of many other concepts that Spivak has influenced throughout her substantive career: for example, she has famously argued that one can no longer claim subalternity one comes into representation.  This presents a double bind in the sense that we need representation to “know” what it means to be “subaltern,” but that representation itself is precisely that – a re-presentation whose meaning is overdetermined and distorted once it is mediated through a semiotic system of meaning production.  Another example is Spivak’s famous notion of “strategic essentialism,” which presents a double bind since it, on the one hand, recognizes that essentialism of identity is at play, but on the other hand acquiesces that the flattening of identificatory differences is necessary to secure political agency and bind subjects together for resistance tactics.[2]

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Thorstein Veblen and the ‘Spirit’ of Capitalism

 

Thorstein Veblen’s analysis of America’s capitalist society in The Theory of the Leisure Class contains one chapter toward the end of his argument on religion, or, as he articulates it, “devout observances” (191).  The substance of Veblen’s critique of religion fits well within his larger treatment of the leisure class—indeed, the forces at work in religion seem to mirror much of what he finds wrong with capitalist societies.  But, Veblen also brackets his critique of religion to distinguish it from a more general, spiritual dimension, referenced elsewhere throughout his work.  In what follows, I discuss Veblen’s critique of religion and consider ways in which Veblen’s analysis and vision for capitalism contains a spiritual dimension.

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