In Letters of Fire and Blood
Work, Machines, and the Crisis of Capitalism
Karl Marx wrote that the only way to write about the origins of capitalism in
the 16th century is in the letters of blood and fire used to drive workers from
the common lands, forests and waters. In this collection of essays, George
Caffentzis argues that the same is true for the annals of twenty-first-century
capitalism. Information technology, immaterial production, financialization, and
globalization have been trumpeted as inaugurating a new phase of capitalism
that puts it beyond its violent origins. Instead of being a period of major social
and economic novelty, however, the course of recent decades has been a return
to the fire and blood of struggles at the advent of capitalism.
Emphasizing class struggles that have proliferated across the social body
of global capitalism, Caffentzis shows how a wide range of conflicts and
antagonisms in the labor-capital relation express themselves within and against
the work process. These struggles are so central to the dynamic of the system
that even the most sophisticated machines cannot liberate capitalism from
class struggle and the need for labor. Themes of war and crisis permeate
the text and are given singular emphasis, documenting the peculiar way in
which capital perpetuates violence and proliferates misery on a world scale.
This collection draws upon a careful rereading of Marx’s thought in order to
elucidate political concerns of the day. Originally written to contribute to the
debates of the anticapitalist movement over the last thirty years, this book
makes Caffentzis’s writings readily available as tools for the struggle in this
period of transition to a common future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
George Caffentzis is a political philosopher and autonomist Marxist. He is a
Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern Maine and a founding
member of the Midnight Notes Collective.
“George Caffentzis has been the philosopher of the anti-capitalist movement
from the American civil rights movement of the 1960s to the European
autonomists of the 1970s, from the Nigerian workers of the oil boom of the
1980s to the encuentros of the Zapatistas in the 1990s, from the feminists
of wages-for-housework to the struggle of the precariat for the commons.
Trained as both an economist and a physicist he has taken fundamental
categories such as money, time, work, energy, and value and re-thought
them in relation to both revolutionary Marxism and to the dynamics of our
changing movement. An historian of our own times he carries the political
wisdom of the 20th into the 21st century. He is a lively and dogged polemicist;
he dances circles around the pompous marxologist; with the passing of time
his thought has grown in depth and increasingly tends to be expressed with
pleasure and humor. The lever by which he overturns the world is light as
a feather, and its fulcrum is as down to earth as the housewife, the student,
the peasant, the worker. Here is capitalist critique and proletarian reasoning
fit for our time.” —Peter Linebaugh, author of The Magna Carta Manifesto: Liberties and
Commons for All
“George Caffentzis’s essays in this timely collection offer a sharply uncompromising analysis of the transmutations of capital over the last three decades and a rereading of the classic texts in light of our own times. They teach us the constant alertness that we must embrace at the frontline of value struggle.” —Massimo De Angelis, author of The Beginning of History: Value Struggles and Global Capital
“These essays reveal not only the blood and fire of twenty-first-century primitive accumulation but also the inescapable linkage of this savage and ongoing process to new forms of futuristic dispossession inscribed with robot ichor, silicon chips, and genomic code. George Caffentzis has for decades been creating a contemporary Marxism that is profoundly theorized, deeply historical, utterly original, compulsively readable, and always connected to the fighting fronts of an ever-changing class struggle. Today his writings are integral to, and indispensable for an understanding of, the uprisings of a global proletariat that has again exploded across the planet.” —Nick Dyer-Witheford, author of Cyber-Marx: Cycles and Circuits of Struggle in High-Technology Capitalism
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